Starting and watching your business develop can be compared to watching a child grow. You’re there for all the falls, all the triumphs, being there every step along the way. Now that your business is off the ground and it’s stable in terms of sales and cash flow, systems and processes in place – will you stagnate or expand your business?
It’s not an easy question to answer. No one wants to be in a position of stagnation. But expanding, on the other hand, takes a lot of annual strategic planning and daily amendments to your plans to steer the ship on the right course. If you’ve noticed that your industry is growing, your cash flow is steady and that your customers want more, you’re in a position to grow your business. But do you know how?
Here are our 14 tips and steps for how to grow a business:
Start with research
Any step that you take on your business expansion course should be guided by research as this will give you the numbers and figures to fuel your strategy forward. What kind of research are we talking about?
Actually, there are several. As a starting point, you’ll want to find out more about your existing customers so that you can project this knowledge on future customers. This can be done through surveys, quick questionnaires and other strategies to help you pin down your ideal buyer persona or ideal customer type. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to laser target your marketing strategy and sales efforts.
Another area that you may wish to research is your actual products and/or services. Here, some important questions you need to ask are what areas of improvement and development can I implement to make the offering even better? Customers are looking for quality products and services and this is something you should be able to guarantee. Start by looking at what works and determining if there are other ways to add value while you simplify or streamline your processes.
Finally, we advise you to research your competitors. Figure out what they’re doing right (or wrong) and how they’re going about it. By identifying their strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be better able to target their customers by addressing specific pain points and drawing them over to your business.
Hire the right staff
Your staff is the engine of your business operations. Without them, you’ll be left handling everything yourself and we all know that that is just humanly impossible. Therefore, when hiring, hire for skills, character traits and experience that will add value to your business.
Don’t be afraid to take advice from others and to be open about their opinions. One way you can really foster an open culture of communication is by forming an advisory board. This can be members of your staff or even outside mentors whose services you choose to make use of in order to help you stay on course, brainstorm new ideas and ultimately take the business to the next level.
Acquire additional sources of financing
All growth requires some type of investment. This means money that needs to be well spent on ensuring you help your business grow and thrive in a cutthroat marketplace. Whether you’ve already stacked up some savings or you’re looking for an investor to finance your operations, the first question you and anyone else for that matter will ask is: what exactly are you investing in?
The answer to this question will vary depending on your business type. For example, you might invest in improving your product or service offering, you might invest in new systems and processes to streamline operations. There are many options you can go for but the crucial part is to ensure that you know where this money is going and for what purpose.
Create a new sales channel
If your business is the physical, in-store type, you might consider creating a new sales channel. One of the best ways to do this and to complement your in-store sales efforts is to go online. This will mean investing time, effort and money into having your homepage designed. But it’s not just about the homepage. You also need to ensure that all your data is and will remain safe. One of the best ways to do this is to also invest in cybersecurity.
Create a sales funnel and email list
A natural part of growth is reaching more clients or converting potential clients into existing ones. The next step is to retain them, but that’s something we’ll discuss a bit later. Now for the sales funnel. This is not a literal funnel through which you place your customers. It’s a figurative funnel that illustrates what step of the purchasing process your customers are at.
If they’re at the top of the funnel it means they’ve engaged with your website in some way but have not yet purchased. You as the business owner, can take steps to lead them through the funnel by offering them incentives and perks to help them make that all-important purchase. This is the main purpose and structure of a sales funnel and it should certainly be implemented at your business.
Another factor to consider looking into is the creation and building of an email list. This email list will be created through the methodical and time-consuming process of collecting customers’ email addresses so that you are able to communicate with them in the future – whether it’s a sale or a discount or you simply wish to share the good news about your company and some of its initiatives. Email is an excellent way of giving your customers satisfaction and offering them more for their loyalty.
Focus on your core strengths
Your core strengths are the ultimate reasons your customers come to you for. This is why you need to hone them and make them even better. This is where knowing what your customers want will help you. It’s also a great place to look at your competitor research and see how you can provide something different and better that they don’t yet offer. Innovation is key but so is knowing where your strengths lie.
Keep customers coming back a.k.a. customer retention
You probably already know this, but there’s a cost involved in every customer you acquire. In fact, research indicates that it’s ultimately cheaper to get existing customers coming back for more than spending on acquiring new customers. The latter can involve paid advertising and can end up being costly. This is why customer retention is so crucial.
One way to keep your customers coming back is by creating a customer loyalty program. You might reward them for X number of times they buy your product by offering them a discount or a free product they buy the next time. If you’re a service-based business, the same principle applies. This is where your email list will come in very handy so that you can target specific clients.
Grow your customer service efforts
And speaking of retaining customer loyalty and customers in general, you need to have a solid system in place for looking after their needs. This means training your staff and ensuring they’re available for your customers at all times to help them with queries, questions and any difficulties they might be experiencing with your product or service.
Putting a human face behind customer service is crucial because many customers are not yet accustomed to speaking with chatbots and artificial intelligence. They want a real person to take care of their needs and you need to ensure you have the staff on hand to deliver this to your customers.
Grow your CSR efforts
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important part of doing business. It relates to how you give back to your community and how you empower those around you. From charity events to green initiatives, you need to emphasise and grow your CSR efforts because customers are becoming ever more savvy and picky, carefully choosing where they spend their hard-earned money.
Grow your PR efforts
Your public relations (PR) efforts also need to be invested in and this all starts with a strong brand. For this, you don’t only need branding and design, but you need to become an authoritative voice in your industry. You can do this by reaching out to media outlets and posting guest blog articles on various sites. Other ways are to get involved in your local community and spread the word about your efforts through PR. It’s also wise to invest in a blog and update it regularly so that you become a trusted voice in the industry.
Your social media efforts also need to be aligned with your PR efforts and you need to use your social media channels not only to promote sales but also to help give value to your readers and audience, who’s keeping a careful eye on everything you’re doing to help them make the choice between you and your competitors.
Take advantage of strategic partnerships and network
No man is an island, or so the saying goes. This means that you as a business person have a wide range of connections and strategic partnerships. You need to use these to your advantage. If you’re part of a peer mentoring program, you can easily tap into it and ask for advice, help and suggestions. Working with mentors is another excellent way of tapping into the brains and experience of those who’ve seen and done it all to help you plan more strategically.
Also worth considering is joining networking events to help you grow your network. You just never know where your next brilliant idea or next client will come from if you don’t spread your wings and fly.
Expand and diversify
Now we come to the crux of the matter in terms of how to grow your business. And there are several ways for you to do this through expansion and diversification. Expansion can come in the form of conquering new markets and acquiring new customers. If you’re not faint-hearted, you might even opt for international expansion. Another area to consider is to diversify into offering new products. Then, there’s also the option to franchise your business or even acquire other businesses with the aim of scaling yours.
Measure and refine
Measuring your expansion plans and using analytics and tools to help you do this is critical for your success. Analytics are your best friend because they put numbers behind what once were mere fantasies or ideas. It might sound odd but when we put a numerical value to something like a key performance indicator (KPI), we tend to view it differently. It helps us measure better. It helps us determine whether our efforts are working. It helps us see whether we’re on the right track.
Create a succession plan
No individual remains in business forever. This is why you need to think of a succession plan or an exit strategy to help you transition smoothly out of your business and retire knowing that your business and all your hard efforts are in good hands. Here, you might think about employee succession plans, franchising or even selling your business to an interested investor. Whichever strategy you choose, make sure you have outlined one for yourself in the first place because you never know when there will be a knock on this door. You do not want to be left unprepared.
If you started out reading this and were wondering “how to grow my business”, we hope we’ve armed you with enough tools to get you started on this great and exciting journey of scaling up. It will take long hours and a lot of effort on your part to ensure that all the parts fit together, and this is why you’ll not only need to plan for strategic planning time but down time too. At the helm of your ship, you also need to make sure you take some time out to rest to avoid burnout. If you’re not there strategising and planning, who else will do it for you?