Small business is poised for a comeback in 2013, as banks slowly loosen their reins on loan qualifications. According to the Biz2credit Small Business Lending Index, small businesses had a 14.9 percent loan-approval rate in December 2012, up from 13.2 percent in November and 9.7 percent in December 2011.
The numbers should give hope to aspiring entrepreneurs but light a fire under stagnant small business owners. The takeaway: Competition is coming – you can stay in the game by taking these growth-promoting tips for small businesses.
Take the Show on the Road
If they won’t come to you, go to them. Business has gone mobile, and credit card processing companies are following suit. Most notable is the technology facilitating convenient credit card swipes for any business owners with a smartphone. Square (a startup itself) offers a free card reader that plugs into a smartphone’s headphone jack, that when combined with the Square register app, enables smartphones to accept plastic. Square takes a flat 2.75 percent for every transaction.
Small businesses can also obtain mobile capabilities through traditional credit card processing companies. Capital Processing Network offers the Verifone Payware system, which uses a similar device/app combination.
Small businesses short on cash for marketing are in luck – the biggest marketing trend of today is completely free. Social media marketing connects businesses to consumers through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The personal nature of these relationships makes this technique particularly advantageous for small businesses, who continue to adopt this strategy to reach new and existing customers. According to the SMB Group, adoption of social media jumped from 44 percent to 53 percent among small businesses from 2011 to 2012, and if you’re not on board, you’re falling behind.
There’s no recipe for social media success, but some companies use these tools to deal with complaints. Consumers usually don’t expect anything when they make off-the-cuff complaints via social media, so businesses that reach out to offer a resolution leave a lasting impression. This proactive form of customer service impresses consumers and demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction. Other businesses have found success by posting original creative content, which has the ability to spread to relevant consumers if followers share it.
Local focus isn’t a exactly a revolutionary practice in business, but small operations will benefit from the renewed “shop small” movement that’s prominent lately. According to American Express, Small Business Saturday 2012 saw a 21 percent increase over the previous year, while awareness of the event jumped from 38 percent to 67 percent among cardholders. Additionally, 75 percent of business owners surveyed in Bank of America’s 2012 Small Business Owner Report said that the local economy plays a significant role in its business.
You don’t need to have a brick-and-mortar business to get local support in 2013. Online companies can take advantage of this trend by logging off and connecting with local businesses and consumers in person. No matter what kind of business you own, small businesses that look local first will grow.