Almost every small business owner’s goal is to get a foothold in the industry and grow. However, getting customers, establishing name recognition and bringing in enough revenue to expand your operations doesn’t happen overnight.
Knowing when it’s time to grow and growing efficiently are tricky parts of that process. You don’t want to waste resources on something that doesn’t work, but no business expands without some calculated risk.
In this article, you’ll learn actionable tips for how to grow your business. We’ll start by answering the question: How do you know it’s time to grow?
Knowing when to grow your business
Scaling up your new business at the right pace is critical to sustaining growth. The following indicators show that you’re ready to start growing your business without overextending yourself.
You’ve got a steady cash flow. Wait until you have a steady influx of new customers and a few years of revenue under your belt. A reliable average income means there’s lasting demand for your product or service.
Your niche is growing. If demand for your industry or field is increasing, it could be time to start growing with it. Analytical publications like IBISWorld and Deloitte are good places to look and see if your specific sector is growing.
Demand for your business is up. If you’re consistently getting more requests or orders than you can comfortably handle at your current size, it’s probably time to expand.
If you’ve seen these signs, gotten positive feedback from your customer base and want to take your business to the next level, here are some strategies to try.
To scale a business successfully, entrepreneurs have to be flexible, organized and creative. Here are eight ways to start taking action and grow your business.
1. Do your homework
Do the research to know how to increase business for your company. Two types of research will help you see where to expand your business first: Competitor research and market research.
Knowing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses can help you make decisions about your own growth strategy. Is there something they do well that you aren’t doing? Is there a gap in their service you could promote for your own?
This step is important for all businesses, whether you’re a startup or a successful business that’s been around for a while.
How you gather intelligence on the competition varies by industry. For instance, a restaurant owner could just sit down at a competing establishment for a meal. A publication could read its competitor’s articles or analyze their headlines.
For industries like software, where gathering information is more difficult, try reading trade publications specific to your niche.
Publicly available financial information can also help you gauge the growth of similar businesses in your industry.
If you share any customers with competing businesses, or win any from them, try getting their opinions. Run customer surveys or do interviews with valued customers. Ask about what they think other businesses are getting right and where they could improve.
Market research is about finding your ideal customers and improving relationships with existing ones. It involves learning about their demographics, preferences and behaviors.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be a big help here. It allows you to collect data on your current customer’s buying habits and preferences and turn it into actionable insights.
Examine those metrics to figure out what business practices customers like and which ones you can phase out.
Note: Online platforms aren’t the only effective way to get good customer feedback. Build on your strongest customer relationships by gathering feedback through emails. Check out our guide on why and how to ask for feedback through email to learn more.
Examining the demographics of your current customers (or your competitor’s customers) can also give you an idea of what kind of people like your product and what new products they want.
Use existing customer data like social media preferences and demographics to construct buyer personas. These are profiles that represent the potential customers you would most like to target with your marketing efforts.
Better understand your customers with our Buyer Persona Templates
Use these templates to ensure your solution always aligns with your customers' interests and needs
2. Get organized
Well-ordered customer and company data and a clear, organized growth plan smooths the path for scaling up your business.
Internally, staying organized keeps you efficient, which helps you stay on top of tasks and get more done.
With customers, having a well-organized contact management system saves time spent looking up records and keeping them current.
The right sales software makes all of this easier. Business CRMs like Pipedrive offer messaging, reminders and task-tracking tools to help your entire team stay on top of their to-do list.
A CRM can also automate many of the time-consuming administrative tasks that come with running a company. A centralized customer database lets you do things like:
Segment your existing customers so your messages always go to the right place
Handle customer interactions quickly and efficiently
When your business runs more smoothly, you can focus less on day-to-day operations and more on your growth efforts.
Here’s a quick video about getting started with Pipedrive’s automations.
3. Build a strong team
Growing your company often means adding team members – from hiring more salespeople to expanding your marketing and customer service teams. Make sure you bring on skilled people who are dedicated to helping you succeed.
Look for candidates who are a good culture fit as well. Hiring people who have the right skills and work well with your existing team will ensure they contribute to your company objectives.
Here are a few ways to find quality candidates and integrate them into your team quickly:
Encourage employee referrals. Current employees already know the work environment, making them a good judge of who to recommend from their own social circles.
Research job postings in your field. Research similar job postings in your region. They’ll provide guidance on things like how to phrase your own listing and what salary range to aim for.
Try a recruiting firm. If you don’t have a lot of experience with HR work and can afford to outsource, a recruiting firm can bring in good talent. Just make sure you give them explicit guidelines on the type of employee you’re looking to hire.
Develop a strong onboarding process. Thorough onboarding will get new hires up to speed quickly. Ensure they have the information they need to get started, as well as resources for reaching out with any questions.
4. Double down on current revenue sources
To build up capital, focus on current sources of revenue instead of only on lead generation.
Building strong relationships with your existing customer base makes it more likely they’ll become repeat buyers. This can increase profits more quickly than having to convert leads into new customers.
It can also build a good foundation to grow on. More engaged customers are also more likely to bring in new customers through referrals.
Here are a few ways to generate repeat business and boost your bottom line:
Establish a customer loyalty or referral program
Build new marketing strategies based on past customer behavior
Use email marketing to distribute promotions like one-time coupons
Lean into social media and content marketing to reach current followers
To stay top-of-mind with existing customers, lean into your marketing efforts across your brand’s online touchpoints.
Here are some ways to use social media, blog posts, videos and paid ads to boost you to the top of search results and drive more business.
Find the right social media platforms
If your company doesn’t have an online presence, create one. This is a valuable way to get your brand in front of your target audience and become an authority in your field.
You don’t need a presence on every app. Figure out the overlap between the platforms that make sense for your niche and those your customers use. You can then craft a content marketing strategy to fit that Venn diagram.
For example, say your product lends itself to compelling visuals, like upscale designer furniture or a floristry business. You’ll probably want a presence on a highly visible platform like Instagram. For instance, this account for Sarah Saunders Studio floral design posts pictures of eye-catching floral arrangements.
Create a content strategy
Create a content strategy to keep up a consistent presence. For instance, a simple strategy for the previous scenario might be coupling regular high-quality photo and video posts on Instagram with a blog where you explain the finer points of your industry.
You can also use each platform to promote the other.
For instance, promoting sales on Instagram with a link back to your site where followers can place orders. You may also supplement your efforts with a regular newsletter sent out to your email list.
Consistent messaging builds a brand presence. That means more recognition and trust with your target audience.
Post consistently. Posting regularly and engaging with followers will help you stay top of mind. A tool like the Zapier Pipedrive integration can connect your customer data with content calendaring tools, so you can automate social media posts to keep them on track.
Highlight your brand values. People are interested in supporting businesses that align with their values, so communicate what you care about. For instance, post about community events or share your efforts to be more sustainable in your email newsletter.
Optimize your content. Learn how to use search engine optimization (SEO) to help your online content be more visible.
Engage your target audience. Make your content interactive. For instance, run a giveaway through social media to boost engagement. A quick search of the hashtag “#giveaway” shows everyone, from gaming brands to jewelry makers, taking advantage of this tactic.
Partner with others to expand your reach. Look for influencers in your niche you can partner with to market your product or service. They may be willing to introduce their audience to your brand and provide an honest review that their followers would see as authoritative.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new digital marketing strategies. Try split-testing things like email subject lines and site features on different groups of people to see which works best. The more you refine your strategy, the more people will engage with your brand.
6. Network and form partnerships
Building connections with other businesses and professionals in your field can pay dividends in the long run. Other business owners can provide mutually beneficial partnerships or referrals.
If you provide complementary services to another business, you can refer customers to one another. For example, an auto mechanic might refer customers to a partner window tinting business and vice versa.
Online, it’s common for businesses in the same niche to partner up for promotions. YouTubers or influencers on Instagram will feature one another on their channels for a joint video, which drives traffic to both channels.
Try hosting a joint webinar with an expert you know your customers would be interested in hearing from. Joint marketing efforts are also great ways to reach people.
Networking events are another great way to meet a lot of people in your field at once. They may have solutions to problems you’re facing or be able to offer advice on how to grow your small business.
7. Learn to manage risks
Business growth and risks go hand in hand. However, you can learn to manage the biggest risks to keep your business going strong.
Here are some typical risks a business of any size might encounter:
Changes in the market
Changes in your industry
Unreliable cash flow
Mass events (like COVID-19)
Cybersecurity risks and data breaches
Mitigate these risks by learning to identify the factors you can control and taking precautions against the ones you can’t.
For example, you can minimize cash flow worries with sales forecasting. A good CRM can help run reports that show you how you’re performing and predict future sales. This will let you plan for future sales and purchases with confidence.
You could also invest in robust cybersecurity measures to prevent theft of valuable company or customer data.
Note: One of the best ways to avoid being hurt by risks is to insure yourself against them. Make sure you carry business insurance to cover unexpected events like income losses or property damage.
8. Polish your brand
Get clear on what your mission is and what makes your business different. Then make them clear to your target market by ensuring your brand communicates competence and quality.
Here are a couple of suggestions for creating a consistent brand image.
Establish a consistent look and feel for your brand
Unify your brand’s tone across all customer touchpoints. These include your website, blog, social media channels, business cards and storefront.
Any aspect of your brand that people come in contact with should immediately let them know who they’re dealing with. Simple ways to create a consistent brand image are:
Make a memorable logo
Use the same color scheme across your whole brand
Use a consistent tone of voice in written content
Create and share content (photos, videos, etc.) consistent with your established tone
You can also present a professional image by giving your website a clean design and using high-quality photos and graphics.
Improve your customer service
You want those who do business with you, or who are considering doing business with you, to have a positive experience.
Look at ways to improve the customer experience. For instance, lowering your message response time, handling complaints quickly and efficiently and truly listening to the customer’s concerns.
People who feel treated well by a company and align with that company’s values are more likely to refer their friends.
This is particularly true for younger generations: a study by McKinsey and Co. found that 63% of Gen Z cite friend referrals as their most trusted source when shopping for new products.
Growing a business is a challenging endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Plan your growth wisely with the above tips.
Before you try and grow, have a plan. Mapping out your goals and building a strong team gives your business a much better chance to thrive long-term, so take the time to get it right.
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