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Once you’ve established your business model, developed client or customer relationships, and filled in any gaps in your team, it’s time to scale your business, also known as the Build And Grow stage of a company’s life cycle. You may feel like everything is happening at once, with plenty of fires to put out. From new hires to streamlining day-to-day business processes, preparing financial documents for the scrutiny of potential investors, and lots of problem solving, these articles and tools will help you survive this challenging and exciting stage.
Before you experiment with new products or try to find new customers, it’s always a best practice to first try and grow with the customers you already have.
Identify the customers who generate the most profit for your business, or who have the most potential for additional sales. Actively engage with them to gain more sales. It’s common knowledge that often 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. Go back and contact them.
Conduct online surveys or ask customers directly to discover what other products or services they might be interested in. There could be possibilities to joint venture with complementary businesses and take a margin.
Building a loyalty system with points or loyalty cards is a great way to encourage more frequent purchases and track your customers’ buying habits with the data you collect. This can also help identify sales opportunities.
Collecting customer emails or addresses enables you to contact them with special offers, new items or useful information.
Make sure your business has friendly, helpful staff who are well trained and know how to convert inquiries into sales. Run in-house sales sessions or employ a sales consultant to help identify how you can encourage staff to sell more.
Help your staff cross sell to existing customers by offering them incentives, which could be based on selling certain products or services, or a monthly sales target.
Start a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter campaign (whichever is most relevant to your business) and talk about your business and customers to increase the profile of your business and encourage additional purchases.
List the products or services your customers have previously bought and then match complementary items that you could sell to them. Contact them with offers. Always encourage customers to consider buying a higher net margin product or service.
Go over your business plan to evaluate and update anything that’s recently changed. Check you’re still on track for your growth goals and make any necessary adjustments.
Once you’ve exhausted your existing client base, find new customers to target. It’s easier if you find similar customer segments that you already sell to, as they’ll be more likely to buy if they have similar characteristics.
If you can identify your customers (from a business list or directory) then consider investing more of your marketing budget into approaching them direct, as opposed to general advertising. Measure the response rate email advertising, direct mail, or online and focus on what generates leads.
Build up positive word of mouth referrals by getting testimonials from customers, encouraging regulars to refer their friends, family or business colleagues to your business, speak at events, and network inside chambers or business associations.
Create an introductory offer for new customers only, to gain future customers that will buy again on a regular basis.
To increase your online presence, list your business on the most popular online directories. Alternatively, use these resources to uncover potential new customers (especially through industry directories).
SEO will help increase your website’s traffic leading to a growth in your customer base. Spend some time determining your site’s keywords and keyword phrases so it attracts the right traffic for your business. Google have a useful page about how Google search works.
Consider paying for search engine marketing (like Google Ads) so that when customers search for your business products your web address is more likely to come up than others. Find out how keywords work from Google.
Instagram allows you to visually tell the story of your business and its offerings through images. When potential customers like your product or service images (which can be linked to your other social media accounts), you could get an avalanche of views.
Keep your content fresh and updated by writing regular blogs (informal content posted online in a chronological order) about your business, your people, and successful case studies. Regular blog content can be important for increasing your search traffic and driving people to your website.
These are a great way to showcase your business to existing or new customers. Many businesses will run free ‘education’ sessions or workshops to existing and new customers to not only offer value and to up-skill, but as a lead generation tactic.
Networking with like-minded business individuals is crucial to managing the right business contacts in your industry. Uncover potential customers by either attending industry events or using the directory of government and business associations to find member contact details in order to contact them directly.
Outline a specific marketing strategy that’s aimed at new customer segments. Then develop a precise advertising plan to build awareness and encourage purchases.
Once you’ve connected with your customers on Facebook or LinkedIn, find people in their networks who are interested in your offerings. Find out about how to market on Facebook.
If you want to get your goods or services out there in front of a worldwide audience, think about creating a YouTube channel for your business. This is a great way to demonstrate products or share tips with your customers.
Wider than finding new customers in your region, are new customers or new markets you haven’t thought of in the past.
Look for customers you’re interested in targeting in markets that are similar to yours. Google’s Global Market Finder generates a spreadsheet based on monthly keyword searches that ranks the opportunities of doing business in certain geographical locations.
Build connections, demonstrate new products and develop stronger relationships with new markets by presenting your business at trade shows.
If you’re not already selling your goods or services online, think about changing your business model to offer online purchasing which widens your customer base worldwide.
Research the feasibility of successfully opening a new store, office or branch.
Consider if your product or service could be licensed and delivered by another business, where you’re paid a license fee or royalty. It could be an effective method to enter a new market and reduce the risk.
Look for new markets that you’re previously dismissed. If your products or services are suitable for government agencies, health, the military or larger corporates that release tenders for work, you might be able to find a totally new market you hadn’t considered before.
If you’re a wholesaler, consider opening a retail outlet. Or if you only sell through retail channels, investigate entering the wholesale industry. Seek to move up or down the supply chain.
Identify if you can enter a new segment by buying a business that already exists in a new region. You will inherit their customers and market position.
Hire sales reps in other regions to help your business branch out into different markets. If they’re only on commission, it’s a results-driven tactic.
Develop an export plan to identify the feasibility of exporting your products or services.
After you’ve sold more to existing customers, found new customers as well as new markets, it’s time to see if you need to evaluate new products and services to grow.
Ask your customers about what new products or services they would like to see added to your range. Brainstorm ideas with your staff, along with which new markets to target.
Look to your (or a similar) industry for thought leaders who are excelling and can provide sound advice for the direction of your product or service development. Join industry blogs, e-newsletter lists, and any specialist industry discussions that may spark a new product or idea.
Many new ideas get demonstrated at industry events, both locally and outside the UK. At times just taking time out can help focus your thinking on what you want to do next.
Search relevant conferences to attend to up-skill or learn more about the business. Even better, see if you can get to speak at an industry event (it’s great for credibility).
Consider licensing another business’s products or services to extend your product or service range. It’s especially effective if they’re complementary to your own offerings, and it saves you the expensive of development and deployment.
Keep an eye on other successful businesses within your industry, or those targeting markets that you’re interested in, and look at how to develop a strategic alliance.
Finally, growth isn’t always about growing sales. If you want to grow your profit, you may sometimes be better at reducing sales and focusing on what drives profitability.
Review all your products and services and cut any that are poorly performing or have low margins. It’s often not worth the energy to support.
Improve your output to deliver your products or services faster. Add staff, upgrade to the latest equipment, or change software; try anything to speed up production.
It sounds obvious, but whichever way you choose to increase prices, it all goes straight to your bottom line. Consider the impact on demand if you have price sensitive customers.
Audit all your expenses to see what can be lowered without affecting your business operation. Re-negotiate with suppliers and reassess any subscription services or set pricing plans.
Take a close look at your debtors to establish which ones need extra motivation to pay you sooner. Consider changing your policy towards new debtors by tightening payment terms or adding a discount for quick payers. Make sure you have Internet banking as an option.
Look at each area of your business separately and come up with ways to reduce energy use.
Identify how to produce more efficiently to reduce left over materials, which will lower your cost of goods sold.
Look at current processes you could change to save you time or money, from manual systems to automatic to free up time for more important tasks.
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