4 Small Business Challenges Every Merchant Should Know

start small businesses

Like training for a marathon or mastering the art of making croissants from scratch, running a business requires lots of effort. From the beginning, there are a lot of small business challenges to face up with. While some obstacles are easy to overcome, others may take you many sleepless nights.

20% of small businesses will fail within their first year of trading. And within 5 years, half of them will cease operations. These numbers may be scary. But it doesn’t mean that you should be put off by running a small business. In reality, most common small business challenges such as acquiring new customers or finding good people to work for you are actually fixable.

In this article, we discuss 4 of the most common challenges that our small business customers face and provide practical tips on how to overcome them.

Find new customers

From large well-known brands to the small cupcake shop around the corner from your office, all businesses work hard every day to get new customers. Contrary to global brands such as Apple, Facebook, and Coca-Cola which have an army of staff and seemingly endless budgets, smaller businesses often operate without those abundant resources — and so, finding customers comes with many challenges, including how to get them interested in the first place and which channels to focus your efforts on.

Our tip

Start finding your ideal customer from where you start. While it’s true that defining your ideal customer can make you feel like you’re excluding other audiences who might buy from you but narrowing your focus on the right people will bring clarity to your small business marketing efforts, which will eventually generate more customers and bring you revenue.

Knowing your ideal customer will change everything in your small business, from your overall marketing strategy down to your value proposition, product packaging, or pricing structure. Ultimately, knowing your ideal customer will steer your small business to success through creating winning products, powerful messages, and compelling customer journeys.

Drive brand awareness

When you order a drink at a restaurant, do you ask for a cola or a Coke? When you accidentally cut your finger while furiously chopping some cucumbers on the chopping board, do you frantically look for a plastic bandage or a Band-Aid? And when you’ve cooked way too much dinner and need to store the leftovers for the following day’s lunch, do you look for a plastic container or Tupperware?

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The terms we’ve used above are known as proprietary eponyms; they’re also great examples of brand awareness. Essentially, these brands have become so famous that they’ve nearly replaced the generic terms for similar products.

How to get your brand to that level?

Getting the word out about your brand is one of the most important things you can do to promote your small business. Aiming to become as famous as Coca-Cola incites challenges for any small business. Yet every small step counts. There’s no quick fix for becoming a household name. However, there are some brand-building strategies that can help level up your brand awareness.


Blogs are great because they help drive traffic to your website. Yet did you know that they’re also good to help your brand create authority in your industry? Fill your blog page with interesting, engaging, and useful articles. This enables you to gain trust among your readers and drive brand awareness along the way.

Influencer marketing

Have you ever purchased a product because a famous person you trust and admire used it? Influencer marketing works because it combines tactics such as WOM marketing and social proof, both of which are essential aspects of a successful marketing strategy. Partnering with the right influencers can help your brand inherit some of its credibility and trust while raising brand awareness.

Referral programs

Top brands like Dropbox, Uber, and Airbnb all used referral programs to increase awarenesses. By rewarding existing customers, referral programs encourage them to spread the positive word about your brand and incentivize new customers to give it a try. Customers are more likely to comply with a request when they know they’ll receive an additional perk as a reward. We know how hard it is to acquire new customers, so why not build happiness for your customers and spread them out?

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Hire top-performing employees

It’s not easy to find talented people to work for your business — just ask any HR professional employed by a large company. For small businesses, however, the hiring process gets harder due to a lack of available resources. There may not be dedicated HR personnel, let alone an entire HR department. Therefore, the owner will make all the hiring decisions themselves although he may not have the experience (or time) to find the right person for the job. The small business may face high employee turnovers rate which cost dearly along with any wrong decision.

You have to pay for your staff, both including onboarding and retention, anyway. So it’s worth investing a significant amount of time in the process. Avoid settling for below-required candidates out of desperation; instead, take the time to find superstar employees that you know will make your business grow.

Generate quality leads

Among small business challenges, lead generation is probably the most time-consuming and frustrating, especially for those without a sales background. Some small businesses struggle with lead generation because their expectation of the outcome and the capability aren’t quite aligned. Customers will not simply come knocking at the door after just a few email blasts and phone calls. In reality, lead generation requires a lot of effort, energy, and resources for your sales and marketing strategies. An effective lead generation strategy will result in a higher conversion rate within your business.

Our tip

Your business website will be the most important platform to convert leads into paying customers. Therefore, optimizing your website for lead generation is a great start to give a try. Conduct a quick check on your website, asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have your pages been compelling your readers to take further action? If not, your potential leads may be wondering what they should do next — or they might simply leave your website.
  • For every campaign you run, do you have custom landing pages and a way to track visitors (for example, via UTMs)?
  • Do your blog posts have clear calls-to-action to encourage your visitors to do more than just read? (for example, “subscribe to our newsletter” or “try our product for free today”)
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Be sure to also take advantage of lead generation tools to make your job a lot easier. Good marketing automation software such as Atom8 will help you design multi-channel lead generation strategies. The app allows for integrating your website landing pages with emails, SMS, Facebook, and Google ads. For example, you can use your website’s pricing page to generate (and qualify) leads and automatically reach out to them via email and heads-up messaging.

By amplifying content through multichannel marketing strategies, there’s a stronger chance of finding new leads and prospects.

The road to small business success

The worst thing a small business owner might encounter is going into business without considering the above factors. We’ve captured some of the most common difficulties faced by our SME customers and provided tips to help overcome them more easily. To recap:

Challenge 1. Finding new customers. To overcome this problem, identify your ideal customer. Focusing your efforts on the right people will result in more customers and more money.

Challenge 2. Driving brand awareness. Getting the word out about your brand by executing brand-building strategies such as blogging, influencer marketing, and referral programs. This will help you get the word out about your brand.

Challenge 3. Hiring top-performing employees. Due to the high costs involved in hiring staff (including onboarding and retention), we recommend taking the time to find superstar employees. These are people you know will always do a great job and help your small business grow.

Challenge 4. Generating quality leads. Your website is the most important tool for converting leads into paying customers. Therefore, consider conducting a quick audit to ensure it’s optimized for lead generation.

However, there are many other challenges out there that we haven’t discussed. Do you run a small business? What other challenges is your business facing and how are you working to overcome them? We’d love to hear from you! Share your insights in the comments below.


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