Small Business Advice Week is well underway, with SMEs throughout the country sharing their experiences and knowledge as they look to support their fellow entrepreneurs. There are plenty of tips out there - and here are five that we think smaller firms could use to help establish themselves in their respective industries.
It's no secret that access to finance is inhibiting SMEs, with many struggling to secure loans despite initiatives such as the government's Funding for Lending programme.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has some great advice on how to convince the banks to say yes - and there are funding opportunities from non-high street financial institutions - but if you're still unsuccessful then exploring alternative funding schemes can be the way to generate the money you need.
Websites like Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Crowdfunder enable entrepreneurs and small businesses to offer people rewards or stakes in their company in return for investment. If your product or service is something that has the potential to attract an enthusiastic fan base, sites like these could provide an unconventional route to financial backing.
One of the most important things SMEs need to ensure is that they're not unnecessarily overspending on overheads. It's easy to be on inflated contracts for things like electricity, gas, insurance and telecoms - and not even know about it.
Searching the market to find the best deals can potentially save small firms thousands of pounds, but this is inevitably a time-consuming exercise. A sensible solution is to use a free switching service that can take care of the process on behalf of your business.
Taking energy as a prime example of a neglected cost, it's important to not pay over the odds at a time when prices are high and on an upward trajectory. Inertia can add significant sums of money to your bottom line
Taking energy as a prime example of a neglected cost, it's important to not pay over the odds at a time when prices are high and on an upward trajectory. Inertia can add significant sums of money to your bottom line - a vital consideration as the recession hangover continues to loom.
We've recently posted a number of blogs about smaller businesses that are enjoying success by focusing on producing top quality products for consumption on a smaller scale. This is often a competitive strategy because it places products in opposition to those that are mass-produced and sold by industry giants.
While bigger companies are capable of targeting the nationwide market, their products don't always appeal to people with a passion for specific products - craft beer, coffee or customised clothes, for example.
Small businesses often have an opportunity to not only provide, but talk up the quality of their offering. This can lead to building a loyal fan base that is content to pay more for a premium product.
SMEs operate in a competitive world, but Small Business Advice Week is all about learning from everyone's experiences and benefitting from industry knowledge.
As such, forming partnerships with local companies to promote each other's services - especially if they're complementary - is another tactic that can result in substantial benefits.
Whether it's special offers, joint marketing campaigns or simply displaying posters, there are myriad ways for small businesses to give each other a helping hand.
Everyone knows it's a good idea to be active on social media, but not all SMEs understand the best ways to do so.
The vital thing to realise if you're getting involved for the first time is that you're going to be starting from scratch, so don't expect immediate results and endless interaction.
Instead, take a look at successful ventures and see how they won their publicity. Sometimes competitions might be a good angle, while in other circumstances it's a better idea to take part in discussions or highlight interesting stories. Whichever approach you take, remember that it's a marathon rather than a sprint.
A quick guide to Small Business Advice Week
Image credit: 401(K) 2012
Dan O’Sullivan is Make It Cheaper's Web Content Manager, which means much of his time is dedicated to ensuring we have plenty of online material to help business owners understand the energy, insurance and telecoms industries. With years of experience working alongside SMEs, Dan is committed to making life as easy as possible for smaller firms. You can email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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