17 February 2014

Small business growth strategies

You've launched your business and it's going well, but how do you keep it growing and improving? Here are some tips to include in your growth strategy.

If you run a small business or have just started your own, at some point – if you haven’t already - you’ll need to plan how you’re going to grow your business. We’ve outlined some of the methods you could consider to increase your sales and boost your overall profit.

Increase your sales

  • Know your existing customers. One of the easiest ways to increase sales in the long term is to generate repeat business from your existing customers. Using a database or a customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you get to know your customers better and build up a relationship with them. It can help you to follow up enquiries and promote your business, allowing you to target e-newsletters or special offers to specific customers.
  • Get referrals. Use your existing customers to help you build your business. Whether they’re word of mouth or online reviews or referrals, opinions from other customers can be a deciding factor when people are choosing what service provider to use or product to buy.
  • Sell to a new customer base. If you product or service is currently based in one region, consider expanding your reach to other locations or exporting to different countries. Or, if you haven’t already, take the plunge and sell your products online.
  • Market your business in a different way. Find new ways to market your services, such as guest speaking or teaching, which can showcase your product or service first hand.
  • Create alliances. When you find a great supplier or subcontractor you can trust and who share your values and ethos, stay loyal to them. Creating a rewarding and collaborative relationship will benefit you both and help you to thrive. Alternatively, consider trying to create partnerships with a company that offers complementary services to yours.

Focus on your product

  • Focus on value or quality. When you started your business, you probably spent a lot of time looking into your sector and your competition. It is important that you offer your customers great value for money but don’t get obsessed with making sure your prices are lowest. There will always be another company willing to undercut you but if you slash your prices too low, you risk underselling yourself and working at a loss. It is also very difficult to put your prices back up once you’ve dropped them. Concentrate on offering a quality product or service that your customers value.
  • Diversify your offering. Depending on the type of business you run, you could expand the services or products you offer. These might be complementary to your existing offering or something entirely new.

Processes and infrastructure

When considering business growth, it’s not all about sales. You need to make sure your business is profitable and that you can cope with the increasing demand for your products or services.

  • Take on (more) staff. Sometimes it’s time, or rather a lack of it, that prevents your business from growing the way you want it to. If this is the case, you may need to consider hiring staff to help you focus on what you do best.
  • Keep overheads low. Don’t make the mistake of spending too much too soon and always make sure your overheads are manageable. It is important that you start off small and manageable and then grow when you can afford to. Our flexible terms allow you to take on a workspace without having to commit to a long term lease. This means you can start with an affordable base and then quickly and easily move to one of our larger units as your business expands.
  • Look at ways to improve efficiency.  If there are repetitive and time-consuming tasks that form part of your day-to-day business, look at introducing automated processes to handle them. Using your time wisely is key when you’re focusing on business growth.
  • Consider asking for cash up front. If you’re expanding your business, cash flow is vitally important. Consider asking for payment or at least part-payment for projects or goods in advance to keep a steady stream of money coming in and minimise the risk of not getting paid or having to spend a long time chasing unpaid invoices. It may seem awkward but it has become increasingly common, especially for small businesses, since the start of the economic crisis.