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There can be no denying it. 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year for small business owners, and 2021 has been no less fraught with obstacles. 

Research has shown that the number of active small business owners in the US dropped by 22% between 2020 and 2021—the largest decrease in recorded history. African American, Latinx and Asian small business owners suffered the harshest declines in business activity, with the number of African-American enterprises dropping by 41%. Female owned enterprises closely followed these demographics, which dropped in number by 25%. 

The world’s entire economic system has been severely impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it does not seem as though the business world will return to its past status quo any time soon. In fact, if anything, business owners will need to adjust to the ‘new normal’ to stay afloat.

Small businesses are often more vulnerable to rapid economic changes than medium to large businesses and multinational corporations are. This vulnerability makes it crucial for small business owners to stay ahead of the pack and constantly improve their strategies and systems if they are to ensure long-term viability in their industries.

Here are nine data-backed upgrades you should consider implementing for your small business to ensure its success in 2023 and beyond.

1. Establish and Perfect a Digital Footprint

The pandemic has seen a dramatic shift towards internet-based services. Employees are now working online, students are studying online, college attendees are taking examinations online, and people are even relying on the internet for socialization and entertainment. 

Your small business can capitalize on this trend by building a functional, accessible and engaging digital footprint for your brand. It’s recommended that you hire a seasoned digital marketing and management expert to handle the creation of your digital footprint if your budget allows for it. If not, you can take advantage of a number of free and low-cost tools to optimize your brand’s online presence and win the attention of your internet-using target market.

One of the keys to establishing a noticeable digital footprint in 2023 will be maintaining a positive presence on major social media platforms. Depending on the nature of your business, you can use sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok to your advantage. 

Each platform requires a different content strategy, but your content should be cohesive across all the platforms you choose to use. It’s essential to engage authentically with your followers on these platforms to establish yourself as a leader in your industry.

2. Optimize Online Communications

The vast majority of businesses will be working partly or fully remotely by 2023. Part of establishing a solid digital footprint is ensuring that your company can work remotely itself. You and your team will need to be able to interact reliably and constantly with your customers, clients and suppliers from remote locations—including your home—to maximize your chances of success. 

You can streamline and optimize your company’s digital communications by investing in valuable communication and collaboration tools. We recommend choosing tools that feature cloud-based and automated technologies to make it easier to share, communicate and collaborate across the web. 

There are plenty of options that are affordable for small businesses, designed specifically for use by remote workers. Some great options include Zoom, Trello, Slack, and ProofHub. Use them to make calls and send instant messages, collaborate virtually on team projects, share and download files, and send real-time progress updates whenever they’re needed the most.

3. Diversify Your Income Streams

The internet has created an audience of new ways to diversify your income as a small business. There are thousands of businesses across the globe that are bringing in extra income and streamlining their cash flow by creating unique eLearning opportunities, tutorials and courses that internet users can complete for a modest fee.

Internet platforms like Udemy, Masterclass, Skillshare and ALISON offer video courses created by professionals and experts in dozens of fields, from business, accounting and economics to photography, graphic design and social media marketing. 

If you and your team have unique skills or a specific range of knowledge that could be of interest to other people, you can expand your income streams by designing an online course that shares those skills. This is a fantastic way to generate a significant passive income from a minimal investment of time, labor and money.

4. Network with Other Small Businesses

It will be more important than ever to foster and develop work relationships with other small businesses in your sector in 2023. Networking is just as valuable for companies as it ever was. And, considering the many new challenges posed by the pandemic, it will probably be crucial to your survival in your field.

Physical networking events and conferences may be limited for the foreseeable future. But collaborating with your peers on products, events, specials and services will benefit your business nonetheless. 

Doing so will allow you to gain valuable contacts, expand your network, and attract new leads and customers from target markets that you could not access previously. Networking has the power to increase your reach and help you to build mutually beneficial and supportive relationships with other passionate small business owners. If you can’t network in the physical world, join websites, social media groups and forums that are relevant to your industry instead.

You can become a business influencer, both in real life and online, by networking frequently. You are your enterprise’s top marketing tool and can influence the business community by writing useful guides and sharing your expertise through virtual conferences.

5. Create an eCommerce Platform

The world saw a monumental shift towards online shopping in 2020, when global lockdowns made it difficult to buy anything but the basics at retail stores. Many of these lockdowns have since lifted, but the world’s preference for eCommerce shopping has not changed. In fact, as people across the globe are still concerned about the risk of infection, more and more of them are turning to online shops instead of risking visiting real-world stores.

If your business does not yet sell its services and products online, now is an optimal time to start doing so. Building an eCommerce platform is a proven way to generate traffic for your website and create profitable opportunities for your company. Having an online store allows you to attract new target markets with money to spend, and it allows you to reach a wide audience with services that they need.

It may be challenging to set up an online store from scratch, but there are many eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Wix that make the process easier. Depending on your budget, it’s possibly worth the investment to hire a web developer to build your online store for you. Once it’s up and running, you have the potential to sell products to virtually anyone with an internet-connected device.

6. Harness the Power of Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the strategic creation of online content based on high-volume internet searches. There are plenty of free and paid tools you can use to gauge how your target audiences search for data and which keywords they browse most frequently. 

You can incorporate these keywords into your on-site content to ensure that you’re ranked highly on search engine pages for those keyword searches. And that it’s easy for customers to find your products too. 

It can also be helpful to establish a company blog on your website when creating an SEO strategy. You can add targeted keywords to your content to attract online traffic and ensure customers who already want the kinds of products and services you have to offer see your blog. 

Remember to ensure that your blog offers real value in the form of professional advice, how-to guides, recipes, user guides and honest reviews to drive consistent engagement with your readers.

7. Focus on Ethics, Equality and Empathy

Today’s consumers are more savvy and socially responsible than ever. This means that your business needs to do more than simply offer quality goods and services to stay competitive. You need to prove to your audience that you are driving positive change in an environmental, ethical and social sense to win their trust and their respect.

One of the best ways to meet the needs of modern customers is to ensure that your brand’s presence is empathetic and inclusive at all times. The more you are willing to help good causes and engage in worthy initiatives, the more you will be able to foster meaningful connections with your target audience.

Part of being an ethical business is critically assessing your own use of resources. It doesn’t take huge, costly changes to make a difference. Simply conserving energy through proper computer power management or using environmentally friendly packing and shipping materials can go a long way in improving your brand’s image in your customers’ eyes.

8. Adjust Your Strategy for Handling Reviews

The global economic ecosystem is in a fragile state at the moment, and it will take years for it to stabilize completely. This means that even customers who have been loyal to big brands for years may begin to search for more cost-effective alternatives and better bargains.

As a small business, you can capitalize on this phenomenon. Put your brand name out there and do whatever you can to provide affordable, high-quality products and services to your target market. Your goal here is not only to attract loyal customers but to receive positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals from those customers. 

Potential customers are always looking for social proof to ensure that your products and services are worth their money. If they see positive reviews from other customers, they will be more likely to put their trust in what you have to offer.

It’s essential to communicate with your existing customers to provide them with the level of service they expect. Don’t make assumptions. Email them, phone them, or use online surveys to ask them what you can do better for them and how you can improve your products, services, and online user experiences. Gathering and using this data will allow you to make smarter business decisions in the future.

9. Create Adaptable Business Infrastructure

If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2020, it’s that the future is uncertain, even at the best of times. You can research, plan and prepare for the future to the best of your ability. But at the end of the day, there’s no guarantee that events will unfold the way you expect them to. 

The economic turmoil created by the pandemic has already created massive global shifts in consumerism, sustainability, automation, and marketing. The businesses that weren’t able to keep up with these shifts were quickly left behind. 

While you cannot predict what 2023 will bring, you can use your time wisely and productively. Keep tabs on your profits, revenue and overall financial health, and make decisions driven by facts and figures. If you can see that one area of your business is underperforming, determine how you can pivot to change that.

Focus on creating flexible goals for your small business, upskill your team to use new in-demand technologies, and prepare them for possible changes in plans and strategies. The more adaptable to change your enterprise can be, the better your chances of thriving in 2023 and beyond.

The TakeawayEmbrace Constant Improvement

Running a small business takes passion, dedication, and hard work. If you truly want your business to succeed in the midst of difficult economic waters, it’s important to dedicate yourself fully to embracing constant improvement of your strategies, services, and operations. Constantly upgrading and refining every facet of your operation is the only way to go.

The more work you put in to moving with the times and upgrading your offerings, the better equipped you are to handle and overcome future challenges. There’s no telling what 2023 may bring. But by upgrading your enterprise, you’ll be preparing for a range of different eventualities and ensuring your business’s flexibility in the face of obstacles.

Author: Nina Sharpe