The sharing economy is one of the most remarkable new-financial-sector success stories in recent memory. And like many success stories, it began with a straightforward premise: It’s possible to create a successful business model by matching personal possessions, resources and skills to a clear but easily overlooked need, some niche that represents a viable business opportunity. Those who have grown the sharing economy have found ways to monetize their cars, homes and other personal assets to provide services directly to customers.
They also knew to carefully match supply with demand and thought through basic needs to create a growth-oriented platform. Statistics show there’s plenty of opportunity for growth. It’s predicted that by 2030 Americans’ consumer behavior will have adapted to the sharing economy. Here are a few tips for growing a small business in the present environment.
Safety – both personal and financial – is the first concern of customers and potential customers. There’s a certain leap of faith involved in entrusting yourself and your family to an individual who’s renting you their home or vacation property, or to a driver who’s essentially operating independently. It’s important to convey that the customer’s well-being is always your first concern, including the protection of their financial information. The more you can build trust, the more return business you’ll create and the more likely people will be to recommend your service. Think of it as the first, most important step in marketing your business.
This is always an important factor when starting a small business, even more so in the sharing economy, in which a portion of your clientele may be neighbors, business associates and former colleagues. Building your reputation and communicating what your business has to offer means interacting face to face with as many people as possible. Research has shown that more than 90 percent of business owners surveyed believed that face-to-face networking is indispensable. Social media is a convenient and timely way to create such opportunities.
Vet and train
If you’ve launched a small business through the sharing economy, take care to vet your would-be associates by performing background checks, compiling references and reviewing social media accounts. This is crucial if you’re to ensure your customers have a positive customer service experience. Training is the other half of this important process. Make sure associates understand your program and how you expect it to be conducted by offering online training and a thorough instructional manual. Ultimately, every person you accept into your business should be prepared to provide customers an exceptional customer service.
A pet-sitting business, which matches pet owners with prospective sitters, provides round-the-clock access to veterinarians, carries full insurance and posts video and photos of the sitters who belong to the program caring for pets. You can even watch your pet and his sitter interacting live via remote camera. This is the kind of transparency that builds trust and makes people feel comfortable with what you’re offering. Poor customer service is one of the worst and most damaging mistakes one can make in the sharing economy, so do everything possible to ensure the right people are representing you.
Make paying pain-free
It’s difficult to imagine a sharing economy business with an unnecessarily convoluted and time-consuming payment process. It runs contrary to the convenience that’s so central to what you’re offering. Use technology to make and accept payments, which can be made via Smartphone. Wasting a customer’s time with an arduous payment process is another costly mistake if you’re running a business in the sharing economy. Remember, if you don’t save customers’ time and money, it means your service isn’t a convenience for customers.
Take the time to set up a productive and distraction-free at-home workspace. Choose a spot that’s not near the television or other visual temptations. It should be well-lit (plenty of natural space is optimal), and relaxing with green plants, minimal noise distractions and large enough for the equipment you’ll need, including a laptop or desktop computer and copy machine. Most importantly, set established work hours and stick to them. This should be time during which you’re not available for personal calls.
Try seeing your business through the customer’s eyes. Make sure you know what they’ll expect and what needs to be done to meet those expectations. Remember, it’s all about convenience, so make it as easy as possible for people to do business with you.
Blog writer: Dean Burgess, http://excitepreneur.net/