Whether you are a small shop owner, a consultant or a freelance web developer, business growth is the key to thriving over the long term.
This can mean anything from entering new markets to offering new products or services — or even franchising your business. Whatever your goal, you’ll need to make changes to create opportunities for expansion.
Your guide to business growth
While there is no fixed formula for business expansion, you can make the process smoother and more efficient if you live by these very simple principles.
- Do your research.
- Set SMART goals.
- Build strong relationships.
- Acquire new customers, retain the old.
- Use technology where you can.
- Increase your business reach.
Follow these steps to make a business expansion plan.
1. Do your research
Before you even start, you need to do some research.
You need to do an assessment of the analytics, stats and financial records to analyze how your business has done in the past. At the same time, you need to make projections (sales, profit etc.) of how your business is likely to do in the future.
Without expert input, you might not have the information to make good decisions. So, consider talking to accountants and lawyers (if appropriate) who can guide you to predict your business’ future. Include their fees as part of your business expansion budget.
2. Set SMART goals
Goals are much more than mere aspirations. Since you already know the hard work and dedication it takes to manage and run a business, you need to create S-M-A-R-T goals for business growth. This acronym stands for:
Write down your goals so that you stay accountable to them. A Harvard Business study found that the 3% of graduates from their MBA who had their goals written down ended up earning 10 times as much as the other 97% put together, just 10 years after graduation.
Make your goals as realistic as possible and remember to record them to improve the chance of attaining them.
3. Build strong relationships
The second thing you need is strong relationships with your employees, partners, customers and suppliers. Build a loyal workforce by responding to your employees’ needs. Invest in training and development, both for yourself and your employees in order to remain efficient.
Hire competent people who also guide you and add value to your organization.
Externally, you must expand your network by attending events such as:
- Professional meetups
- University seminars
Industry association events
Make sure, whether you go as a delegate or speaker, your company gets mentioned somewhere. When others know about you, they can help spread the word.
You might consider making referrals to other businesses that provide related services but are not your direct rivals and asking them to return the favor. You could also consider paying a referral fee to businesses that send customers your way.
4. Acquire new customers, retain the old
To grow your business, you will need to gain new customers. A market analysis can help you identify new customer groups who are not currently buying your product or service. You might also add new products or services that fit with your business to attract new customers.
As you look to expand your customer base, it’s important to keep your current customers happy too. You should get their feedback to learn how you should grow your business. By getting to know your customers, you can learn what products and services they really want, their pain points and where to improve.
5. Use technology where you can
Increasingly, small-business owners are counting on technology to grow their companies. You can use technology in diverse ways such as:
- A revamped website
- Simplified invoicing system
- A streamlined communications process
- Using analytics and social media tools
Automating at least some of your routine processes would increase work efficiency, offsetting the costs of use. Locate inefficiencies in your business and then find software solutions to fix them.
6. Increase your business reach
There are several ways to put your business in front of more potential customers.
One way is to invest in advertising. Even if you have a small budget, set funds aside for promotion as it can create business growth.
You can also enter newer geographies and markets with your existing products or a more customized version based on the new market demographics, culture and other details.
One way to do this is to partner with distributors that already have a foothold in the new markets.
You also need to expand your online image, as more consumers are shopping online today. This could mean anything from becoming active on social media to developing a complete online store.
Business expansion is a process
These are just some of the vital areas you should focus on as you start planning for business growth. But this is just the tip of an iceberg.
Optimism and the ability to be flexible play a vital role in how much your business expands. By identifying and responding quickly to any changes, you’ll be able to pivot your business strategy … and grow.