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Today we’re sharing what we call “ideas to steal.” They are all real-life ideas from successful businesses—action steps you can pick up and run with right away, without having to research, test, or otherwise delay implementing. And, you don’t need to spend money to do them. 

Pick three that you can sink your teeth into, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you want more information or help implementing them—these days we all have to work together.

1. Bill faster

Bill faster. Your accounts receivable can count for 40 to 50 percent of your actual assets. Don’t batch invoice; bill as soon as you can.

When payments are delayed or never arrive at all, you start to introduce cash flow problems that can seriously hinder your business ability to survive (let alone grow) even if you have plenty of business. 

2. Simplify your business

Simplify your business. Weed out the unprofitable and the hard-to-sell. As much as possible, use data to help you make decisions, and be willing to cut things that cost too much to deliver or don’t sell well. 

3. Streamline your marketing message

Simplify your marketing message. But don’t stop there! Test different versions of your messaging on your website, in calls to action, and in your email marketing messages.

Aim for a pithy message that addresses a pain point and inspires action. Develop a user or buyer persona to help you hone in on who exactly you’re trying to reach. Read “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.

4. Increase your business’s visibility

Increase your business’s visibility, especially online. Learn about simple SEO (search engine optimization) techniques that can help your business be more likely to show up on the first page of search results. If you have a brick and mortar location, make sure you’ve claimed your business on Google.

Resist the temptation to run your business through your Facebook page or any other third party page—you’re at their mercy every time they change their algorithm or your ability to reach customers. Not sure if you’re in search results already? Google your business name or some industry-related queries and see if your site shows up. Something like [type of business] in [your location]. 

View our Business Management Guide today!

5. Learn to delegate

Learn to delegate. Figure out what you do that turns dollars. Then delegate the rest. Your investment in training others to do work you don’t have time for, or that someone else is better suited for will pay off. 

6. Look for and reward efficiencies

Encourage employees to explore more efficient approaches to their tasks instead of relying on their standard way of doing things.

Run the numbers to figure out at what point it makes sense to transition from spreadsheets to a simpler to use business dashboard. Or when to switch to an automated payroll service instead of spending 10 or 15 hours on doing it manually each month. 

7. Don’t forget suppliers

Don’t forget your suppliers. They might not be on your payroll, but they are more apt to do a few things for you at no charge because you really take care of them.

Figure out the balance between holding payment as long as possible (while still respecting your vendor’s payment terms) and exceeding expectations. 

8. Work faster

Learn to work faster. If you can condense three four-month jobs into three three-month jobs, you can do one more job in the year.

This ties back to the “look for and reward efficiencies” tip. If you can find a way to automate time-consuming and mundane tasks, do it, so you can focus on doing things that bring in cash. 

9. Reward your team when they meet or exceed expectations

Reward your team for meeting budgets and timelines. A 5 percent bonus is cheaper than a 20 percent increase in costs. Conversely, don’t be punitive when someone makes a mistake.

Encourage your team to take calculated risks. Some of them will pan out, some of them won’t. If you only bet on the things you’re sure will work, you may win, but probably that you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunity for revenue-generating innovation. 

10. Define and stick to your project scope

Make sure you’ve clearly outlined (in writing) project scope, and don’t be afraid to charge your customer for changes. Put that option in writing too. Don’t let project creep cut into your profit margin

11. Be available to the media

Offer to be a spokesperson on your specialty when your local media need an expert opinion. Send press releases regularly, and don’t be afraid to send over a head sheet ever quarter that reminds press of your areas of expertise. 

12. Give something away

Give something valuable away on your website, at your front counter, when you send out your invoices, and when you deliver goods.

This should be free to you, but valuable to the recipient—for example, coupons or a “how to.”

13. Promote your business consistently

Highlight offers, features, promotions, and news in your email footers, invoices, and email signatures. Make sure the information you’re providing is relevant and consistent across the board.

14. Be part of the social media conversation

Have an active presence on social media. Respond to customers when they voice complaints or concerns in those channels.

But, don’t stretch yourself too thin. Do some research to figure out what social media platforms your target audience uses and focus on one or two of them. Remember, you get what you pay for, so don’t expect to experience wide reach without promoting your postings. 

15. Become a trusted advisor in your industry

Become a trusted advisor in your industry. Be willing to share your knowledge and expertise freely through web forums, blog posts, and in FAQs on your website.

That said, check yourself any time you find yourself delivering a sales pitch disguised as something more helpful. 

16. Get your supporters to refer you

Check out “make a referral week” to learn more about how referrals can build your business. Ask your customers to leave reviews.

Respond when you get a negative one, and thank those who take the time to speak positively about your business. 

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Elizabeth Walker and Ken Burgin

Ken Burgin and Elizabeth Walker are the Marketing Masters, a full-service marketing and advertising partnership that helps build busy businesses.