How to Build a Recession Proof Small Business

How to Build a Recession Proof Small Business

More than one third of small businesses in the United States shut their doors because of the pandemic, and about 2.5 million people are still out of work because of company closures. These statistics are particularly troubling considering small businesses make up about 99 percent of the U.S. workforce, and many economists believe we are headed toward a global recession.

It is difficult enough to start and run a small business under normal economic conditions. So how are entrepreneurs and small companies supposed to survive in the face of extreme market volatility and rapidly changing consumer habits?

While there is no foolproof way to ride out a recession unscathed, there are certain strategies that can help small businesses retain and gain new customers despite a difficult economic climate. Here are five examples

Evaluate Cash Flow

The worst time to evaluate cash flow and cut expenses is when you are short on funds and need to make difficult sacrifices. Don’t wait until times are tough to take a hard look at where you could be optimizing your investments and reducing costs.  Building out your business savings or diversifying your investments ahead of a recession will give you more margin when it’s time to tighten the belt.

Invest in Digital Marketing

Creating an online presence for your small business is one of the best uses of your marketing and advertising dollars. Internet usage went up during the pandemic, and trends show that consumers are actually more likely to be on their phones or computers during difficult social or economic times. Because digital marketing has such a low barrier to entry, it is easy to find affordable and effective ways to get eyes on your products or services—whether through a website, social media, blog, ads, or other. 

Focus on Customer Service

Engaging with and listening to your customers is a powerful way to recession proof your business. Your audience’s needs will change over time, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. It is critical to be asking the right questions of your audience and understand how their needs and wants fluctuate. Establishing strong relationships with current customers will also help ensure customer loyalty and prevent them from switching to another company that promises better prices.

Automate Processes

Many small businesses waste time, energy, and money on manual processes that could easily be automated. There are likely many regular business processes you encounter on a daily or weekly basis that could be streamlined, outsourced or automated. While this may require an upfront investment, such as purchasing software or learning a new tool, it will ultimately save your bottom line in the long run.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is key when it comes to weathering an economic downturn or recession. If your small business is stuck in certain ways of doing things, and unable to evolve with the times,  this opportunity may be your downfall. Companies that succeed and grow during a recession are those that can pivot when needed and be flexible in their approach, whether from a product, marketing, or customer service standpoint.

The Best Ecommerce Holiday Planning Checklist Guide for 2022

The Best Ecommerce Holiday Planning Checklist Guide for 2022

Holidays are the busiest times of the year, but it’s also the most exciting time for ecommerce stores. If you sell a product that can be sold and purchased online, preparing early is best to ensure you’ll maximize your revenue.

Below is our ecommerce to-do checklist that you can implement leading up to the busy holiday season, will help increase your sales this year, and gain you more visibility to have continued sales in the next year. As you begin planning, keep these e commerce holiday checklists bookmarked as a reference.

How were your sales the previous year?
Have you ever heard the quote “you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been”? Well that applies to sales as well. How were your sales last year? This will help you understand what you can expect for this year, as well as the necessary adjustments to make

Become familiar with upcoming holiday dates?
Knowing the exact date of the holiday allows you to prepare when you’ll release your promotions, when and how to market, and helps you plan for the influx of new orders you’ll receive. Here are some of the most important end of year holidays that you should be aware of:

  • Black Friday [2022: Friday, November 25]
  • Small Business Saturday [2022: Saturday, November 26]
  • Cyber Monday [2022: Monday, November 28]
  • Giving Tuesday [2022: Tuesday, November 29]
  • Christmas Day [2022: Sunday, December 25]
  • New Year’s Eve Day [2022: Saturday, December 31]
  • New Year’s Day [2023: Sunday, January 1]

Business goals for the holiday season
What sales goal do you want to achieve this year in the months of November and December? Write this goal down so you’ll know how to strategize to make sure you accomplish it.

Create a holiday promotion calendar and automate this on your e commerce website
Based on your revenue goal for the holiday season, what sales, special deals and promotions can you offer to customers this year? What holidays do you want to offer them? Create a calendar that’ll allow you to see this plan by filling in what promotions will go into effect on before, during and after these holidays.

Is your website ready to go?
This is one of the most important and critical pieces to this checklist. Your products are being viewed, purchased and processed online. The experience your customers receive and their first impression when they land on your ecommerce website will dictate if they’ll do business with you or not. A poorly performing website can immediately decrease your sales. Here are a few details to give attention to on your e comm website:

  • Make sure your website is visually appealing to your audience. A poorly designed e commerce website doesn’t feel trustworthy to new customers
  • All products should have categories for online shoppers to easily find products they’re looking for
  • Repair any functional issues that can occur when a customer is checking out or entering their credit card information
  • Allow customers to make purchases with different forms of payment such as credit card, Paypal, Google Pay, Klarna, and other e commerce payment types that fit their needs

Automation saves you time and money
Automate your processes as much as possible so you can focus on managing orders. E commerce automation eliminates repetitive tasks that you typically do manually for each customer, but allows it to be completed in the same way and according to the same criteria. Here are some of the most important e commerce automation processes you’ll need to have set up:

  • Sync your customers to an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp
  • Gather feedback after a purchase by asking for reviews
  • Automate your inventory management so you know when a product is low in stock
  • Send abandoned cart email when a customer abandons their car
  • Print shipping labels and send out tracking numbers with one click

Can your products be found online in google search?
Optimize your SEO on your website and product descriptions for the holiday season. For those that aren’t familiar, this means using specific keywords on your website that users will use to search for your product. Do this on every page of your website, and create static landing pages for each holiday season so they can be published live when ready. Your products being found online by customers is one of best ways to significantly increase your sales.

Get Creative With Your Sales
If you sell single products, see how you can package some of them together to increase sales. For example, if you sell candles don’t only sell them one by one. Bundle some of them together. You can create a “mood candle package” and sell bundles of candles based on the mood your customer is in, or would like to be in such as relax, cleaning, refreshed, etc.

Cybersecurity is Serious
Look, customers are entering their personal information on your website with the trust that none of their information will be breached or hacked. You need to ensure that our website is fully, 100% secure.

Technical Support
It’s technology people. Something can always go wrong. It’s best to plan and be prepared to have someone on hand that can fix any technical issues quickly and efficiently. Holiday season is busy but it’s a very small window you have, and any hiccups need to be troubleshooted and fixed immediately.

Final Checklist Thoughts
Planning is critical to your success. All information within this article has been proven, yearly, to work seamlessly. If you have any questions or need any assistance, our team of digital marketing experts will provide you with a strategy that fits your holiday season business goals at no cost. Just contact us on the form below and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Why Your Business Needs a Smart Website

Why Your Business Needs a Smart Website

You may have heard that a business website is your company’s best salesperson or most powerful marketing tool. While having a modern, engaging website is essential in today’s digital world, your company website is so much more than a digital business card or online storefront. 

If structured properly, your website can automate business processes, improve internal efficiencies, and elevate the customer experience. To put it simply, your business website is less like an interactive marketing brochure, and more like an employee. One that is working for you 24/7, 365 days a year. 

Many small businesses fail to leverage the opportunities and competitive advantages that their website can provide. They waste time, money and energy on services or processes that could be easily run and managed through a website or mobile app. That’s why companies across every industry should be investing in developing Smart Websites. 

A Smart Website is one that not only explains your business and the products and services you offer, but also helps you accomplish business tasks and goals. For example, a Smart Website for a restaurant or food service business might accommodate online ordering, answer common customer questions, and allow site visitors to make reservations. To draw a comparison in another industry, a Smart Website for an insurance company might collect information for a quote and send automated emails to guide potential clients toward booking a call and enrolling in a particular insurance plan. 

With the advancement of artificial intelligence and web capabilities, this type of functionality will only become more popular. Companies that do not use their websites to automate business processes and create a responsive user experience will fall behind. Alternatively, businesses that integrate Smart Website design will reap the benefits, including: 

  • Reduced operational costs
  • New lead generation
  • More sales
  • Improved efficiencies 
  • More customer data 
  • Increased business scalability  
  • Improved brand reputation

Smart Websites are not the future. They are the present, and it’s time to get your company on board. 

Questions about how content marketing and web design strategies could elevate your brand and improve your bottom line? Schedule a consultation with one of the digital strategists at ATX Web Designs by clicking here.

5 Red Flags To Watch For When Hiring an Austin Web Development Company

5 Red Flags To Watch For When Hiring an Austin Web Development Company

If you are looking to hire a web development company for your business or personal website, chances are you are reviewing web design agencies in Austin, Texas. As the fastest growing tech hub in the country, rivaling Silicon Valley, Austin is home to a number of web design and web development firms. 

For the less technologically savvy, it can be confusing to know what to look for in a web development company. However, just as important as knowing what credentials and capabilities to look for is knowing which red flags to avoid. 

If you are considering hiring a web design or web development company in Austin, here are five warning signs to look out for:

  1. Overpromising
    Often when web development companies make specific, performance-based promises it is an indicator that they are trying to sell you a false image. The fact is that no web development company, no matter how skilled their team, can tell you the exact number of leads they will be able to help you generate or what dollar amount in sales you will be afforded by the end of the quarter. Flashy projections about where your company will be six months from now are often presented by companies that won’t live up to the hype when the rubber meets the road. A reliable Austin web development company is one that can tell you what services they can offer you and what goals they will help you work toward—not specific numbers that they guarantee.
  2. Difficulty obtaining data
    Generally speaking, if a web development company performs well and offers competitive pricing for that performance, it will show. Proof of quality can only be ensured by hard evidence, and if the web development company you are interested in is good at what they do, then they should have plenty of case studies and client reviews to back up their claims. Any difficulty accessing data relating to work done for previous clients, analytics, or performance metrics is typically a signal that the company is hiding something. A trustworthy web developer will have a track record that is easily reviewable to anyone interested in their services.
  3. A bad company website
    The aesthetics and performance of a web development company’s own website will provide you with insight as to what type of product they really provide. If a company you are vetting for hire doesn’t have a website that is user friendly, runs smoothly, and is easily accessible from any device anywhere, then what assurance do you have that they will provide you one that does? While the landing site for a web development company does not tell you everything you need to know, it is still the face of their operation. Any glitches in functionality or inadequacies that appear during use of their site are tell-tale signs that you may want to take your business elsewhere.
  4. Poor reviews
    Probably the most direct way of assessing the legitimacy and value of any Austin web development company you may be interested in hiring is to look up their customer reviews. You want to watch out for both extremes: If all the reviews are terrible then the company is probably terrible. However, if the reviews are all five-star exaltations of a business that can do no wrong, that is also a red flag. The fact is, even some of the best web development companies in Austin miss some things every now and then. They may run into coding issues or miss the occasional deadline, and chances are some clients will end up writing a review mentioning these little hiccups. A company that produces quality work and has integrity will stand behind their product and take ownership when things go awry.
  5. Bad communication/ lack of integrity
    Poor communication is also a major red flag. You should be able to assess a web development company’s communication from the moment you submit an inquiry. If a developer is not responding to you promptly, making themselves available for questions, or providing a clear quote and summary of services, you should be wary. If you are not receiving clear communication from the company during the inquiry stage of the process, things will likely not improve if you hire them to build your website. Conversely, you will know what to expect from an Austin web development company that shows integrity through their transparency with performance-related data and presentation of real time updates on their operations
5 Tips for Developing a Company Marketing Plan

5 Tips for Developing a Company Marketing Plan

The thought of developing a company marketing plan can seem daunting, especially for small and medium sized businesses without a dedicated marketing or communications department.
However, marketing is a crucial part of sustaining and growing a business and should never be an afterthought or a reactionary measure.

Having a strong marketing plan with measurable goals, clear strategies, and a built-in evaluation process will take dedication up front but can save your company time and money in the long run. Here are five tips for developing a marketing plan for your company.

  1. Create an executive summary
    It’s hard to know how a marketing plan fits into your overall mix of company activities unless you know what they all are. As a Business News Daily article recommends, “Marketing campaigns should not be considered individual functions. Marketing is the story of your brand as told to customers; like any narrative, its tone and characters should remain consistent. An executive summary details your marketing goals for the next year and helps tie each campaign together.”
    By creating this high-level, overarching summary, you will be better able to ensure your day-to-day marketing efforts align with your company vision and direction.
  2. Set SMART goals
    When you’re talking about SMART goals, you’re not just talking about a synonym for intelligent. SMART, in this case, is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-driven — meaning that you’re not just saying you’d like to be better or greater, but you’re setting a specific window of time in which you accomplish a goal you can measure numerically, that is within your reach, and defined. It’s helpful to make your goals SMART goals, because it allows you to track your progress and have a specific target and window of time for achieving your goal. Whether that’s a target goal concerning customers and leads, or just getting a project like an new, improved website done within a specific time, SMART goals will help get you there.
  3. Identify your target audience
    Not every company can be all things to all people. When you’re looking to create a marketing plan, you want to make sure you have a target audience in mind. As AllBusiness reminds marketers, “A marketing campaign may be good but off target, rendering it ineffective for its intended purpose.” Hitting the target market effectively is the true indicator of how well marketing budgets were spent, so it’s important to evaluate if you’re too broad or too narrow in your marketing so you can adjust accordingly. That means that while the message you go with is essential, the medium is also worth evaluating.
  4. Define your competitors
    Your company won’t be marketing in a vacuum. To create an effective marketing plan, you need to know your competitors and how they’re marketing to the same target customers you might be looking to reach. Business News Daily advises, “Small business personnel seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth or pinpoint companies outside their industry that are just as capable of luring customers away. Knowing who your competitors are, their core competitive advantages, and how they might respond to your offerings – like price cuts or increased communication – helps you devise strategies to combat such losses.”
  5. Don’t be afraid to change it up
    While it’s important to evaluate your marketing plan to gauge its effectiveness, you also want to make sure that you have the flexibility to change what you’re doing and how you’re marketing if you do determine it’s not as effective as you’d like it to be. That means that a marketing plan shouldn’t be a “set-it-and-forget-it” type of exercise. Ingrained in your plan there should be regular check-ins and evaluations so that you can assess progress and identify next steps.
    How much, and how many people that process involves, is totally up to you, but it should be robust enough to allow for whatever change is needed.