Once your business is established and you're making a sustainable profit on the goods and services you sell, it may be time to think about how to grow. In simple terms, growth is the act of increasing your sales to existing and new customers. There are plenty of ways to achieve this using online and offline strategies, but first, you must define your customer base and understand where you can look for opportunities.
It's All About Customers
Some businesses increase sales by persuading existing customers to buy more of their products or services; others seek to attract new customers either within or outside their current markets. The starting point is to keep a record of customers so you can figure who buys from you and where you should focus your efforts. Your growth plan might include:
- persuading onetime customers to become repeat customers
- winning back customers who stopped buying from you
- selling more volume to your regular customers
- marketing to a new demographic like targeting larger businesses instead of mom and pop shops
- adding a new product line to attract new customers
- expanding into a new geographic region or market
Trying to be all things to all people can stretch you too thin and water down your marketing messages, so be clear about what you are trying to achieve.
How to Grow Your Business Online
Almost one in three small businesses do not have a website in 2018 and are missing out on a vital tool for reaching customers. It's easier than you think to build a website using a DIY website builder; use it to reach your target customers with messages that are important to them. So, if your customers are price-conscious, explain how you are cheaper than your competitors. Search engine optimization is the science of refining your content so that Google will put your website on a customer's search query. Google, Moz and Quicksprout offer free search engine optimization, or SEO, training courses, which can help your business get found online.
Connecting With Customers Online
Once you have a web presence, develop a strategy for reaching current and new customers. An email newsletter is a low-stakes way to connect with potential customers. From there, branch out into blog posts, free reports and even podcasts, which help you to stand out as a leader in your industry. If you're selling products, check out some eCommerce systems you can integrate on your website, like WooCommerce and Shopify. Social media is a vital tool for listening to your customers. Use it to build your reputation and attract new customers. Facebook, in particular, is a great forum for running contests and giving discounts, which draw people into your business.
How to Grow Your Business Offline
Offline growth strategies are as broad as they are long, and even small actions can increase sales significantly. What you do depends on the type of business you run. Strategies include:
- advertising in local media and business directories
- asking customers to recommend you to friends and family
- speaking to journalists whenever you have a newsworthy story to tell for free publicity
- encouraging repeat business by offering discounts and freebies, like a free car wash every tenth visit
attending networking and industry events
it's not what you know, but who you know
participating in or sponsoring community events to raise your business profile
sending a well-structured sales letter to target customers
You may have to experiment with multiple methods before settling on the strategies that work best for you.
Hiring Professionals to Help
If you feel you've reached the ceiling in your growth efforts or you're worried that your sales pipeline isn't full enough, it's time to call in the experts. An independent growth expert, publicist, marketing expert, SEO expert, social media assistant, sales consultant, accountant or virtual assistant could potentially pick up the slack. Many of these consultants work by coming into your business for a fixed period of time to strategize and develop a road map for growth, which you can implement by yourself after the expert has completed her contract. In terms of finding a good consultant, word-of-mouth is the preferred option, or search online for consultants in your area. Fees vary wildly, so make sure you're comfortable with the terms and rates of any contract.
- Forbes: 5 Best Web Practices to Grow Your Small Business Online
- American Express: 5 Offline Marketing Tactics That Get Huge Results
- Search Engine Watch: The 2018 Guide to Free SEO Training Courses Online
- Shopify.com: Home Page
- Woo Commerce: Home Page
- Accounteer: 5 Professionals That You Must Hire to Grow Your Business
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com.