How can you grow your business with a limited budget and workforce? There are loads of different strategies and tactics open to you in terms of driving growth. This comprehensive guide covers a range of processes that will help you along the way. Beginning with marketing your business, the guide will move on to discuss sales, competitor research, recruitment, team management, and funding.
As a smaller firm, marketing your business can be a really difficult job! You’ve got to build awareness and demand for your product or service, but don’t feel overwhelmed – this can be approached from a number of angles.
First things first, you’ll need to come up with a solid marketing strategy. There’s no need to worry, though, as this guide will take you through this. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s also important to keep your costs low and ensure a reasonable return on investment. You’ll find tips on this below.
So, you need to establish a marketing strategy. Given that you want to expand and penetrate the market, we can describe this using some business jargon: you’re following a “generic growth strategy”.
Whilst the specifics of your strategy will evolve with your business, there are a few important decisions to make before you go any further. Segmentation, targeting, and positioning is a phrase you might have heard of, so we’ll start with that.
Who will your brand target? The first thing to do is to split up the market for your product or service into “segments” based on characteristics such as demographics, behaviour, and interests. The “segments” part is why we call this process segmentation.
You’ll then need to select consumer segments with similar traits who will respond to your marketing activities in similar ways. Some brands choose to target small, niche segments, whilst others target the mass market.
Although it may seem like a good idea to target larger segments to increase the number of potential customers, remember that it's less expensive and more effective to target a small, defined group of consumers with similar tastes.
Now that you’ve selected the segments that your business will focus on, the next step is to decide how to position your offering. Positioning refers to how you want your target segments to perceive your products or services.
To help you understand positioning, think of the difference between two car brands: Bentley and Vauxhall. Whereas Bentley is positioned as a high-end, luxury choice, Vauxhall is positioned as an economical, family-focused brand.
If you can, try to differentiate your business from similar existing brands. Write down a list of the brands that fall into this category. Now, pause for a moment and think about how you can stand out from this crowd of businesses.
Once you’ve had a chance to think, write down your thoughts. Make an effort to refine this to articulate clearly how your brand will be different to the others out there. This is your unique selling proposition or USP, another phrase that you might have heard of before.
With your USP in mind, we’re now going to come up with your positioning statement. This should be a short written statement that describes how your potential customers should perceive your brand in an ideal world.
You’ve got some of the core elements of your strategy sorted by this point. The next thing to do is to think about what you want to achieve and come up with some objectives – this is the whole point of having a strategy, after all.
When you’re writing down your objectives, make sure that each and every one of them is SMART. This means that every objective should be: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
“Getting more sales” isn’t an example of a SMART objective. That said, we can turn this into a SMART objective pretty quickly by adding a few extra details: “increasing sales in the flagship store by 5% during the first quarter”, now that’s a SMART objective.
With your objectives down on paper, it’s time to work on how you’ll achieve them. Your strategy includes your objectives and all of the core elements of your business. The techniques you use to attain these objectives are your marketing tactics.
Now it’s time to decide on the tactics you’re going to use. Everything you do in marketing should be based on your strategy and geared towards accomplishing your objectives. For example, you outlined your positioning statement earlier. How are you going to convince your target segments to see your brand in this way?
You can get your positioning across and achieve growth using the 4Ps – product, promotion, price, and place. Think of these elements as the marketer’s toolkit. They can also be a useful checklist for your marketing tactics, ensuring that you’ve got all the bases covered.
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve probably got your product or service in place already. However, there are still things to sort out in relation to your product. Think about the practical benefits that your product provides and how you want it to be perceived on an emotional level (both of these elements should feed into your positioning statement, so you can return to that now if necessary).
Take the example of the clothing company, North Face. What are the practical and emotional elements of this brand’s offering? Its products are high-quality, high-performance items in themselves, but the way North Face is positioned through advertising and other communications also conveys a sense of boldness and adventure.
This brings us on to the second P: promotion. This term covers all of the content that you’ll use to promote your brand, from your company site to the ads you put out. All of your promotional efforts should help to support your positioning, reflecting the positioning statement that you perfected earlier.
The aim is to promote your brand in a cost-effective manner, so how and where are you going to advertise? To find out more about this sort of stuff, check out our guides on marketing for small businesses and where to advertise your business.
The price you charge is pretty important in terms of your marketing tactics – it should help to reinforce your strategy, too. If you are positioned as a high-end, luxury brand, then the price you select should reflect this. Other brands might position themselves as the best value choice and will price their products accordingly.
We can all recognise that price has a psychological effect. Just as the way you look at other brands will be based partly on price, the price you choose will alter how consumers perceive your brand. It’s not always the best option to compete on price – a slightly higher price can suggest quality and attract customers with disposable income.
Place is the last element in your marketing toolkit. By place, we mean where and how you will sell your product or service. Are you solely an e-commerce company or a physical store (or some combination of the above)?
Where you choose to sell will affect how your brand is perceived and the level of return you can make on sales. Selling online is clearly cheaper than selling in a physical store, but there are benefits to both types of approach. Ultimately, most firms choose to sell through multiple channels.
Lots of people think of sales and marketing as the same thing. Don’t worry if this is you – it’s an incredibly common mistake to make. Depending on the type of business you run, your sales techniques may be more or less related to your marketing strategy and tactics.
Think about different types of businesses. Those that sell and promote their goods purely online might not need salespeople to generate leads and definitely don’t need retail staff to represent the brand in stores. For other businesses, a sales or retail team may be necessary to encourage prospects to purchase.
For companies that employ a salesforce, the most important factor is making sure that your salespeople understand your customers' wants, needs, and pain points. This sounds horrible (and yes, it is a horrible example of business jargon), but it’s actually pretty nice.
Your salespeople need to understand the problems that prospects experience and how your business can help to solve those problems. If they can get across how your product or service solves problems for the customer in a compelling and persuasive manner, then they should have no issues making sales!
Does your business employ retail staff? If so, your primary sales-related aim should be to improve your customer service. Make sure that your staff members are trained to be responsive, assuring, reliable, and empathetic to your customers’ needs. In addition to providing training, it’s a great idea to put down on paper what you expect from your retail staff in some sort of company literature (maybe a handbook).
The physical elements of the retail environment you create are also vital. Staff should always look presentable and professional – this is another point to put down in your literature as a way of avoiding arguments in the future. Your stores themselves should also be kept clean and tidy whilst conveying your brand’s identity.
Competitor research is another important element of growing your business. All of the business decisions you make – including those which relate to marketing and sales – should be based on the stuff you know about how your competitors operate and what has worked for them.
The positioning of your brand, for example, should be based on differentiating yourself from existing competitor brands. It is clear that you can only achieve this with knowledge of how your competitors are positioned, so make sure you do your homework!
There are many factors to focus on when researching your competitors. How are their products or services positioned, priced, and promoted? Where do your competitors sell their products or services? How much do they sell and who do they target? How large are your competitors and what are their objectives?
All of these details can help you in your quest to grow your business. The key is to find out as much relevant information as possible and to keep checking back with your competitors as time goes on.
The types of techniques you use to research your competitors will vary depending on the information you want to find out. There are plenty of easy-to-use tools that allow you to check out how your competitors are marketing themselves online (see, for example, SimilarWeb). These’ll let you view the digital marketing channels used by your competitors and see which ad formats have brought them the most success.
Depending on the size of your competitors, some basic online research could reveal details such as how much your competitors are selling, their pricing strategies, and how they position themselves. It should also be easy enough to identify where your competitors are selling their goods, although getting access to a breakdown of their sales figures may be difficult or even impossible.
By snooping on your competitors’ public marketing communications, you can determine how best to differentiate your brand from others. Other options are available to find out about your competitors’ reputations, the most obvious of which is to do some research on social media (checking Twitter can count as work!)
Lots of people will tell you that the route to business growth begins with a strong recruitment process, and they’re not wrong. Getting the right people working for you can pave the way for development and is essential for when you do manage to expand.
You’ve got to think about your company objectives here: how much growth do you want to achieve and in what sort of timespan? What level of skill will your employees require to help you attain your aims? You’ll need to do your homework here. Check online to find out how much you should be paying to secure the experience and talent that you require.
For smaller companies, using online job search sites can be a highly cost-effective means of finding the right people. It’s generally pretty easy to set yourself up on these sites and they can be a quick way of finding the best candidates for the job. If you want to meet potential candidates face-to-face, then attending recruitment fairs can be a great alternative.
It’s important to plan for the entire recruitment process beyond finding applicants (or enabling them to find you). Think about the methods that you’ll use to determine who is right for the positions on offer – what will your initial application look like, for example?
After this point, how many rounds of interviewing will each candidate undergo? Will there be any preliminary tasks for them to complete? Consider the costs you will incur at each stage of the process. Many firms are now opting for online video interviews to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of recruitment.
Once you’ve employed the right staff, a large part of your business growth will be down to how you manage them. The right people in the wrong work environment and with the wrong management can fail to achieve their potential.
One aspect of your job as a business owner is to train managers to foster productivity and commitment in those who report into them. These guys need to be able to communicate objective effectively and set a good example through their own work.
As well as ensuring that the day-to-day management of staff is effective, it’s important for you to think of the long-term incentives that you use to motivate your employees. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is just about wages – successful incentivisation is about more than just wages!
Share-ownership schemes can help to encourage your staff to work towards profitability and care more about the business. More short term benefits such as team rewards and employee recognition schemes can boost productivity and help employees to feel proud of their work. Remember that all of the incentives you provide will also help your business to retain talented staff as it grows.
For many smaller firms, it’s likely that none of this growth will be possible without the right level of investment. As you’re probably aware already, acquiring funding can be a difficult process and there are many different options open to small businesses.
An increasingly common way of obtaining funds is to crowdsource online. This involves asking large groups of people for small investments in your business through a platform such as KickStarter. People pledge small amounts of money to your business – some companies offer a small reward in exchange for this money, whilst others offer no reward.
Alternatively, you could fund your business through more traditional means. You should check if you’re eligible for any government grants that could help your business to develop. Other options include looking for angel investors, venture capitalists, or funding circles to invest.
BizSpace have a number of resources to help you out here. Check out the definitive guide to raising finance for your business or see the guides specifically devoted to angel investors and venture capital.
Hopefully, you’ve found this guide to be interesting and useful. If and when your business grows, you may require work premises. BizSpace offers high-quality, flexible workspaces in 106 different locations in the UK. Whether you need an office, a studio, or a workshop, choose BizSpace.