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Everyone has heard the dismal small business statistics. Every day, hundreds and even thousands of these companies are going under as they struggle to compete with larger and more established competitors. While this is enough to give most entrepreneurs a panic attack, there are many ways to hedge your bets and help your enterprise achieve success. Here are the five top ways you can avoid being another one of the small business failures we hear about every day.

Find Your Niche. People love the convenience and low prices of the big box stores, but they will be happy to spend a little extra time and money if you give them something worth the effort. In most cases, this means finding and catering to niche markets. Think of your own lifestyle and hobbies. There may be a certain area where you are underserved, where the big businesses just aren’t meeting your needs. There’s a good chance many people in your area feel the same way, which means that you have a built-in market actively seeking that niche market. This is very critical for small business success.

Listen and Respond. While it might take a large company several months or even years to respond to customer demands, a small business is much more flexible. Listen to what your customers are saying and what kind of goods they are asking for. Then, do your best to modify your company to meet these unmet needs. This will not only make customers more loyal, it will decrease your need to compete with the large corporations. You will already be one step ahead of them and your small business success depends on this.

Focus on First Impressions. Nowhere is impression more important than in the small business. You don’t have the money for a national marketing campaign, so make sure every communication with the customer, whether it be an advertisement or an actual sale, leaves the desired impression. Always stick with your brand—more on this later.

Plan Ahead. There’s a reason you have to produce a business plan when you apply for small business funding. Banks and financiers know something that many small business owners don’t, which is that businesses that plan ahead are much more likely to be successful. Investing time up front in the planning of your financial structure, your products, and your brand will pay off later, because you will be able to avoid many of the pitfalls that have killed off many small businesses. Do the research to find out what makes a business in your niche successful, and don’t be afraid to call in expert consultants in areas where you simply don’t have the know-how.

Be Your Brand. Your brand is more than a logo design — it is the public persona of your business. The same way your target customers will like some people right off the bat but intensely dislike others, they will prefer certain brands and be more likely to pursue business with them. A branding consultant can help you identify this audience and build a public image that will attract and interest them for years to come. While this does require a certain amount of up-front expense, there is no way to underestimate the positive impact a brand will have on your personal chances of success.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.