Are you wondering how to grow your small business? There are several ideas and opinions for this. Read on to know what you can do, but choose those options that you can do based on your present situation. If any of these work do let us know in comments! You should also consider how much time, money, or resources you can spare in order to grow small business.
Segment: A basic theory to grow business
Most successful companies have carved out their own niche in the market. In fact it is a theory in business strategy that in a perfect competition no firm will make profit. If it is a common market with many players and the businesses are not avoiding competition, nobody can profit. So, figure out your niche or deliberately create a segment. Think about what it could be. It could be a subset of your market you have previously considered, but you are likely going to get a following in it. Consider the example of Pepsi that targeted youth. It featured young status symbols like pop stars to create a following, and took a good share of coca cola’s market.
Search internet, visit local chamber of commerce, or get consultancy to narrow down your market segment. Then build upwards by offering other products. Identify who your main competitors are and study them. And also find their under-served market.
Create good marketing plan
A good marketing plan is required at all scales of businesses. And small businesses need to do it even better as they can’t afford to lose any money. There are a number of resources available to create a marketing strategy. Search by specific type of marketing too, such as digital marketing strategy. If you are short of funds try doing as much part yourself as possible. Focus continuously on one thing, say SEO for a week to read, understand and be able to achieve basic level of optimisation. After these, schedule time for basic and higher-return activities along with core activities.
If you not on internet, you may consider getting on internet to seek more customers directly. Or, you can use internet just for phone or display ads that with the sole aim of creating awareness about your brand and to make a direct phone enquiry.
It is in practice at a good number of businesses. College students looking for internship generally lack any specialist’s skills. They and or other under-skilled people might require you to tell them how to go about it initially. They can spare you some time to focus on core function and also save money that could otherwise go to marketing or operations expenditure. Remember that you need to share some of your skills or knowledge for this. Just expecting one-way favour doesn’t work.
You may require financing for expanding your business. Analyse your financial situation to see how much you require for your expansion efforts. There are several financing options such as credit unions, banks, and also ones provided by governments of nations especially for small businesses.
Open at another location
If your first business is going well you should consider replicating it at another location. The location should not be chosen in haste. You can simultaneously hire a few more employees to work at your first location who will get a good idea of the work. Then send a mix of staff to work at new location, if it applies.
Partner or offer franchise
Alternative to opening at another location is to offer franchise as a business opportunities to others. In fact the power of franchise model has been understood for about a century now. Many big companies such as Baskins & Robbins, KFC and McDonald’s have grown entirely on this model. This works because it requires the franchisee to manage in the interest of the company for themselves to grow, which is what you want. Franchising helps to maximise time efficiency and employee management.
You can also form partnership or alliance with a similar type of business. But this would divide the profit as well. Alliances work when you are competing with each other or you can compete somewhere else (apart from your existing area) together. You can also alliance in supply-chain or distribution sector if it adds any benefit. Alliances can help in expanding business faster. By contacting an existing brand’s local branch you can sell your manufactured item by meeting standards. You can partner with ones having good distribution channels to tap into their supply chain. You will share profits but it would bring additional ones. Also you would make new contacts during this.
If you have a software or other kinds of service product, you can provide licenses. This is also a popular way to grow a business. This shifts the task of distribution to retailers. This is a low cost alternative to expanding the business yourself. In order to license a product you also need legal work. You can license a brand too, if you have built a brand. By licensing you can avoid starting a company in the first place.
There are several ways to diversify business. You can tweak your offerings to appeal to new market segment you have identified. Diversifying can also help offset seasonal lows in sales. You can diversify by:
Importing other’s products
Partnering and exporting your products
Selling complementary products and services
Provide support, views, education
Adopt new technology and trends
Upgrading to use advanced technology can save time and costs in the long run. They can add efficiency, which in turn can even make your product or services more competitive enabling more growth. Technology can also harm your business especially if you ignore it. Even big companies are testimony to this.
Case of Kodak
Take the case of Kodak, it would have been difficult to imagine 20 years ago that this company won’t even survive. Not adopting digital camera technology led it to failure. This is ironical because this was a technology that it invented! So, even after being so close to technology you could not realise what it’s potential. With technology an entire customer base can shift, if people prefer a service or product inculcating it. Even if you adopt a technology late, the damage may have been done by a negative image created in the minds of customers. A simple example is adoption of a modern point of sale software in restaurants.
So, stay updated with not only the technology but also recent trends so that you are not left behind. A good idea will be to cater to the needs of early adopters and keep them in touch for suggestions and feedback.
The last point leads us directly to engaging customers. Repeat customers make majority of business transactions. So, it is important to keep customers engaged and happy. A happy customer can also act as a marketing medium. Where can you engage?
Using social network you can build brand recognition. It is the new way to engage with consumers and grow your small business. Things that you should do are: respond to tweets or messages, like any tweet or message that mentions you and retweet it. Other people will follow your business on social media if your posts are helpful and interesting.
Also, you can post videos to promote your brand or business on media such as YouTube and Periscope. Include all cheerful events and happy customers you can, linking them to your site or social media page if website doesn’t exist. Use searchable keywords to tag them. You can also post company events, new product lines, specials offers and promotions on Facebook and other social networks.
Use tools to record transactions and customers. This will give insights into customer buying patterns from the data thus collected. Use it to communicate with customers, like “long time no see” emails. Recorded data tells also how your business is doing. What areas are doing good and what aren’t can be easily found. Then you can act on it to grow your business.
Run campaigns to engage customers with information, events, and offers. You can use previously collected data for this purpose. Use data to create groups of customers based on what they like to buy. Also use it from time to time to get referral customers by giving offers. Make sure you ask feedback on campaigns lest they block you. This will enable you to provide a great customer service.
Buy another company
One of the most aggressive methods of growing a business is to buy another smaller company. Sometimes, you can remove competition by buying a competitor itself. If it is not getting success consider merging and alliance options. Numerous companies have done this. SAP, for instance, consists mostly of products of companies it previously bought. Oracle is among the greatest examples of doing this wisely. And, Adidas buying Reebok is an example of buying a fierce competitor. If you can do this, it will be great. But if you don’t, don’t fret.
Keep in mind to know in and out of the business if you are getting to buy a company. You must check its credit standing, weaknesses that might be plaguing the company, and of course its strengths.
Win a government contract
Another great way to get more business is to bid for government work. This is good especially at a time when governments all over the world are trying to promote local business and economy. Visit your government websites and enquire to know about any future work as well.
Overall, there can be many advices available to grow a business. Some will be simple and some won’t. If you follow some of the above methods and be patient, you are surely going to see results, unless of course times are bad on the whole for businesses.