Successful business relies on constant growth – either in terms of acquiring more customers, or increasing turnover. Without growing in one of these directions, your business is at risk of losing market share to more proactive or aggressive competitors.
So how do you grow your business effectively?
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
Business growth can be organic – but it is rarely unplanned. In fact, spontaneous growth can be incredibly dangerous for your business. Taking on too many customers without the resources and infrastructure to fully support them will lead to a substandard service, which will greatly reduce the chance of repeat business. It could even see your business land in court for failing to deliver against contractual obligations.
Before making any attempt to grow you must create a plan that maps out what you want to achieve and what you need in place to support that expansion. It is only by planning for the future challenges you may face that you will be able to deal with them effectively and efficiently.
2. Consider Your Financing Options
Effective growth plans require investment to ensure you have the necessary infrastructure in place to cope with growth. In an ideal world you would have a sizeable cash reserve to fund everything outright – but small business cash flow almost never works that way.
If you are determined to grow, the investment is unavoidable. If you have put together a realistic business plan, you will have laid much of the groundwork to secure a reasonable business loan that can be put towards securing additional stock, larger premises or hiring additional employees. You could also consider securing investment from a venture capitalist or angel investor – just remember that they will expect a share of your business in return.
You should also be aware that a full order book is no guarantee of regular cash flow – there will be periods where cash is tight (or non-existent). Never be afraid to borrow responsibly to help keep your business moving forward. A short-term working capital loan can help keep cash flowing – and your business plan on track.
3. Focus On Your Existing Customers
In the first weeks and months of operation, almost all of your sales and marketing efforts will be focused on attracting new customers. But as the company matures, you will need to spend more time and effort on your existing customers.
This may seem unintuitive, but selling to your existing customers is generally simpler and more profitable than attracting new buyers. These clients already know the quality of your products/services and are likely to be more open to buying more from you.
On the financial side of things, boosting customer retention by as little as 5% can boost profits by 25% or more. It makes good sense to invest in systems and processes that keep existing customers engaged – and buying from you.
4. Find New Customers
Maintaining a stable customer base is great for growing profits, but you still need a steady stream of new leads to cover natural account attrition. If your customer service is exceptional, you will begin to pick up business through word-of-mouth referrals from existing clients.
You must invest in targeted marketing and advertising campaigns that will help to raise awareness of your brand, products and services. The specifics of these efforts are heavily dependent on your target clientele – so don’t forget to invest in market research services to better understand their needs and interests to avoid wasted spend.
5. Share The Workload
As you take on more customers and orders, you will need to take on employees to carry the load. You must be shrewd about hiring people however – employment is one of the biggest costs your business will need to bear.
Modern technology makes it easier than ever to build a distributed workforce. More importantly still, you can build a virtual team composed of freelance workers. Paid on a per-project basis, you get access to the skills you need without the associated costs of a full time employee, like national insurance contributions, maternity/paternity pay and overtime.
Putting It All Together
Your business is unique – and so too are the strategies and techniques you will need to apply to create sustainable growth. These five tips will help you get started however – now it’s up to you to fill in the blanks.