New ideas to help you small business grow in 2017
There are a lot of things to keep an eye on in 2017, but for most small business owners, the ongoing mission is to find new ways to increase growth and profits. There are a lot of patterns to be found in watching successful businesses operate, both big and small. But since small businesses tend to have limited resources – often very limited – it’s important to adopt some strategies that don’t overwhelm you on an already demanding schedule. Here are some sensible ways to grow your business without driving up your blood pressure, as well.
Identify your target market
Hopefully everyone realizes that it’s more effective to market to a target audience than the general public. But be sure your focus is on the right target market. Some companies spend time and money chasing after what may seem like profitable ideas, but don’t really fit the brand and the consumer they should be shooting for. Coming up with a detailed profile of who your most productive leads are finding new ways to target them is better than going after other ideas as a long-term strategy. This is simply because, as time passes, you’ll understand these customers better, and find winning strategies you can use consistently. Getting their loyalty requires some dedication and loyalty on your part.
When you’re convinced that you’ve got a great marketing strategy that produces consistently with your audience, and a customer base you can upsell to, then try diversifying into new products or markets, one at a time, until you have the next market segment in your pocket.
Build an online reputation
With a majority of consumers using the internet to do their shopping, every company needs to maintain a strong online presence. Even if you’re a local bakery unlikely to ever make the top rankings in Google, online marketing and branding simply can’t be avoided. If nothing else, you have to focus on building a good reputation so all those millions of digital customers will recognize and trust your brand. Get on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Try your own authoritative blog. A great website or active social media account can generate a lot of sales, but a single bad review can kill them. Check the results that come back for your business on the major search engines. Try to remove or resolve any bad press, and constantly check to see what the top-ranked websites are doing that you’re not.
Streamline your budget
Trying to focus on getting new business is much too expensive versus making the most of the business you already have. Establish a reasonable amount of funds for exploring new ideas or markets, but be sure to put the majority of your funds to work optimizing sales to the customers you’ve already acquired. Better customer service, newsletters, loyalty programs, personalized email campaigns, and anything that sweetens the customer experience will pay off better, dollar for dollar, than fishing for new prospects.
You can also find extra funds by looking for every possible way to save on overhead. Recycled materials, outsourced services such as billing, order fulfillment, or IT, energy-saving devices, reduced inventory, and more, will improve margins. Look at every cost in your organization, from labor to freight, and start asking yourself how you can bring down overhead without compromising production. But don’t overlook human resources and employee morale. Employees that feel overworked or ill-equipped won’t give you the loyalty and dedication you expect. Cut positions where it makes fiscal sense, but ensure that all your people are treated with empathy and respect.
You want to keep a close eye on how things progress – but not too close. Getting mired down in daily reports and progress meetings is not a good use of your time. The big companies re-evaluate on a quarterly basis. So does the IRS. Give things a little time to develop and produce profits. Establish your goals for the next quarter, then see how you did when the quarter is over. If you came up short, then you can refine your methods and redirect your efforts.
Develop a growth plan and stick with it
Your focus should be on your profit margins. Generating more revenue and reinvesting it in simple expansion with more of the same marketing, equipment, or personnel generally doesn’t pay off long-term. Find ways to innovate and reinvent. If the margins aren’t there, try something else.
The best-case scenario many small business owners are looking for is rapid expansion. However, the growing pains can be traumatic if the infrastructure isn’t there to support it. Sky-rocketing demand from your clients means more employees for human resources to hire and manage, more computers and software, more space, more inventory – having growth is great, but too much too fast can lead to chaos while you struggle to keep it all aligned and productive.
Your growth plan should be a step-by-step strategy. Consider what you need to focus on next, based on priorities for achieving – and sustaining – each rung on the ladder, whether it’s onboarding a full-time programmer or shopping for a new forklift. Have everything in place and functional before you move to the next step.
- Communicate both short-term and long term goals to your team.
- Set time frames and deadlines that are reasonable.
- Learn to say “no” when the risks are too high.
- Prioritize you own day in blocks of time.
- Find a way to eliminate wasted time, and promote an ethic of hard work, but encourage everyone to take a break when they need it.
- Never insist on doing things yourself if you find somebody else that does it better, faster, and cheaper.
Every organization will have different objectives and practices, but in all cases you should look to build your improvements around making better use of your own and your employees’ time. And before you reinvest a single dollar, make sure you’ve gotten the maximum benefit from the assets you already have.