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5 Secrets to Grow A Small Business

Expert tips from our partners at American Express about expanding your small business.

Small-business owners know what it means to hustle. The work is nonstop, and the challenges are many, but they don't have to do it alone and help is right around the corner. Who can't use a little guidance in expanding business and improving their bottom line? Whether it's a brand new startup, or an established grocery store, all small businesses want to thrive, and what's good for them is good for the economy, since, according to a 2017 Small Business Administration information guide, small businesses drive the local economy and make up 63 percent of new jobs.

Focus on the product

For small business, word-of-mouth is everything. People talk, and of course, with the rise of social media, it's easier than ever to spread a good or bad word about any business. Keep testing your products and services to make them better and more worthwhile to your customers. Test new offerings and be sure to focus on the product, rather than how it helps your bottom line.

Offer options at the point of sale

Giving the customer more options at the point of sale makes a big difference in the overall experience they have. For example, working with major credit card companies like American Express can provide added value to small businesses in the Bay Area. Just ask Anna Thiel -manager at Jeffrey's Natural Pet Foods, with two locations in San Francisco - who said the company has accepted American Express Cards since opening 19 years ago, selling locally sourced pet food made up of fresh, raw meats and organic vegetables. Offering American Express Cards in its mix of credit cards has always been the right thing to do for them. "We like to offer as many options to clients as possible," she said.

For Jon Reyman, owner of Spoke & Weal beauty salons, offering payment options was key to making his customers happy. Spoke & Weal, with locations in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, has taken American Express Cards since opening five years ago in San Francisco. As a top-tier salon, Spoke & Weal has a client base that he believes would expect American Express acceptance, "a standard for many people," he said.

Small businesses want credit card acceptance to be easy, and that's where the OptBlue program from American Express comes in. OptBlue allows small businesses to accept American Express Cards the same way they accept all major credit cards, receive payments all at once and streamline communication with a singular customer service contact. And, with OptBlue, American Express doesn't set your rate, your merchant service provider does, which means you could be getting a better rate for your business.

Find a mentor

It's good to network with other local business owners, but a mentor takes the help up a notch, as you navigate the ups and downs of running a business. You learn experience not taught in books, and have support when inevitable challenges arise. Plus, a mentor will help connect you to other people who can boost your career.

Leverage existing partners and vendors to reach new customers

Take a closer look at  your partners and vendors to see if they can help connect you with potential new customers. The first step is to look for partners who can bolster your sales; for example, a marketing/advertising agency or credit card processor can help.

According to Ramon Ray, small-business conference co-founder and editor of Smart Hustle Magazine and SmallBizTechnology.com, "American Express is one company that connects customers to businesses." The company offers its small-business merchants free signage, which can help attract customers by showing them you want their business. Additionally, American Express places small businesses on its Shop Small map, making it easy for new customers to discover a local small business.

American Express also recommends small businesses to Card Members who shop at businesses like theirs. According to their own data, in 2017, American Express provided more than 15 million people with recommendations on where to shop.

Share events with big companies to increase brand awareness

American Express reaches out to small-business owners through Small Business Saturday, which started in 2010, encouraging shoppers to support small businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday.

"It's super fun," Anna, the manager at Jeffrey's Natural Pet Foods, said of Small Business Saturday. "It's nice to feel supported by any kind of business we work with, especially one the size and scope of American Express."

"It makes us want to work with them," Anna said. "We've always used American Express for convenience, but to have that additional benefit is exciting."

Strategic assistance is vital to independent enterprises. These collaborations - expanding customer options, mentorships and corporate alliances - provide distinct benefits to small-business owners while enabling them to prosper as they maintain their autonomy. Their businesses may be technically "small" (fewer than 100 employees), but owners whose businesses thrive can make a big difference.

To find out how you can start accepting American Express Cards through OptBlue and promoting your business for free, visit OptBlue.com or contact your merchant service provider directly. 


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