If you talk to almost any successful small business owner, they’ll be quick to admit to a few setbacks along the way. Here’s what sets them apart, though: instead of suffering the ultimate failure — having to shut the business down — they turned what could have been a defeat into an opportunity to learn and grow.
No one wants to dwell on setbacks, of course, but confronting them doesn’t have to be an exercise in negativity. In fact, successful entrepreneurs constantly evaluate risks and put the necessary plans in place to deal with the worst when it happens. Those strategies mean small setbacks don’t have to feel like big ones — and, better yet, you might be able to avoid some of them altogether.
Depending on what kind of small or medium-sized business you’re running, setbacks can come in a varieties of ways but there are a few that are pretty common. Start with the examples outlined below and you’ll start to see patterns and tactics you can apply to your company.
Without warning, just when you thought there was a good relationship and a potential long-term source of revenue, customers can make decisions that are completely out of your control. Maybe your point of contact took another job or got transferred and a new person was put in their place. Perhaps another firm approached them with a special offer or deep discount in order to steal the account. Or, if the customer is going through hard times, a budget freeze might be in effect, including purchases on the products and services your company offers.
Customers in some of these situations might come back eventually — or they might be gone forever. Particularly for newer companies, this can feel crippling because it’s not necessarily a setback they’ve brought on yourself.
The Recovery Plan: Even if customers walk away, there’s one thing they always leave behind: data. This includes information about their ongoing needs, sudden pain points, the way they make purchases and factors that contribute to a deal closing. If you’re using products such as Sales Cloud to capture these details, they don’t have to go to waste or remain dormant. Pull out what’s relevant to identify how your marketing team could nurture demand among similar customers in another region. Use what you’ve learned about the buying cycle for customers in that sector or industry as you fine-tune your pitch deck and approach new prospects. And, if possible, keep the conversation going with your old customer -- touching base occasionally and demonstrating how much you know about the things that matter to them. This may increase your odds of regaining their business at a later point.
“All that hard work, for nothing!” That’s what it probably feels like, at any rate, when the response from customers to a new offering suggests you’ve tried to fix something that isn’t broken, or your marketing approach makes it difficult for them to commit to a purchase. In some cases, new products and services are integral to a small business’s growth plan, and become the basis for how they’ve raised money from investors or received loans from a bank.
Developing new products and services doesn’t just take money, either — it also takes time to come up with something newer or better. All the more reason to make sure you use that time wisely.
The Recovery Plan: Although it’s a bad sign when a product or service flops within your existing customer base, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an addressable market for it elsewhere. Marketing Cloud can help ensure awareness is high via all the relevant touchpoints such as your web site, email, social media and more. Maybe some of the “Nos” you got initially can be addressed with fresh content that provides a more compelling business case to give the new product or service a try. If it turned out that what you’ve launched was priced too high, or perhaps not bundled with your other offerings effectively, a new marketing campaign could give the product or service a second lease on life.
Even the best marketing won’t salvage a dud, but SMBs need to make extra efforts in this area, given they’re often up against larger and better-known competitors. Use marketing automation not only to make this job easier, but to get insights about customer behaviour. That way, even if you have to scrap your latest offering, the insights can be applied to the next one you create.
Small businesses may start with one person, but they rarely grow without some other key players who contribute to the early successes. With the right training and development, a talented team can do great things — at least until some of that talent decides the grass is greener somewhere else.
Although offering a higher salary or some other perks may keep great people around a little longer, there can be legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with the employer that cause people to choose a different path. This can cause near-instant panic in some cases: what if customers don’t want to deal with someone else? How will things continue to run smoothly without their expertise? What if finding a replacement takes a long time — or is impossible given other factors going on within the business?
The Recovery Plan: If the employee is leaving on good terms, go beyond a traditional exit interview. This is where any updates to your CRM that had been overlooked in the past could be made, filling in blanks that would otherwise come up later. If they left without warning and with sore feelings, focus on ensuring your existing business doesn’t erode. Tools like Service Cloud can give insights into how to prevent complaints or problems from the star performer’s customers from piling up. They also help with a potential productivity lag, by using service issues as a way to cross-sell or upsell within an existing customer. This may not completely make up for the loss of a talented team member, but it can be a helpful way to keep the ship afloat as you use the data in Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud to determine the best ways to proactively reach out and re-introduce your firm to the rest of those accounts.
When you’re running a small business, setbacks come with the job. They only turn into failures when you don’t address them and put a recovering plan into action.
Learn how Salesforce’s CRM solutions can help your small business with our ebook, “How a CRM Helps Your Business Grow.”