This year is continuing to be unpredictable for small business, throwing both obstacles and opportunities in our path. Here we offer a countdown of 23 actions you can take to navigate through 2023. Not in order of importance but a simple map of steps you can take to set yourself up to thrive.

So, let's get into our top 23 tips for small business...

23. Ask yourself why you’re REALLY in business?

you might say you need an income (of course), you want independence, a sense of achievement, a stage for your passion and big ideas, and so on. But let’s throw to the great business guru Peter Drucker who said “there is only one purpose for a business and that is to create a customer … the foundation of the business and keeps it in business. They alone give employment”

22. See problems as progress

new creative solutions are the way you move your business forward- ask What If?

21. Recession is an opportunity

whatever the economists’ technical definition of a recession, in the tough times of 2023 not all customers will behave the same way. Spending doesn’t always stop, often it just changes. Understanding the main behaviour-types will spark new ideas on how to evolve your business to suit the conditions, which you can learn more about in our recent article.

20. If it ain’t broke, DO fix it

because change is inevitable anyway, so why not control it, and take charge of your own destiny. If you don’t roll with the evolving world of your customer, you’ll be left behind. The biggest risk is not taking one.

19. Breathe

in the middle of stress try the Navy Seals mindfulness technique of Box Breathing. 1) Slowly breathe in for 4 secs 2) Hold breath for 4 sec 3) Slowly exhale through mouth for 4 secs 4) Repeat steps 1-3 until you’re completely relaxed.

18. Close the Disappointment Gap

this is the difference between the service you provide, and what your customer expects. While a fixed offering might suit your operation, it could be a mismatch with what the customer really wants – unless you ask them directly “what’s your expectation?” You’ll be surprised at what comes back and could transform your business.

17. Always be curious

you’re not a cat, it won’t kill you! Be observant about what is happening around you and WHY. You’re the David Attenborough of your customers, because new opportunities can come from the tiniest detail of their behaviour.

Marketing = Customers + Heart by Judy & Eriks Celmins
16. Understand your customer’s FORD

you can’t connect and engage with people unless you go beyond their purchasing stats – what do you know about their Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams?

15. Challenge and update your messaging

review your current advertising pitch and keep asking So What? until you define a real customer Benefit, not just a Feature.   

14. Tell stories

as a small business you have a big advantage over larger companies because you have a unique story to tell. About your beliefs, challenges you’ve overcome, and how your passion helps your customers in their life.

13. Every touchpoint tells your story

while your advertising obviously communicates your offering and value, don’t underestimate the risk & rewards in other touchpoints. How do you greet new contacts online or face-to-face? Do you include a personal note with a delivery or invoice?

12. Make your marketing about feelings, not just features

anyone can rattle off a list of features, which are easily copied by your competitors. Instead, connect with your customer’s emotions and how they’ll feel when they buy your product or service.

11. Take the Commodity Test

review your advertising messaging by replacing your name with a competitor. If nothing looks out of place, then you’re a Commodity without a unique identity, and can be easily replaced.

10. Remember what’s better than ‘BEST’

it’s the ‘ONLY’! Claiming to be the best tells customers there are other choices, and why not just go for the cheapest, locking you into a race to the bottom on price. Being the ONLY one to provide something that matters to customers cuts you away from the pack and into your own space where value is more important than price.

9. Don’t just sell, INSPIRE your customers

if you haven’t seen already check out the famous Simon Sinek TED talk on How great leaders inspire action. He proposed that while it’s important to say WHAT you do, and HOW you do it, the real inspiration and motivation that appeals to your customer’s primal brain is WHY you do it. How will you bring someone with you to make their life better?

8. Social media is about ‘sticky’ content

whatever your preferred platform(s), you have to push yourself to be memorable in some way. It’s no different to how your family & friends react to personal posts. The ones that get noticed and commented on tell a story relevant to their life, spark an emotion, and are more likely to be shared.

Marketing = Customers + Heart by Judy & Eriks Celmins
7. Unlock your inner child to be creative

you’re born a creative genius, but it’s knocked out of you. Pick a challenge, and let your subconscious mind work on it while showering or mowing the lawn.

6. The only limit is your imagination

of course there are always tangible, physical and resource constraints, but there are none on your spirit and imagination to try something new against the odds. In the ‘new normal’ where it seems every month brings new challenges, people will be inspired if you give something a go that’s new and different. As long as it touches their life in some way.

5. Boost your Emotional Intelligence

working with people, whether your team or customers, is critical to your success, because your business is not just technical.  Three steps from Harvard to improve your relationships - recognise your emotions under stress and name them, ask for honest feedback, read stories for other people’s perspectives.

4. Avoid the Transaction Trap

in the pressure to build sales, it’s easy to forget that behind every cold spreadsheet number is a real-life, warm-blooded person. Your revenue doesn’t come from the transaction, but from the RELATIONSHIP that results in the transaction. If the relationship is dysfunctional or non-existent, sales will suffer. In small business, people don’t buy from a brand, they buy from people they trust.

3. The more digital your business, the more human you have to be

e-commerce and marketing tech are great for efficiency and taking your potential customers from leads to loyals. But never forget the power of having a human face in a world where people’s interactions with faceless AI, can be frustrating. We’ve all done it, “I just want to talk to a human!” – well, be different, be that human.

2. Building Trust is your first priority

as customers feel more uncertain and less confident in tough times, they look for those they can trust. The latest Edelman Global Trust Barometer shows how a business might be one of the few remaining institutions that people trust. But you have to earn it with more than empty empathy messages, and demonstrate with real actions how you can help customers make their purchase dollar go further.

1. Put marketing at the centre of your business

because marketing is not just advertising & sales, but everything you do in your operation to Create A Customer.

Learn more about how your small business can navigate 2023 and thrive with our inspirational new book Marketing = Customers + Heart.

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