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5 Challenges (and Solutions) Every Small Business Faces

Whether they’ve been around one year or 100, every small business faces challenges. The challenges can be especially difficult in those first few years of operations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 20 percent of small businesses fail in the first year. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. A recent HubSpot article shared 10 issues that every small business faces. We break down five of the challenges most applicable to home improvement retailers and offer solutions to each of those challenges to help retailers stay on the positive side of the stats. 

Challenge #1: Bringing in Customers

Customers are the backbone of any business but bringing in new customers and maintaining past customers presents a challenge for many businesses, no matter the size. From direct competition from other retailers in that area to a lack of brand awareness, getting a customer’s attention and then bringing them in the door can be challenging.

The Solution: Rather than casting a wide net when marketing and advertising, bring in customers by focusing on specific audiences. Use audience segmentation, breaking down potential customers into groups such as age and location. Focus on those audiences that fit your customer base to be more efficient with your time and budget. When you have segmented audiences, you not only reach them easier, but you can direct more focused content to them. 

Challenge #2: Retaining Customers

Once the customers start coming in, you want to keep them coming back. Customers with a positive customer service experience are more likely to not only come back, but also offer positive word-of-mouth recommendations. Unfortunately, just one negative experience can prevent a customer from returning. 

The Solution: Get in the mindset of high-quality customer service. Work to understand your customers’ needs, set realistic expectations on fulfilling those needs and consistently deliver. Don’t stay stagnant, and be on the lookout for ways to go above and beyond to delightfully surprise your customers. 

Challenge #3: Building an Email List

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to engage with customers is with email marketing, which starts with building an email list. Litmus found that for every dollar spent on email marketing, a business sees a return of $42. The challenge with email marketing is building your database and maintaining it. Even loyal customers may opt out of your lists if your content isn’t applicable or helpful. 

The Solution: Include an easy way for new customers to sign up for your emails by adding a form on your website. Create posts on your social media channels with the same content you include in your emails to entice your audience to sign up for emails. No matter who’s on your email list, consistently put out relevant content to keep those on your list engaged and encouraged to open up every time your emails hit their inbox. If you have an older email list, consider creating an opt-in message encouraging them to sign up again and respecting their wishes if they say no. 

Challenge #4: Hiring Talented People

Bringing on qualified workers has always been a challenge for businesses and the struggle to find good workers is even more evident in the wake of a worldwide pandemic. A CNBC survey found that 52 percent of respondents thought the biggest challenge facing small businesses was hiring quality workers. Onboarding costs average $4,000 per new employee, so hiring the right people the first time is crucial. 

The Solution: Don’t skimp on time and energy in the interview process. Take your time vetting candidates, and don’t settle just to fill a role. Numerous resources exist, such as LinkedIn and Indeed, that offer both free and paid services to help businesses find candidates. Just as your brand and company image can bring in customers, your company’s brand can influence the level of job candidates you bring in, so pay attention to how your company is perceived. 

Challenge #5: Managing Workflow

If your business is not running effectively, it can’t make money. Putting processes in place ensures your employees can do their jobs and do them well. If you’re not sure if your current processes are working, ask your employees. They are the best source of information on what could be tweaked and changed to make their jobs easier. 

The Solution: Take advantage of automation for a wide variety of tasks, especially for those duties that maybe aren’t at the top of your priority list. Marketing, for example, is a part of the business where you don’t want to be completely hands-off, but there are programs and resources available to help you automate everything from email campaigns to social media posts.

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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