You probably went out on a limb to create the business you now run. You probably took risks to get where you are. You may have never thought you’d make it this far. But now that you have, you’re ready to grow your business even more and take it to the next level.
The big question is: how? How do you grow your business into something bigger and better? While there is no one way to grow a business, there are certain avenues you can pursue that will help more than others. Here are 15 options you should pursue if you’re serious about growing your business and making a name for yourself.
1. Plan ahead
You can’t successfully grow your business blindly. You need to have a plan. How much do you want to grow? Do you want to simply increase revenues in your current location, or do you want to expand to multiple locations? Do you want to put more focus on e-commerce over your brick-and-mortar store? What is your plan to get to where you want to be? Make sure you have laid that out in detail before you move forward.
2. Hire the right people
Your team is an extension of you, your brand, and your business, so it’s important to find the right people. Make sure you know exactly what roles you need and what you want them to be doing in those roles. Make the job description as clear as possible, and in the interview, focus on soft skills instead of hard skills. It’s a lot harder to teach social intelligence.
3. Open a new location
If you’ve done your homework and you know that a second location would do a world of good for your business, then do it! A second location is a great way to expand your brand and reputation. Make sure you’ve got a business plan for your new location, that you have the funds to carry it out, and above all else, make sure you choose the right location.
4. Embrace technology
What forms of payment do you currently accept? Are you still a cash-only business or do you accept cards now? What about mobile payment options? Do you use a POS system? If you want to grow your business, make sure you are able to accept as many forms of payment as possible to ensure you don’t have to turn any potential customer away.
There are so many ways to automated processes now that you should utilize as many as makes sense for your small business. Do you have a newsletter that you send out each week or month to subscribers? Do you do it manually or do you use an email marketing automation system? You have so many things to do every day already, try using some tools that will help you streamline processes and free up your schedule for more pressing matters.
5. Tap into E-Commerce
Does your business have a website yet? If it does, can your customers purchase anything on the site? If you’re ready to grow your business, e-commerce is a channel you should absolutely be pursuing. Nearly 80% of the entire U.S. population has made an online purchase and 50% have made more than one.
E-commerce sales aren’t slowing down any time soon. In the 2nd quarter of 2016, e-commerce sales account for 7.5% of total sales! Suffice it to say, if your small business has not tapped into this market yet, now is the time to do so! The more revenue opportunities you can generate for your business, the better.
6. Increase your online presence
If you have a website, that’s a great first step. But what about social? Do you have a dedicated Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter page? How do people hear about you? Do you utilize any paid social? Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a page on EVERY social channel available. But what you should definitely be doing is analyzing where your ideal customer spends the most time and make sure to grow your presence on those particular social channels.
Another great way to boost your online presence and grow your business is to have an active blog for your small business. Find out what your customers want to learn more about and what content will help them and drive them to your site. The most important thing for a blog to be effective is to blog regularly. You need to create a blog that is reliable, one that is constantly producing new content. If your blogging efforts are only sporadic, you will have a very difficult time gaining any type of loyal following.
7. Have a GOOD website
Just having a website is not enough in this day and age. If it looks old, dated, or unhelpful, people will perceive your business as one that is not credible. In fact, 48% of people cited a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business and 94% said it was the reason they mistrusted a website. If you don’t have any experience designing a website, not a problem! There are plenty of sites out there that can help you put together a classy website that fits your company and/or brand perfectly. Take time to perfect your website so it conveys exactly what your business is all about.
8. Loyalty programs or discounts
Out of all the business, you generate, 55-70% of company sales come from your most loyal of customers. With that in mind, you want to do everything you can to keep those loyal few around as long as physically possible. You can use a punch card, a points system, or a myriad of other options, but make sure whatever system you choose is something that those loyal customers will adopt.
If you want to expand rapidly and have a business model that can be made into franchise opportunities, then franchising your small business may be an excellent way to grow your business. The most important thing to remember is that this is your business and you can choose to accept or reject anyone who wants to be a franchisee. If you don’t feel they will represent your brand properly, then don’t let them – no matter how much money they bring to the table.
10. Get a small business loan
Sometimes you know exactly what you need to grow your business, but you don’t have the funds to get it. Maybe you want to hire on more staff, buy that new piece of equipment you’ve been eyeing, stock up on inventory for the busy season, or open a second location. There’s a business loan out there for just about any need you can imagine. If you are confident that you can take the funds received and make even more with it, then this is an avenue you should very seriously consider.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s all about who you know”? In truth, many things in this world really are all about who you know, but it’s more than that. It’s about the right time, right place, right situation. However, in order for the stars to align with something like that, you do need to have met the right people and those people need to know about you and your business and aspirations.
You can start small. Be helpful to those in your current network. Make your business goals known to them. Then, when they’re talking with someone they know, they may remember you and your business and put you in touch with one of their contacts. If you want to grow your network faster, there’s no better way to do this than to meet lots of people. Try checking out small business conferences and talk to as many people as you can. Connect with them. Keep in touch with them. The more people you network with, the more potential opportunities you may have in the future.
12. Create Partnerships
Are there other local businesses in your area that are not direct competition that you could form a solid relationship with? If your business sells pet supplies and a neighboring business is a dog groomer, talk to them about working together to promote the other’s business. Give them coupons for your business that they can give to customers at checkout, and give your customers coupons to their business. The more partnerships you create, the more you can grow your business and increase awareness of your company and brand.
13. Attend conferences and trade shows
Whether you decide to be an exhibitor at one of these events or you want to attend to learn more ways to grow your business, each route can provide you with some amazing opportunities to help you take your business to the next level. Sometimes the events are even free to attend! If you want to grow your business, here are several conferences you should definitely consider attending.
14. Build community around your business and brand
One of the reasons most people like small businesses is because they are at the heart of their local community. They know that when they call the store, they won’t be sent to an automated machine just to hopefully get through to an actual person – an actual person will pick up, to begin with. Think of local events your area does or perhaps events you wish they did. Maybe a local kid is suffering from cancer and you want to host a fundraising event for him or her. Or you could host a workshop, event, or something else that will directly affect your community in a positive way. Think of ways you can have a positive impact on your community and utilize those opportunities.
15. Get customer feedback
No matter how great your business is, there is always room for improvement. One of the best places to get feedback is from your customers who frequent your business or use your services regularly. You might be surprised at how willing fans of your small business will be to give you feedback. Try creating an exit survey that customers can choose to take upon leaving your store or website. Or try something as simple as a “suggestion box” at your checkout line. However, you choose to elicit feedback, don’t overlook the huge benefit of getting the opinion of your customers themselves.
There are dozens of ways to grow your business, and not all ways will work for you. Don’t try to implement everything at once. Start with a few different tactics, see how they work for you, and build from there. Each step toward growth is a step toward taking your business to the next level. Start putting forth the effort one tactic at a time, and in the very near future, you will be able to step back and be proud of what you have accomplished.
Authored by Marissa Smith October 18th, 2016 for Lendio. Marisa Smith is a small business writer. She enjoys creating content that inspires small business owners to find new methods and techniques to improve their business operations.