So you have a business and business is good. Now how do you make it better? The best businesses are always looking for ways to improve, whether that’s offering better products or adopting more efficient processes. Here’s how you can take your business to the next level.
Perhaps the most obvious way to grow your business is to get more customers. And there are a handful of strategic ways to achieve this, whether those customers are consumers or other businesses.
How to Grow Your Business
Get to know your existing customers better
“To understand what people really want, you have to find out what their real challenges are,” said Ramit Sethi, the author of the New York Times best seller, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” and founder of Growth Lab, a company that helps entrepreneurs build and grow online businesses. Figure out what made your current customers want to buy your product.
This will help you pinpoint what you’re doing right, and what marketing strategies might be a waste of time. Mr. Sethi interviews tens of thousands of his own customers, who are also business owners, to find their pain points and advises them to do the same He asks the following questions:
- Tell us about your day. What are the best parts? What are the hardest parts?
- Have you bought something like this before?
- If you could wave a magic wand, what would success look like?
If your company serves other businesses (known as B2B), ask about their business and revenue goals. You might conduct these interviews over the phone or via email. Choose a wide swath of customers: ones you interact with all the time and ones that only use your business once in a while. Either way, the interview process can help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t in your marketing.
Pinpoint what makes you different
Many entrepreneurs find initial success copying a competitor’s business model. If you want your business to grow however, you’ll have to set it apart and find your unique brand identity. Customer interviews can come in handy with this, too.
Try it: Create an avatar for your target customer. Write a before and after description for him or her that is, a quick bio of who they are before and after purchasing your product or using your business. You may have done this when you first launched, but it’s important to update this avatar as your business expands.
Get other people to help
Affiliate marketing involves selling your product or service through a third-party who then gets a small cut of your profits. This may be especially useful for B2B companies, who can tap their existing customers to share these products with their own customers.
This is a smart way to advertise and grow your reach with the help of like-minded companies, bloggers or influencers. (Of course, you want to make sure these aren’t direct competitors.) You can try to reach out to potential affiliates on your own, but make sure you have an affiliate marketing process in place to track link clicks and purchases.
Tools like ClickBank and Rakuten can help you get started.
Build a bigger online presence
Even if you don’t have an online business, expanding your online brand presence is crucial to getting your product in front of more eyes, especially if your product sells directly to consumers. Some strategies you might consider:
- Post content consistently. Whether you share content via a blog, newsletter or Twitter account, posting regularly will help your followers stay interested and engaged with your brand. Use tools like Hootsuite and IFTTT to schedule posts and shares.
- Stay true to your brand identity. Whichever online platform you use to promote your business, make sure the content you post is consistent to your brand’s identity. For example, if your brand is about simplicity and minimalism, you probably don’t want to post something about the best Black Friday deals.
- Run a promotion. Generate buzz around your business with a giveaway or contest. For example, Lonely Planet uses Instagram to encourage users to tag their travel photos for a chance to be featured on the Lonely Planet page. This expands their reach to other audiences and gets users to advertise Lonely Planet at no cost to the brand.
Split test marketing strategies
There’s no shortage of quick marketing “hacks” you can play with. Split testing, also called A/B testing, helps you test out these strategies to see what works best. For example, you could test how well a green “buy now” button works on converting customers on your website versus a yellow one. Some other things you could split test:
- Email subject lines: Which one has a higher open rate?
- Web page titles: Which one gets more clicks?
- Days you post to social media: Which day gets more engagement?
Chances are, the marketing tools you already use in your business give you the option to split test. HubSpot, ConvertKit and Google Ads, all offer this option. Play around and see what works.
Keep Reading About Being an Entrepreneur
The speed at which your business operates will make a big difference to your bottom line. “The most important thing for a startup entrepreneur is speed,” said Patrick Bet-David, a former financial adviser and current C.E.O. of PHP Agency, Inc, an insurance agency .
“The faster you move, the sooner you can grow your business, ” he said. There are four operating speeds to think about:
Your business functioning speed is how quickly the basic, day-to-day functions of your business get done. “The more support you have, the stronger your functioning speed,” Mr. Bet-David said. Typically, the bigger your team, the faster your functioning speed.
Example: You sell a physical product on Etsy and handle all the tasks associated with your business on your own. You create the product, manage social media, ship everything out and respond to customer feedback. You could hire an assistant to ship products and manage social media, and your business now functions much faster.
This doesn’t always mean hiring people, though. If your Wi-Fi is painfully slow, for example, switching Internet providers may increase your functioning speed a lot.
Read Also: A Step by Step Guide to Starting a Business
Your processing speed is how long it takes to get the product to the customer. “In real estate, this would be the time it takes to go from ‘I want to buy a home’ to actually closing on the home,” said Mr. Bet-David.
Example: You have a financial consulting business. When you get a new client, you spend days emailing each other back and forth to schedule your consulting calls. Use an online scheduler like Calendy or Square to eliminate the back and forth. Your client can now get their sessions scheduled in one step.
To increase this speed, focus on efficiency. Make a list of all the steps involved in processing a sale in your business, then see if there’s anything that can be eliminated or combined. Look at tools like Zapier, Hootsuite and Hubspot for automating basic business tasks to increase this speed.
For example, if you spend too much time dealing with customer returns, tools like Returnly can automate and expedite the process for you. Or maybe your invoicing system requires an extra step that you could cut to speed up the process.
Timing speed is about leveraging the right timing to grow your business. It involves looking for opportunities and getting comfortable taking a step back in order to take a few steps forward. This is a harder one to plan for, Mr. Bet-David said. “Intuitive people are good at it.”
Example: When gas prices were increasing in 2005, Mitsubishi took advantage of the timing and offered a year of free gas for new customers, given as a prepaid debit card. The cost of this incentive was minimal to them overall but increased their sales by 7.2 percent, reported Heinz marketing. Even better, it improved their brand perception.
To increase your timing speed, focus on opportunity and positioning. Look for pain points that customers might be struggling with at the moment and opportunities to solve those problems for them. If you’re planning to launch a marketing campaign for your product, think about the best time to do this.
Expansion speed is knowing the next move you need to make in your business and when you need to make that move. But control your ambitions, Mr. Bet-David warned. “A company that’s trying to grow too fast is worse than a company growing too slow.” Expansion speed is less about expanding in the moment, and more about knowing when it’s time to expand.
Example: You have a furniture rental business for real estate staging. It’s doing well, but you’ve noticed your customers request quite a bit of children’s furniture, a category for which you don’t have much inventory. After interviewing your customers and researching their needs, you decide you’ll expand your business and invest in children’s furnishings to rent. You’ll do this next year, when business profits are on schedule to increase 8 percent.
To increase expansion speed, focus on strategy and thinking ahead. “Most entrepreneurs have no idea who their ideal customer is,” Mr. Bet-David said. “You have to figure out who’s in your niche, then figure out where your market is.”
Again, this comes down to knowing where your customers live, where they hang out online and what they’re searching for. Tools like Google Keywords, Google Trends, Quantcast and Market Samurai can help with this. You can also interview and poll your existing customers. What are their additional needs?