Even the most talented business owner can’t predict the future, but they can prepare for change. Future-proofing is about keeping your finger on the pulse and knowing when to adapt your business. Here are some tips on how to do just that.
Chances are that you already know a thing or two about flexibility as a business owner, but there’s a reason why it’s our number one tip for future-proofing your business. Customers change their behaviour, political factors influence the economy, and technology moves on.
So, what does it mean to be flexible in business today?
Experiment with communication. If customers are trying to contact you through Facebook Messenger or on the phone when you wish they’d email instead – don’t fight it. Adapt your process to make it easier for the customer and they might reward you with their loyalty.
Keep tabs on consumer trends. Maybe you could offer paperless billing to help save the planet as well as save money, or take advantage of the rise of ethical eating by including vegan dishes on your new menu. Whatever your business does, always be thinking about how you could do it better by giving the customer what they want more simply and directly.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but stay ahead of the curve by striving to offer more to please your customers and keep them coming back.
This doesn’t mean totally overhauling your products or services. Sometimes the most thoughtful offering involves improving your service, and often your business gains just as much as your customer from it. For example, if a car mechanic offers a free diagnostic, they’re likely to get a lot more cars coming in for repair. Or if a hairdresser offers a half-price haircut after recommending a friend, customers are more likely to stay loyal and recommend the business – it’s the ultimate form of flattery.
Offering more may sometimes earn you less money in the short-term, but it can be an effective way to generate interest, loyalty and—the holy grail—personal recommendations.
Not every move your competitors make will be a good one, but occasionally you may need to adapt as a result of what they’re offering. This might mean changing your prices, upgrading your tech or launching new products and services.
A local landscape photographer might notice one of their competitors getting better shots by using drones, or a taxi service may have competition that lets customers book through an app. It’s fairly easy to keep up with what’s going on by checking out social media or subscribing to an industry magazine, and doing so will help you spot the areas you need to improve in before your competitors get too far ahead.
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Feedback is your golden ticket to knowing what your customers want. Make a habit of recording feedback and encourage your staff to do the same. For example, a cafe owner might not realise how many customers request gluten-free options until they start keeping tabs. Simple data like this can help future-proof your business one poached egg and smashed avocado at a time.
Feedback forms, online reviews, email marketing, and good old-fashioned conversation can be the best ways to gather feedback. Forms and reviews can be automated to request feedback from customers at different stages of the customer journey, from the first time they encounter your brand to a three-month post-purchase follow-up, getting you maximum responses from minimum effort. Simplybusiness.co.uk has a handy list of the top six CRM systems for small businesses in the UK
Sometimes the most thoughtful offering involves improving your service, and often your business gains just as much as your customer from it.
In an increasingly digital world, it’s important for your business to keep up with technology. For instance, the last time you were told you couldn’t pay by card, how did you feel? That’s exactly how your customers feel when the technology you offer in your business isn’t up to scratch. Most basic technologies are easily accessible. For example, sole traders and micro-businesses can take advantage of PayPal Here, an affordable device that lets you take contactless card payments almost anywhere.
You don’t need a crystal ball to future-proof your business, but keeping an eye on customer feedback and competition is a must. Small businesses have an advantage here over larger companies, as they can respond more quickly to market trends and offer the kind of personal, attentive service customers love.
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