2. Create a Facebook page for your business. Willson said a lot of business owners have told him that their revenues increased after they launched such a page. Business owners should post something on that page at least three times a week.
3. Make sure your website is mobile enabled so that people can easily browse for information on their smartphones.
4. Pay attention to online review sites such as tripadvisor.com, urbanspoon.com and yelp.com. Americans use such sites as their primary tool to make decisions about where to stay, shop or eat, Willson said. Businesses should ask their customers to write reviews on such sites and to “like” them on Facebook. If you have a bad review, respond to it, apologize and ask to be given another chance.
Willson said that small businesses can compete against national chains by listening to their customers and impressing patrons with their expertise and dedication to service.
Businesses primarily fail because they are undercapitalized, meaning the business owners do not have enough cash to get their business through the difficult early months, Willson said. It typically takes one to two years before they become profitable.
And business owners must be experts on their financial situation, Willson said. Business owners have to know how much money they need monthly to break even, and how much money they need to earn in good months to make up for the bad months.
“You can’t run a business and not keep score,” he said.
While the recession has made people more cautious about spending, changing demographics are providing some opportunities for small businesses and small towns. Many young professionals today like living where they can work, shop and eat, which has prompted lots of apartment construction above downtown shops and restaurants and has lured more businesses back from the suburbs to the city centers.