A lot of fuss is often created over how many businesses are able to survive the first years of their existence, and with good reason, too. Nearly two out of every three businesses don’t survive more than 10 years. However, that leaves a healthy third of all business ventures that actually make it past the decade mark.
This significant success rate underscores the importance of having a plan for growth in place right from day one. If your enterprise is among those that survive the heady early days of existence, you’re going to want to be able to effectively scale your operations as you shift from a surviving attitude to a thriving one.
Here are some of the best growth strategies that successful small businesses can tap into as they attempt to build on their existing operations.
Stay Organized, Efficient, and Productive
When growth is brought up, it often invokes grandiose images of innovative product lines, new employees, and massive mergers — and all of which can be an important part of the growth process.
However, one of the first and most important aspects of successful, healthy growth is the simple yet powerful ability to remain organized as you enter a growth phase. Along with the obvious need to stay structured and predictable in your basic internal operations, you can also embrace organization by:
- Setting clear goals for your leadership and staff to work toward.
- Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide benchmarks for your team to measure themselves against.
- Having an established value proposition that clearly defines the benefits, value, and superiority of your product or service and how it solves the customer’s problem.
- Utilizing mind mapping to promote project management, collaboration, investor confidence, and employee morale.
- Creating a business plan that includes growth-oriented items like how to add new locations, potential franchising options, and future product line ideas.
The goal throughout your organizing efforts should be to design a scalable business model that prioritizes things like consistency and growth directly into your business plan. When you can maintain a consistent and predictable level of organization within your company, it will grease the wheels for rapid, productive, and efficient growth whenever the time may come.
Build a Strong Brand Identity
A clearly defined brand identity is essential to sustained growth. The ability to know “who you are” as an organization can serve as a key driver of forwarding momentum. As you strive to increase your success, your brand’s identity will help to orient your upward-focused efforts.
For instance, if you build a brand around transparency, sustainability, and consumer trust, this will naturally impact how you grow as an organization. It will prevent you from snapping up any and every growth opportunity that presents itself — which is a good thing. Allying yourself with a company with a bad reputation or choosing to manufacture your products through an inhumane manufacturer could besmirch your carefully cultivated brand.
This can be especially helpful in creating genuine and sustainable growth since a good brand identity tends to focus on your strengths. In other words, it will typically point you in a direction that will naturally lend itself to your company’s core values, mission, and value proposition.
Embrace Online Marketing
This section really could be its own article. To summarize a vastly powerful growth option, online marketing is one of the best ways you can reach a virtually unlimited global audience. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling plumbing services to local consumers or socks to an international audience, having an online presence has become integral to long-term success.
This online effort can (and should) consist of many different communication channels, such as:
- Email marketing.
- Social media marketing.
- Search engine marketing.
- Pay-per-click marketing.
- E-commerce and website content.
By establishing an online presence early in the life of your business, you position yourself to easily scale your marketing efforts when the time comes.
Cultivate Customer Loyalty
The ability to create, maintain, and grow a customer base is essential to growth. A base of loyal customers boosts brand reputation and recognition through word-of-mouth marketing and referrals. It also provides a source of income through repeat sales. If you want to cultivate a fiercely loyal customer base, you must:
- Conduct research to better understand your customer’s wants and needs.
- Create a buyer persona that summarizes your ideal customer.
- Provide a high-quality experience throughout the customer journey.
- Request feedback from existing customers.
- Use this feedback to fine-tune your product offerings and regularly update your buyer persona.
The goal throughout this process should literally be to “give the people what they want.” In other words, if you can cultivate a customer base that feels heard and helped by you, they will be willing to stick with you over time, providing legitimacy, repeat sales, and word-of-mouth marketing as you grow.
Invest in Your Team
Along with a solid customer base, it’s important to remember to develop a trusty team of business professionals. Hiring quality talent you can trust is an essential step in the business growth process.
Many (if not most) entrepreneurs struggle with the stereotypical need to micromanage everything themselves. For instance, when asked, 49% of business owners said that they personally managed payroll, 42% were hands-on with sales, and 41% were deeply involved in HR.
This may be sustainable when your business is just getting off the ground, but if you’re going to scale your operations, you must find ways to delegate these duties without compromising on the quality of the work itself.
That’s where an elite workforce comes in. If you take your hiring process seriously, provide competitive salaries and benefits, and look out for the physical and mental safety of your employees, you can retain a well-equipped and talented workforce that, in many cases, will be able to do tasks like payroll and sales even better than you can.
Remember Competitors and Allies
While customers and employees are typically focal points of growth, there are two other demographics that shouldn’t be ignored: competitors and allies.
When it comes to competitors, if you want to truly dominate your market, you must take the time to study the competition. Observe what works and what doesn’t work in your primary opponents’ marketing and customer relationship management efforts.
In addition, seek out potential allies that can help push you along the road to greater growth. Unlike competitors, these shouldn’t have products or services that directly compete with your own. Instead, look for other businesses with offerings that complement your brands, such as a plumber working with a framer or a dry-waller.
Another option for potential alliances is to look for influencers. These are social-media-savvy individuals who have a following within your industry or niche. Joining forces with an influencer allows you to garner their endorsement and the trust of their followers, typically in exchange for a flat fee, an affiliate portion of each sale that they generate, or both.
Differentiate and Expand
As you grow, it’s important to consider areas where growth will be easier to realize. For instance, if you’re in a limited market and you find that you’ve saturated that market, you must either:
- Find new market segments with potential new customers who can buy your existing products or services.
- Study your market share penetration, identify weak competition, and attempt to siphon off some of their customer bases.
- Expand and diversify your product offerings in order to provide more solutions for existing customers.
By differentiating your product offering and/or expanding your market share, you can open yourself up to massive areas of potential growth.
Maintain a Growth Mindset
Finally, as a business owner, it’s absolutely essential that you instill a growth mindset in both yourself and your staff. A few examples of how this can be done include:
- A willingness to adopt new technology that can help your business.
- A desire to imbue continual learning into your company culture.
- An openness to reevaluate existing business activities and methods in order to improve them.
- A goal to provide opportunities to develop professional talent within your staff.
By embracing a growth mindset, you avoid the natural entropy that takes place when businesses do the same exact thing year after year. It also allows your company to remain at the forefront of innovation within your industry.
Finding Genuine Growth for Your Business
There are countless avenues for growth, no matter what business you’re operating. The important thing is that, as a business leader, you learn to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Avoid quick-fix, growth-hack schemes that promise massive results in short time spans.
Instead, look for avenues of genuine, sustainable growth. Some of these will be internally focused, such as hiring high-quality talent and staying organized. Others are outward-facing, like steering into online marketing and cultivating customer loyalty.
Internal or external, though, all of these growth strategies require commitment and a willingness to learn, adapt, and grow over the long term. If a growth mindset can be maintained, you should be able to steadily realize sustainable growth as you capitalize on your initial success by attempting to scale your company from both inside and out.
About the author
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and leadership topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.