Spring_Cleaning_body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

The advent of spring is an opportune time for small businesses to do some prudent housecleaning—in particular, assessing marketing efforts, reviewing office procedures, pruning client and prospect lists—in order to hone their core strengths and business-building activities. Some actions may seem clear, such as investing in newer energy efficient office equipment or updating software. Businesses that sell physical products can free up vital warehouse space by running sales on older or slow moving inventory. But there are other less obvious places where a clean sweep could revitalize your operations and services.

 

Place the customer first

The way that you promote your business might need some spring cleaning. In a rush to make the sale, some businesses focus on the superiority of their products instead of putting the customer at the center of the conversation. "The customer really doesn't care about what you do except as it intersects with his or her needs, problems, and challenges," says Dr. Joey Faucette, a Virginia-based business coach and author of Work Positive in a Negative World. "Dig deep to discover what the customer is looking for and then couch your services in terms that benefit them."

 

Faucette says that business owners should nurture the long-term value of their customers, not just seek an immediate payoff. You can ask open ended questions—such as "What else did you want to talk about today?" or "Is there any other service that you need?"—to uncover your customers' hidden needs and then work at satisfying them.

 

Staying away from excessively negative customers or customers who will never be satisfied can give your business a boost. "It costs too much to do business with some people," Faucette says. "Instead spend time with your ideal clients and ask them for one referral, and then reward that ideal client for passing you to their friends."

 

Stay passionate

Weeding out unrewarding customers from your house list—and being selective in choosing new clients—may sound harsh, but it can help you focus your efforts and resources on more profitable accounts.

 

"I think there's a misconception when you're a small business that you have to take on everybody just to pay the bills," says Sari Gabbay, president of U2R1, a California-based brand and marketing agency. "Come up with questions to ask your clients when you're in the first meeting with them. A big red flag to me is when a client says that they're not going to dedicate their full time to our relationship. It means they're not going to be available when I need them, which is going to delay deadlines."

 

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Spring can be a good time to invest in a new image for your business. As your business grows, your brand should reflect your new strengths or the caliber of your client list. "When you get to a certain size or a certain vision, you need to present yourself in a certain way," Gabbay says. "For example, a lot of businesses are afraid of social media. They don't get that it's the perfect platform to consistently communicate with their clients and bring value to them. It's all part of understanding who you are as a brand after five to 10 years in business—and evolving."

 

Rediscovering your passion can be part of your spring makeover—something that Gabbay knows firsthand. She started out as a graphic and web designer before moving into management as her company grew. But when she realized that she had lost the drive for what really excited her, she went back to her creative roots. "If you aren't doing what you're passionate about and why you started your business," Gabbay says, "you're going to be burnt out and not succeed."

 

Use effective calls to action

Refreshing the look and feel of your website to keep pace with your evolving business is a perfect springtime activity. "First, see whether your website has enough images or the right images," says Shawn Graham, a Pennsylvania-based small business marketing consultant. "Make sure they accurately reflect whatever messaging you have. You can also use them to showcase a certain product or service to give your website visual interest."

 

Posting videos can breathe life into your website as long as they are used strategically. For example, how-to videos and videos that answer customer questions provide genuine value, position you as an expert, and build your credibility.

 

Graham says to look at blogs that you find engaging, figure out what appeals to you about them, and try to adapt them for your own blog. "You always want to think about your titles and topics," Graham says. "I highly encourage small businesses to have categories that clearly define what you're going to talk about to give your content strategy some structure. Make it easy as possible for your website visitors to find the information they're looking for so they have a positive experience that leads them to make a purchase or become a customer."

 

Calls to action need to be more effective today to grab your customers' attention and drive them to respond. For example, instead of asking customers to sign up for your free online newsletter with a generic "Sign Up" request, Graham says to tell them what they're going to get, what problem the newsletter will solve, or how it will fulfill their expectations—then customize the call to action with a "Get Started Now" or "Send Me Free Tips" order button. "Whether it's in the spring or periodically, it's important to find the time every week to think about your marketing," Graham says, "and ask how you can make your content or your website or your storefront better."