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11 tips for small business growth
Starting a business

11 tips for small business growth

Ready to grow your business? Growing a business beyond the capabilities of one individual can seem impossible, and more than 70% of small businesses consist of a single employee: the business owner.

Growth requires new skills, more work, more customers, and potentially other employees or partners. At QuickBooks, we recognise how exciting and stressful business growth can be. We spoke to some small business owners to ask for their advice about ways to grow your business.

The community had several helpful tips around managing your time and money, as well as tips for collaborating and finding a healthy work-life balance.

Table of Contents

1. Develop positive work habits

An important time management takeaway that will have a trickle-down effect on all areas of your life comes from Jeanna Gabellini of MasterPeace Coaching, who believes in practicing habits that will increase abundance in your life and business, and dropping habits that do neither. Jeanna says, “Your frame of mind and personality will dictate what is best for you at this moment. I like to incorporate both small and big habits when I want to increase my abundance.”

Ask yourself:

  • Does this habit improve my workday or the bottom line for my business?
  • Is this habit reducing productivity or increasing it?
  • Which habits should I focus on to generate the most amount of money with the least amount of effort?
  • Which habits can I cut out that require the most amount of effort but generate the least amount of money?

Reinforce good habits like taking scheduled breaks to reward your productivity with fresh air and exercise. Break bad habits like constantly checking your phone to make sure you don’t have any notifications.

Tip: Create a list of your most common habits and organise them into positive habits and negative habits. Pick the most impactful habit from each group, and put together a plan to maximise the benefit of the good habit, and reduce or eliminate the harmful habit.

2. Document business processes now

Are you just starting to focus on growing your business? If you plan to scale your business with new employees in the future, make sure you’re recording your business processes now to make it easier to repeat them, or train someone else to do it when you’re able to. New employees can learn and reference the process documentation independently, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.

Examples of important processes to document:

  • Guidelines for performing any day-to-day duties
  • Answers to the most common customer service questions
  • Company policies regarding absences and holiday leave

As the business grows, it will become much more difficult to find the time to go back to recreate it all, so begin recording your processes today.

Tip: If your company stores inventory, create a checklist for how to add or remove inventory from your system or what to do with damaged or lost inventory. By creating this type of process in advance you’ll have fewer questions about it later.

Reinvest profits into your business

3. Reinvest profits into your business

For a small business owner, making a profit is cause for celebration. But what you choose to do next is critical. While you could reward yourself with a new watch or a holiday, reinvesting the profits back into your business will help you in the long run. 

Keep a list of things your business needs to move up to the next level. Do you need to hire an additional employee, purchase a delivery truck, or move to a bigger location? When you earn a profit, look at this list and decide where to reinvest to accelerate your growth. 

Ways to reinvest:

  • Upgrade equipment.
  • Increase advertising spending.
  • Hire additional employees.

Reinvesting profits back into your business is essential for growth. Using your profits to grow, expand, and improve your business will ultimately lead to even more profits. Repeating this cycle of reinvesting will allow your company to gradually grow and expand. 

Tip: Without reinvestment, your business will always stay the same size.

4. Perform competitor research

An easy way to grow your business is to find out what’s working for your competitors and emulate it. Take a look at their website and social media to learn about their pricing, offerings, and promotions. Sign up for their newsletter and see how they are communicating directly with customers. 

Competitor research:

  • Make a list of your competitors.
  • Visit their websites and social media platforms.
  • Examine their online advertisements.
  • Look at their content marketing.
  • Determine what they’re doing to be successful.
  • Emulate their strategy as much as possible.

Content marketing refers to any material that attracts users to a website. It introduces potential customers to a brand by answering important questions about a product or service. You can view a website’s most popular pages by typing “Site:[their website]” into Google. The pages will be listed from most visited to least. 

Tip: Ask yourself: What are these competitors’ strengths? What are their weaknesses? Not everything a competitor is doing will be perfect for your business. Competitor research allows you to pick and choose which strategies will work best for you.

5. Market your business better

Marketing your business well is key to gaining new projects and clients. A professional website and maintaining any social media profiles that make sense for your community are two highly recommended options. Take a look at your website and ask:

  • Does it make a good impression?
  • Does it clearly represent what you’re selling?
  • Does it drive visitors to the most important parts of your site, like where to make a purchase?

Think of social media as an extension of your company’s website and make sure your posts interesting for your community: Adding images to your posts is one way to drive more traffic and engagement.

Tip: View your website and social media presence through the eyes of someone who is being introduced to your business for the first time. Make sure it’s clear how to contact you, learn about your product, and where to go to make a purchase.

6. Eliminate anything that isn’t working

Some business activities provide more benefits than others. Continually evaluate which efforts and products are providing the most value to your company. 

If you realise that you generate twice as many sales from attending networking events than you do by cold-calling, increase the number of networking events you attend and reduce or eliminate cold-calling. By focusing on efforts that benefit your business the most and cutting out efforts that provide little to no benefit, you can keep improving your processes over time to get more done with less effort.

Example:

A restaurant sells tacos, hamburgers, and pizza but the owner notices that pizza is outselling the other two options by a wide margin. Each week the restaurant throws out uneaten hamburger and taco ingredients that didn’t sell, resulting in waste. 

The owner decides to remove tacos and hamburgers from the menu to focus on their best-selling item, the pizza. Now instead of wasting money on ingredients for unpopular products, that money is being reinvested into producing a higher quality pizza. 

This process of identifying value and enhancing it can be applied to all aspects of a business.

Ask yourself:

  • Which marketing efforts or products are performing the best?
  • Which marketing efforts or products are performing the worst?
  • How can I improve what’s working to get even better results?
Collect potential customers with a sales funnel

7. Collect potential customers with a sales funnel

A sales funnel is the path a potential customer goes through before making a purchase. If you meet someone, discuss your business, and then hand them your business card, that’s the top of the sales funnel. You may hand out 20 business cards, and only five people wind up calling you. Of those five phone calls, only one conversation results in a sale. 

This process of someone receiving a business card, making a phone call, and then making a purchase is a type of sales funnel. There will naturally be many more people at the top of the funnel than at the conclusion.

A sales funnel for a physical business can begin with:

  • A business card
  • A billboard
  • An employee spinning a sign

For an online business, the sales funnel may begin with a user clicking on your website or visiting your YouTube channel. This introduces them to your brand, and ideally, urges them to take further action that moves them down the sales funnel. 

Digital sales funnels can begin with:

  • A web page that answers popular questions
  • A downloadable ebook
  • A YouTube video

It’s important to understand what a potential customer is looking for, and how that aligns with your company’s sales funnel. For example, a locksmith may create a web page that lists ways to get keys out of a locked car. At the end of that web page, the locksmith will urge the reader to contact them if they are still locked out. The visitor clicks on the contact button and moves one step further down the sales funnel.

Tip: Each stage of the sales funnel should nudge customers closer to a sale. Make sure that they’re always being instructed to take another action that moves them to the next step of your sales funnel.

8. Focus on customer retention

It’s a lot easier to keep a customer than to find a new one. That’s why customer retention is so important for a growing business. Having a reliable group of customers that you can count on to make a purchase month after month provides financial stability.

Ways to retain customers:

  • Provide excellent customer service.
  • Offer discounts for repeat business.
  • Provide consistent quality with each sale.
  • Collect and analyse customer feedback.
  • Make small exceptions for loyal customers.

Responding quickly to customer support requests, and even monitoring for complaints on social media can turn a potentially lost customer into a loyal customer. Collect customer feedback to discover pain points or new ways to delight customers and keep them around.

Tip: Always keep in mind that earning each customer was an uphill battle, and it’s easier to keep them happy than to replace them.

9. Stay in contact with an email list

An email list is a powerful marketing tool, but building one takes time and effort. Email lists allow you to re-engage with both previous and potential customers. Because an email list is a direct line of communication, it allows you to connect directly with customers without the need for paid advertisements or organic traffic.

Your website can have a sign-up form that asks for the visitor's email address in exchange for something of value.

Common sign-up form offers include:

  • A discount on today’s purchase
  • A newsletter that notifies them of future events or sales
  • A notification for when a sold out item will be restocked
  • High-value gated content like a downloadable study or webinar

Tip: Utilise your email list sparingly. The more frequently you email your customers the more likely they’ll be to opt out. View each email from the recipient’s perspective and ask if receiving the email would be welcome or an annoyance.

10. Hire employees

Hiring additional employees is central to growing your business. When you have an additional employee who can process orders or make deliveries, that frees up time for you to brainstorm ideas, analyse the company’s performance, and focus on the big picture of managing your business. 

If you ever find yourself daydreaming about what you would do if you had an extra pair of hands, then it may be time to add some staff to your small business.

Benefits of hiring employees include:

  • Lets you delegate simple but time-consuming tasks.
  • Adds additional skills to the business.
  • Brings new ideas and experiences to draw from.
  • Frees up your time to focus on bigger projects.

11. Increase revenue with upselling and cross-selling

When a customer is already going to make a purchase for $10, it probably won’t be difficult to convince them to spend $2 more, but you’ll have just increased the revenue from that sale by 20%! You can encourage a customer to spend slightly more than they intended by one of two methods: upselling or cross-selling.

Cross-selling

The most famous method of cross-selling is the phrase: “Would you like fries with that?” A side of french fries complements most fast food purchases, and suggesting it as an addition with every order increases the restaurant's bottom line. 

Take a look at your business and figure out which products or services complement each other. If someone adds a surfboard to their cart, your website can suggest a bottle of sunscreen or surf wax. If they’re buying a dog bed, you could recommend a bag of dog treats.

Upselling

The process of upselling means encouraging a customer to purchase a more expensive version of the product or service they already want. If you’re making a reservation at a hotel, they’ll likely ask you if you’d like to upgrade to a larger room, or a room with more amenities, like a view of the city. An upsell can be something as small as two scoops of ice cream instead of one, or as large as a car with more features than the base model. 

Upselling is most successful when the price difference between the offerings is small. If a scoop of ice cream costs $2, but two scoops of ice cream only costs $3, the clear discount on the second scoop of ice cream makes it an easy decision to spend more.

Cross-selling and upselling both result in the same thing: more money for the same amount of effort. 

Tip: Experiment with different products and services to determine which purchases result in cross-sells or upsells. After determining which ones work the best, be sure to offer the cross-sell or upsell during each transaction.

We’re here to help you grow

Growing your small business can be daunting. We hope that the tips listed here will be helpful as you gradually hire staff, and increase the size and scope of your business.


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