Vampires, zombies, and bad Yelp reviews, oh my!
This Halloween, before the candy starts flowing and the witches start cackling, take time to eradicate the monsters who may be hiding in your company’s closet.
In your search for small business revenue-suckers, keep an eye out for the following ghouls and goblins.
1. Consumer Complaints
Internet reviews bashing your business could be tainting your company’s online image, even as you read this. Toxic remarks and posts on sites like Yelp, Twitter, Google, and Facebook can send prospective customers running for the hills.
Research from BrightLocal shows that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, and—among consumers ages 18-34—that percentage rises to 95%. These reviews aren’t only from consumers buying furniture or dining out; 67% of B2B buyers “rank peer reviews as very important when making a purchase decision.”
However, the goal is not to have 100% positive reviews. In fact, consumers are more likely to trust your business when they see a mix of positive and negative reviews. (Also, never post a fake review for any reason.) What’s important is how you respond to negative reviews. In three words? Early and often.
According to the BrightLocal data, 89% of consumers read local businesses’ responses to reviews. Proactively publishing useful, positive information on your website, blog, or Facebook page also can serve to reduce the visibility of negative content.
2. Disengaged Employees
Few employees have the courage to tell their higher-ups that they’re not satisfied with their jobs. But managers would be wise to find out if that’s the case—that is, well before the exit interview. And, if you have a difficult employee, disengagement may be part of the reason behind their behavior.
Actively disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $483 and $605 billion a year, according to Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace study. Highly engaged employees, on the other hand, were found to be 17% more productive, and 21% more profitable, than their disengaged counterparts. Plus, customer ratings for businesses whose employees are more engaged were 10% higher.
Workplace experts encourage regular office surveys that let employees anonymously submit reasons why they’re dissatisfied with their work. But engaging your workers doesn’t stop with a survey, or even with the annual performance review. Workers coming into the workplace today are doing so with more specific expectations than ever before, raising the importance not only of your company culture but also your employer brand.
3. Hungry Competitors
There’s a reason they call them competitive threats. Your small business doesn’t operate in a bubble that contains just you and your ideal customer. Your competitors represent a threat, and also an opportunity.
Competitive analysis is not just for bigger companies. If you get too comfortable with your business’s status quo, or stop paying attention to customer service, you’re exposing yourself to having your customers choose someone else’s goods and services.
The opportunity is that even—or especially—in a world that’s increasingly online-focused, there’s still a place for you and your small business model. For example, despite the online giants and big-box retailers, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the independent bookseller. As a small business, you have an edge over your competition in that you can focus more on your individual customer relationships, grow your specific niche, and make strategy changes quickly as needed.
Whether the competitor is one with whom you’ve engaged for years—or a newcomer or disrupter in your niche—keep your eyes peeled to help maintain your advantage.
4. Founder Burnout
Not all business threats are external. If you’re like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, one of your primary reasons for going out on your own was the opportunity to be your own boss. Led by your particular business passion, you would create a business that suited you to a T, while also serving your customers.
Too much passion, however, can contribute to feelings of burnout, according to a 2018 study by the Harvard Business Review. As the study stated, “…obsessively passionate entrepreneurs reported feeling that work was more emotionally draining and that working all day required a great deal of effort.” While a certain amount of passion is one of the key drivers of your success, if that passion leads to pressure to deliver specific outcomes that may or may not be realistic, you may want to consider dialing it back.
Once you are your own boss, the onus is on you to treat yourself well. Know when you’re overcommitted and learn to delegate as needed, or just get better at saying no. If you’re a solopreneur, be sure to build in breaks between projects—and throughout your day—to avoid that feeling that you’re working all the time. Some stress is inevitable when you’re a business owner but, if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, don’t ignore that feeling.
5. Website Woes
Whether or not you conduct your actual business transactions online, your business website and your presence on social media both contribute to whether or not you close the sale. Even if your business is purely brick and mortar, your customer’s experience is not. As more people live their lives on their phones, you’re not doing your business any favors if your website or app is slow to load or is not optimized for mobile users.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools out there that track down and exterminate the kind of bugs that cause slow response times. One industry leader is New Relic, whose performance monitoring tool helps businesses get visibility into the performance and health of their digital properties and align their metrics with their business goals.
One of the great advantages of being a small business is the ability to get to know your customers and to deliver personalized and outstanding customer service. If your user experience online does not meet or exceed the ease of doing business with you in person, then that’s a disconnect you’ll want to address sooner rather than later.
In one long night, Halloween reminds us of all the scary things that are out there. This year, keep your focus on your goals for your business—and the needs of your customer—so you won’t get derailed by any spooks that may come your way. And remember, too, that some monsters are much less frightening once they’re brought into the daylight.