We talk about a lot of different topics on this blog, pretty much all of which pertain to freelancers and people who run small businesses. And while it’s great to drill down on specific things, such as cybersecurity, freelancing while pregnant (“FWP” if you’re on Slack), or even the importance of setting micro goals, we don’t always talk about the state of small business in general. After all, there’s a time and place for everything. And that time is now.
We recently came across a website that provides informative content to small-business owners, Fit Small Business, and decided to pick co-founder David Waring’s brain. Fit Small Business is itself a cool case study on filling a market need. In July 2013, Waring, who started his career in finance, and his co-founder were researching how to start a business of their own. While they were able to find lots of information on starting internet or venture-backed endeavors, they saw a dearth in content for those looking to start an average “Main Street small business.” They decided they needn’t look any further for a viable business venture, and have been publishing Fit Small Business ever since.
Fit Small Business makes its money through strategic partnerships with products and service-providers they feature in their advice pieces, such as this one comparing accounting software for small businesses. Basically, they get paid whenever readers click through and take some sort of action. Fit Small Business is unique because rather than teaching a bunch of writers to be business gurus, it culls business experts from around the U.S. to be contributors and coaches them on how to be better writers. The result is a robust library of handy, well-researched articles — not to mention a thriving business for Waring and his partner.
According to Waring, customer acquisition remains one of the greatest challenges to small businesses, and this is evidenced by the fact that how-to content on the topic of marketing remains the most popular stuff on his site. “Also, with unemployment currently near all-time lows, hiring quality talent is also a big challenge in the current environment,” Waring says. “Additionally, keeping up with changing trends in marketing and technology is a challenge, particularly for older business owners.”
Speaking to the customer-acquisition challenge, Waring suggests that businesses avoid spreading their efforts too thin. “It’s about focusing on one or two top channels for acquiring customers instead of taking a shotgun approach,” he says. “It’s competitive out there, so to really stand out you have to be great at the channels you choose for custom acquisition and the only way to do that is to focus.”
Looking at the hiring issue, he highlights the need to create a great place for people to work, and to develop a strong hiring process. And as for keeping up with trends?
“It’s about understand and accepting that it’s a part of life. Too many older businesses that I know fight change, and that’s a losing battle,” Waring says.
The World Today, The World Tomorrow
Waring offers a positive outlook on the current small business environment. “The economy is currently doing well and consumer confidence is high, so the environment is ripe for small businesses,” he says, adding that with the 2008 financial crisis firmly in our rearview, the country has enjoyed a 10-year period of non-stop financial growth.
And what are some trends small business owners should be looking out for?
“This year, communicating with customers through messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, also known as ‘conversational marketing,’ is going to become mainstream and a major source of revenue for early adopters,” Waring says.
Also, yes, the robots are coming. “Over the next five years, artificial intelligence is going to become a part of everything we do in the same way that the internet transformed in the 10 years following 1997 or so,” he says.
Finally, Waring provides some advice on that a small business owner can implement immediately. “Focus on getting more from existing customers,” Waring says. “When businesses start thinking about how to increase revenue they almost always default to trying to acquire new customers.” He’s right. Especially if you’ve identified attracting new customers as a pain point, why not work on providing people you’ve already won over more services or products for which they’ve already demonstrated a desire to receive?
So, it seems like 2018 is a great time to be running a small business if you can address some of the common things that basically everyone struggles with. Now, go forth and multiply (your profits)!
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