So it’s time to level up your business. You’ve nailed the ‘how to start a business’ part and now it’s time to consider how to grow your business. Great!
But the question remains: how do you actually make the jump from fledgling business to thriving medium-sized operation?
The answer is it takes time, dedication and utilising the right tools and support along the way. Here are 24 practical tips for business growth to help you get started.
1. Understand your customers
First thing’s first: get into the minds of the people who have helped get you where you are today and who will help you grow in the future. You might have a general picture of your customer base, but do you really understand their behaviours, needs and motivations? Ask yourself:
- What are the demographics of my typical customer?
- What do people come to my business for?
- What problems do my customers want to be solved?
- How can I make my typical customer’s life easier?
From here, you can start to drill down into what perfect customer service should look like for your business as you grow.
2. Ask for feedback
Customer feedback is worth its weight in gold for identifying business weaknesses and growth opportunities.
Set up a system for capturing feedback via email, on your website, or in person, and really pay attention to what your customers have to say. Their perspectives are invaluable in refining a targeted business growth strategy.
3. Go above and beyond
Now you know who your customers are and what they want, think about what you can do to exceed their expectations. This could be something as simple as delivering an order early or including a handwritten note with an order.
Research shows that failing to deliver on promises is one of the top reasons for customer frustration. On the flipside, exceeding expectations with exceptional service is one of the biggest drivers of customer loyalty – and that sets the foundation for long-term growth.
4. Optimise your sales funnel
Your sales funnel exists whether you’re aware of it or not. In a nutshell, it’s the journey your customers take from being aware of your business to considering your products or services to eventually making a purchase.
To grow your business, you need to understand where and how customers end up purchasing from you – and what you can do to provide a seamless journey from beginning to end.
5. Analyse your competitors
Think about where you want to be and which competitors you’ll have to contend with when you get there. Ask yourself:
- What are their strengths? Price, service, convenience and brand recognition are areas where you may need to improve.
- What are their weaknesses? Weaknesses are opportunities you can take advantage of.
- What marketing strategies do they use? Consider how you can leverage similar strategies.
- How will you be able to take market share away from their business?
- How will they respond when you enter or expand in the market? Have a plan for a counter-attack.
6. Take calculated risks
People tend to be risk-averse, but part of being a successful business owner is recognising the risks that are worth taking. Learn to identify and take on risks where the potential benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
7. Form strategic partnerships
Strategic partnerships with other businesses or individuals can be a major difference-maker by allowing you to tap into a whole new subset of customers quickly.
Look out for businesses that are complementary to yours, and don’t be afraid to propose opportunities for working together in a way that’s mutually beneficial for both of you.
8. Expand into new markets
Often, being a successful small business means focusing on the local market. But many businesses reach the next stage of growth by expanding into untapped new markets where opportunities are plentiful.
Take inspiration from successful Singapore-founded eCommerce company Carousell, which in just eight years has expanded into Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, and the Philippines.
9. Invest in people
Behind every successful medium-sized business is a great team of people. If you’re committed to making the leap from start-up to scale-up, you’ll need to hire staff to help you achieve your growth goals.
10. Outsource support
Following on from the previous point, don’t worry if you’re not in a financial position to hire full-time employees yet. Keep in mind that you can always outsource ad hoc work to temporary contractors or freelancers to support you while your business grows.
11. Learn how to delegate
Whether you’re hiring staff or outsourcing work to contractors, you’ll need to get comfortable with delegating work to others.
This is a tough bridge to cross for many small business owners – especially those who are used to having complete control – but remember that it takes a village to build a successful enterprise.
12. Network, network, network
As the saying goes, ‘It’s not about what you know but who you know’. Attend industry expos, seminars, conferences and as many network events as you can manage.
If you network with enough people, you’re likely to bump into someone who has the expertise, ideas or connections you need to grow your business.
13. Find a mentor
No matter how much you know about your business and your industry, there will almost always be someone out there who is more knowledgeable and experienced than you.
Seek out that person – whether it be on LinkedIn, at networking events or elsewhere – and tap into their expertise. Be curious, ask questions and keep an open mind.
14. Set yourself big but realistic goals
When it comes to setting goals for growth, think big but achievable. Break up broad long-term goals into smaller objectives and consider:
- What each goal looks like in the short, medium and long term
- How long it should take you to achieve each ‘step’ in a goal
- Who will support you in achieving your business goals
15. Audit your business processes
For a medium-sized business to be successful, processes must be water-tight. Evaluate your current workflows and look for areas of inefficiency or double-handling that can be fixed through process changes or automation.
16. Revisit your business plan
Now that you’re ready to enter the next business growth phase, it’s a good time to revisit your business plan and make adjustments to suit your new goals.
Within the plan, detail your new goals and how you plan to achieve them through people, processes and technology.
17. Explore new marketing strategies
Small business owners often get by with a limited marketing budget or even no budget at all. But if you want to achieve growth through new customers or markets, you’ll need to boost your visibility through targeted marketing strategies.
Consider social media, email, your website, online advertising, online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. These are all valuable channels through which you can connect and reconnect with potential customers.
18. Consider business funding
Do you have access to the funding needed to achieve growth? Consider whether seeking financial aid from an external source like venture capital or a business loan could give you the leverage you need to take your business to the next level.
19. Learn from your mistakes
More often than not, it’s our failures rather than our successes that make us better business owners. Tackle setbacks head-on, learn from your mistakes and make time to identify opportunities for improvement when things go wrong.
Failure is what will challenge you to grow, so it should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat.
20. Carve out time to just think
It may sound obvious, but it’s a step many business owners overlook. Block out time in your day to simply be creative and think about the possibilities for the future.
It’s these moments that often produce the kernels of inspiration for growth and innovation.
21. Educate yourself
An entrepreneurial mindset is one of continued learning. Whether it’s reading industry resources and case studies or pursuing more formal training, education is a key step in gaining the knowledge needed to drive business growth.
22. Take time off
It might seem counterproductive, but sometimes a little distance from the day-to-day is what’s needed to step back and see the bigger picture.
If you can manage it, take a couple of days off – or even longer – to focus and hone in on your plans for the future.
23. Stay on top of your finances
It goes without saying that you’ll need complete oversight of your finances to maintain sustainable business growth.
24. Invest in the right technology
The secret ingredient to successful business growth today is technology. From task automation, accounting, sales, marketing, customer relationship management and more, there’s a multitude of tools available to help businesses save time and work smarter.
When it comes to managing your finances, QuickBooks Online allows you to access and manage accounting data, invoices, expenses and more in seconds – from anywhere, at any time.
Want to try QuickBooks Online for yourself? Sign up for a free 30-day trial.