Top 5 Barriers to Success Facing Small Businesses

In speaking to small business owners over the past six months, I’ve identified problem areas impeding the growth of their companies. Whether it was a lack of planning or lack of knowledge to overcome a particular obstacle, there are legitimate issues keeping small business owners up at night. And these issues, each of them all genuine and justifiable, must be confronted if they want to realize their dream.

I took the top five issues I heard my prospects voice to me over the last six months and created a poll on my website to obtain some unofficial results. I found the responses (close to 1,000) intriguing and wanted to share them with you. I also want to share some of the advice I shared with my prospects in hopes that you, small business owner, will overcome your most pressing issues holding back your business.

Issue #5 (7%) No Distinguishing Value Proposition That Resonates with Your Target
I was actually a little surprised that only 7% of respondents selected this issue as their most daunting. I cannot understate the importance of a clear value proposition that really strikes a chord with your target market.

Solution: Every business, no matter how large or small, no matter what industry they are in, must have a clear, concise and compelling value proposition. It’s a must today since most of the products/services we sell today are commodities. Think of your value proposition as answering your prospect’s questions, “What’s in it for me” or “Why should I do business with your company?” Have a value proposition already? Great! When was the last time you reviewed it? How/where are you using it? Can your prospects readily see it? If you are having trouble understanding what a value proposition is or how to go about drafting a good one, pick-up a book on the subject, do an internet search on them or hire an experienced professional who can help you write one. Hint, hint… ; )

Issue #4 (11%) Finding Good, Affordable Help You Can Trust
So 11% of respondents said this was their biggest challenge. I can see why. Hitting the trifecta (good, affordable, trustworthy) can be a challenge. Here is some advice I hope helps you deal with what could become a real headache and impede the growth of your small business.

Solution: Depending on the nature of the work/position, look to hire a freelancer from the younger demographic. They are usually hungry to make their footprint in the particular industry and willing to accept lower rates than a more experienced professional. Once the person is hired, the first project you give them should be for your business and of minimal importance… something small. You’ll want to test the quality and timeliness of their work on your business… not a client or prospect. See how they respond to feedback or constructive criticism of their work. You know what to do if they give you attitude… Better yet, hire a qualified friend or acquaintance you trust and know they do solid work. They’ll understand the situation you are in and maybe even give you a “friend” rate while you start out.

Issue #3 (14%) Determining Who to Target
Well, if you’re in business for yourself, I’m sure you know the old adage: you cannot be everything to everybody. By honing in on a niche segment of the market, you’ll better be able to not only target them but design campaigns tailored around their particular habits, psychographics, preferences, tastes, etc.

Solution: Determining who your niche should be can be arrived at by asking yourself some basic questions. Is there a segment of the market that is not currently being served? Is the niche market I’m thinking of big enough to support my business? Are my competitor’s clients, or a portion of them, underwhelmed by their current choices in my space? Does my niche exist in my geo-targeted area of doing business? If my niche is based on demographics (people 55+ years old, household income $85,000, for example), does this profile represent a growing or declining segment of the overall market in my geo-targeted area. How is my offering better or different than my client’s? Finding demographics and business profiles in a certain area can be obtained on the internet with some time invested.

Issue #2 (24%) Little to No Capital for Critical Business/Marketing Expenditures
Here, I’m not surprised at all this came in second. How many small business owners I’ve spoke to that cannot afford basic, yet critical, business and/or marketing expenditures… Perhaps it’s better to put your dream of starting a new business on hold until you have a comfortable savings in place. It’s discouraging to hear small business owners that cannot afford a basic company brochure, business cards or even a logo or website. If you don’t have a decent savings set aside to start and grow your business, you are in for an uphill battle to compete against your competition, especially the competition that has been around for years. I’m not saying you have to win the lottery to start a business but you should have a decent amount in savings to afford the necessary components to get your business off the ground.

Solution: The good news is that marketing initiatives are not as expensive as many people think. Sure, there are greedy marketing companies out there ready to take your last dime without blinking an eye. That’s why I strongly urge you to shop around to compare different rates and find a compassionate marketing company that will work within your budget. Another wise thing a small business owner can do is rank the initiatives you want to get done in order of importance. Is it your logo? Have a logo already? Perhaps it’s a brochure you need? Or a website. Regardless, focus on the most important initiatives first and get them done one-by-one with patience.

Issue #1 (44%) Generating Awareness About my Business
Sure, this makes complete sense. I mean, you cannot be in business, not for long anyways, if nobody knows you exist. It’s up to you to be resourceful and have the perseverance to create that awareness or buzz about your company.

Solution: I think the best thing I did when launching Downstream Marketing Consulting last fall was to register my business with every key directory on the web. This will help your organic search engine rankings and land you near the top of page 1. Second, experiment with social media. I’ve also found that social media requires a little patience. In addition to finding your customers on Facebook and Twitter, you also need to find your voice. Third, send out a press release on relevant and news worthy happenings in hopes to have your story picked-up in the local newspaper. Fourth, I love a good, home-spun grassroots marketing campaign. It’s extremely cost-efficient and you can really get creative. Fifth join some surrounding chamber of commerce’s and get involved- network! Finally, monitor what you competitors are doing to get the word out about their company.

I would really like to hear from any business owners on how they handle these challenges. Or perhaps you would like to share some more issues facing small business owners. Either way, we would love to hear your feedback and experiences!