Survival tips for small businesses in 2021

Business success is a tricky thing, with a lot of influential factors involved. In a “normal” year, small business success can be threatened by a wide spectrum of obstacles. But, the combination of a global pandemic with an election year turned 2020 into the American Ninja Warrior of obstacles.

 Still, there are reasons to look out for a brighter future. According to Business Insider, the US economy will grow 3.5% in the first quarter of 2021 and may even return to pre-pandemic level of output in the second quarter of next year.

 As we look collectively towards the new year, we’ve gathered 12 tips to help your business thrive in 2021.


#1: Rank customers on key attributes

You may know your best customers by name, especially if you are a small business with few customers or sell mainly to businesses rather than the general public. If you can, rank these customers on one attribute (let’s say “spend the most”), then generate a list so you can contact them for reorders.

 Another way to maximize past customers is to find out if there are specific products that they tend to buy more, then build products related to those that your customer may find interested in. If you use accounting software, then it’s easy to sort all your customers and their purchases quickly.


#2: Nurture your brand advocates

Happy, loyal customers will spread the news to their friends. They will post about you on social media, which is free advertising. People trust their friends’ opinions over a company’s marketing efforts.


If you have customers like these, make sure you comment on the reviews and raves they leave for you on Google, Yelp, or other social channels. This is a small gesture that will show them how much their business means to you.


Another way to show appreciation to your loyal customers is to offer them a referral incentive. For example, if they refer a friend to your business, you can offer them both a referral discount on their next purchase.


#3: Adopt agility as part of your small business culture

If there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s to prepare for anything. For small business owners, this means having to roll with the punches. While many larger organizations adopted a work from home standard, some businesses require physical labor or on-site staff. These businesses should communicate their plans to open safely with their staff, perhaps how they will reopen in waves, or with physical changes to work stations. Prepare for worst-case scenarios, revisit your business plan, and have a “what if” forecast, where all scenarios are accounted for in your cash flow.


Agility also means adopting practices that make your business more efficient. Tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can free up management from routine, time-consuming tasks. Evaluate processes where automation can save you time, invest in these as they will continue to serve you long after the pandemic ends.


#4: Use targeted social media advertising

Facebook advertising offers look-alike audience targeting. Using your existing customer database, Facebook looks through its database and finds people who match the profile of your existing customers. You can then create ads that are targeted at this look-alike audience.


As another plus, Facebook ads are seamlessly converted to Instagram ads within the Facebook Ads Manager. When done right, Instagram can be a huge platform to grow and sell.


Targeting is the number-one benefit of using social media, because when you are setting up your ads, you can request criteria such as education, financial status, ethnic affinity, location, and life events.


You may get fewer people seeing your ad when you narrow your criteria, but lower numbers are outweighed by the benefits of reaching more of the people you most want to learn about your business.


Make sure you set up tracking pixels for retargeting ads. These ads will show your products to those who have already visited your website, making it a seamless way to remarket your business to your audience.


Don’t have the funds to advertise on social? Running a giveaway contest is an easy way to increase your engagement and followers for a relatively low cost.


#5: Diversify the markets you serve

If your traditional market is struggling, can you try other markets? For example, you might find success in the next town or by changing your marketing focus. If your market is too broad (for example, people living within a one-hour drive), it may be better to narrow it to “female accountants who own condos in the downtown core.” You may discover a new market.