Learning how to grow your business isn’t just a worthy goal; growing your business is often a necessity for your business’s survival and your economic well-being. What can you do to get your business beyond the bare sustenance level? What can you do to turn it into the income-generating powerhouse you envision? Try one or more of these growth strategies. All have been successfully used by other businesses and, with some planning and investment, will work for you.
When you think about how to grow your business, the first thing that probably comes to mind is getting new customers. But the customers you already have are your best bet for increasing your sales; it’s easier and more cost-effective to get people who are already buying from you to buy more than to find new customers and persuade them to buy from you. See 6 Sure Ways to Increase Sales and 10 Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Business for more.
That's not to say that getting new customers is a bad approach. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. But notice the verb. Having good products and great customer service and just assuming that your customers are passing the word about your business isn’t going to do much to increase your customer base; you have to actively seek referrals. During or after every job or sale, ask your satisfied customer if he knows anyone else who would be interested in your products or services.
Discovering and promoting new uses for your products or services is a great way to both get existing customers to buy more and attract new customers. Think petroleum jelly and duct tape—and how few of these would actually be sold if they only had one use!
4. Extend your market reach.
There are several ways of growing your business by making your product or service available to a new pool of customers.
The most obvious is to open stores in new locations, such as opening a store or kiosk in a new town. New locations can also be virtual, such as a website with an online store. Another approach is to extend your reach through advertising. Once you’ve identified a new market, you might advertise in select media that targets that market. If your new market consists of a younger demographic, you may want to use social media for advertising, (See How to Create a Social Media Plan.)
5. Participate in trade shows.
Trade shows can be a great way to grow too. Because trade shows draw people who are already interested in the type of product or service you offer, they can powerfully improve your bottom line. The trick is to select the trade shows you participate in carefully, seeking the right match for your product or service. Trade Show Tips will help you get the best return on your investment.
Remember the analogy of the big fish in the small pond? That’s essentially how this strategy for growing your business works. The niche market is the pond; a narrowly defined group of customers. Think of them as a subset whose needs are not being met and concentrate on meeting those unmet needs.
A nursery, for instance, might specialize in roses while a home design business might focus on window treatments.
7. Contain your costs.
Surprised? Bear in mind that when we’re talking about growing your business, we’re actually talking about growing your business’s bottom line. And the difference between pre-tax and post-tax money can make this a very effective growth strategy. There are two main approaches to cutting costs; liquidating your “loser” products and improving your inventory turnover. 10 Ways to Cut Business Costs provides details on these two strategies and more.
8. Diversify your products or services.
The key to successful growth through diversification is similarity. You want to focus on the related needs of your already established market or on market segments with similar needs and characteristics.
An artist might also sell frames and framing services, for instance. Or a mountain bike rental business might switch to renting skis and snowshoes in the winter season.
The stories of entrepreneurs who have become both well known and well heeled due to franchising their small businesses are legion - and not just stories. If you have a successful business and can develop a system that ensures that others can duplicate your success, franchising may be the fast track for growing your business. Is Franchising the Business for You?
Expanding into international markets can also be a powerful boost to your business’s bottom line. Like franchising, this is a way of growing your business that requires quite a commitment of time and resources, but can be extremely rewarding. How to Develop an Export Marketing Plan outlines the process of getting into exporting if this way of growing your business interests you.
Time to Grow
There you have it; how to grow your business. Don’t let this list overwhelm you; pick one or two of these ideas that are suitable to your business and your circumstances and get your plan for growing your business underway. Quick-Start Business Planning will get you started.
While you probably won’t experience growth right away, whichever way of expanding your business you choose, you will see progress if you keep at it, and will successfully transform your business into all you want it to be.