Aiming to expand? We have 8 small business growth strategies to plot a successful future for your company.
First, we’ll cover the definition of business growth strategies and the different types of approaches to growing your business, including:
- Tracking your performance
- Optimizing your marketing message
- Focusing on your ideal customer
- Developing multimedia content
- Standardizing sales processes
- Focusing on follow-up
- Prioritizing customer retention
- Leveraging automation
Then we’ll outline several high-leverage tactics to increase your bottom line.
Business Growth Strategies: A Definition
What is a business growth strategy? A company’s growth can be measured in terms of multiple factors that relate to the expansion or improvement of performance. These include:
- A rise in sales and revenue
- An increase in the number of customers
- The expansion of market share
- A decrease in expenses
- An increase in profits
This is a plan for achieving growth in one or more of these areas or related areas. To illustrate a business plan for growth strategy with an example, consider how a family business might pursue growth strategies to expand their existing location.
After 5 years of running a successful family-owned Mexican restaurant, the business owner does some market research and determines that a second location in another part of town might do well.
Some additional research identifies the best spot to open a new restaurant and the menu options most likely to be popular with local customers. The owner launches the new restaurant with a marketing campaign themed around Cinco de Mayo, offering discounts on house specials. To promote the campaign, the restaurant partners with other local businesses to distribute coupons and social media posts announcing the upcoming event.
The Cinco de Mayo launch creates a customer base for the new location. This base soon increases through word-of-mouth marketing and follow-up events, quickly making the new restaurant locally competitive.
Types of Business Growth Strategies
Business growth and expansion strategies can be classified using several different approaches. One way to group strategies is to divide them into methods of growing a company through internal expansion versus growing a company through external acquisition:
- Organic business growth strategies build a company through internal methods, such as increased marketing activity
- Inorganic business growth strategies expand a company through external methods, such as mergers and acquisitions.
Another way to classify strategies is by organizing them around a company’s relationship to its target market. Strategies classified this way include:
- Increasing the market share for an existing product or service (market penetration)
- Expansion into new segments of a market
- Development of new products and services to fill a specialized market niche
- Diversification into a new market by introducing products and services distinct from the company’s core brand
A third way to classify business growth strategies is in terms of business function. Several fundamental business functions tend to drive growth:
- Marketing strategies for business growth through customer acquisition
- Sales strategies for customer sales conversions
- Customer service strategies for customer retention
The 8 strategies below represent some of the most efficient ways to expand your business through marketing, sales and customer service optimization.
1. Track Your Performance
Tracking your business growth lays a foundation for effectively managing growth. When you track your business performance, you can set measurable goals, monitor progress, identify shortcomings and make adjustments.
A best practice for tracking growth is to select key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure your performance. KPIs you can track include:
- Marketing KPIs, such as:
- Sales revenue generated per marketing campaign
- Cost of lead per acquisition
- How much web traffic each of your marketing channels are generating
- Sales KPIs, such as:
- Sales revenue target performance
- Ratio of sales costs to sales revenue
- Sales conversion rates
- Customer service KPIs, such as:
- Customer satisfaction scores
- How likely customers are to recommend your brand to others
- Percent of service tickets that get resolved on first contact
For maximum efficiency, track these KPIs by using a business intelligence software tool that syncs with your marketing, sales and customer-service software. Some marketing, sales and customer-service apps have built-in analytics tools.
2. Optimize Your Marketing Message
How you express your marketing message has a direct impact on your marketing performance. The wording of your marketing message determines who your promotions will attract, what benefits you will communicate to them and how they will perceive your brand.
To optimize your marketing efforts, develop an effective unique selling proposition (USP). A USP communicates 3 essential things which make a product, service or brand stand out from competitors:
- What your brand offers to customers
- Why customers should want what you offer
- Why they should buy it from you instead of someone else
For example, consider the classic FedEx slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” At a time when overnight delivery was less commonplace than it is today, this made FedEx stand out from competitors who didn’t offer this service.
As this example illustrates, a good USP should be short enough that it can be used in ads and other marketing material where time and space are limited. Take care to select words that capture crucial components of your marketing message, such as what need your product or service solves, who your brand helps or what benefits you offer.
3. Focus on Your Ideal Customer
To be effective and avoid wasting money, your marketing campaigns need to focus on the right audience. An effective technique for zeroing in on your target audience is to develop a profile of your ideal customer. An ideal buyer profile helps you highlight:
- Who your best customers are
- Where you can find them
- What they want
- How you can make your product or service appeal to them
A good way to develop your ideal buyer profile is to analyze your current best customers and identify their key traits. You can then focus your marketing on attracting customers with similar traits.
Using a customer profile template can make this easier by simplifying the process of developing a buyer profile. Social media tools such as Facebook Audience Insights can help you automate the process of defining your ideal buyer and finding prospects with matching characteristics.
4. Develop Multimedia Content
Marketers now spend more on digital advertising than on conventional ads, based on data from market-research provider eMarketer. A large chunk of this is spent on video ads. Advertiser spending on video ads will increase by 18% a year between now and 2021, compared with 10% growth for other types of internet advertising, according to Zenith Media. This will make video ad spending as large as one-third of television ad spending. To stay competitive in this advertising environment, it’s critical for brands to develop multimedia content.
Multimedia content can include a mix of:
- Social media posts
- Blog posts
- Mobile text marketing
- Email marketing
- Conventional media channels such as print, TV and radio
For best results, use your various media channels to reinforce each other. For instance, you can use social media posts to drive audiences to your website to read your blog posts and subscribe to your email list.
5. Standardize Your Sales Process
Business growth ultimately depends on increasing sales revenue. The best way to consistently increase sales results is to develop a standardized sales process that works. To standardize your sales process, start by defining the steps in your process.
Typical steps include:
- Capturing contact information from leads
- Setting sales appointments or getting a prospect to visit a sales page
- Building trust and rapport with the prospect
- Identifying the prospect’s needs
- Communicating benefits to the prospect
- Making a closing offer
- Answering sales objections
- Following up if the prospect doesn’t make an immediate purchase
- Generating repeat sales and referrals
For each step in your sales process, develop a standard operating procedure describe what your representatives should do for each step. Developing and testing sales scripts for each stage in the process can help improve your results and generate consistent revenue.
6. Focus on the Follow-Up
Relatively few sales close during the first sales contact. For business-to-business email marketing, it may take as many as 7 to 13 contacts with a prospect to close a sale, according to Microsoft data analyzed by the Online Marketing Institute. The process can include multiple emails, direct mailings, telephone calls and live appointments.
The follow-up also is critical to generating repeat sales and referrals, which can multiply your sales revenue. This means that an effective sales team must focus on following up with customers.
The best way to improve your follow-up is to build it into your standardized sales process. Define what follow-up actions team members should take if a sale fails to close. Additionally, lay out what actions they should take to generate repeat business and referrals after a sale does close. Create sales scripts to facilitate follow-up procedures.
7. Prioritize Customer Retention
Attracting new customers can prove expensive. Once you have a customer, you can continue promoting products and services to them as long as they remain satisfied with your business. This makes retaining your current customers through superior service one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies available.
Techniques you can implement to improve customer retention include:
- Tracking KPIs that measure customer service
- Shortening customer wait time on service tickets
- Offering free and priority shipping options
- Extending discounts and special offers to loyal customers
- Soliciting customer service feedback
8. Leverage Automation
Many of the strategies above can be implemented more efficiently by employing automation. Automation tools that can promote business growth include:
- Business intelligence analytics tools to help you monitor and plan your company’s growth
- Marketing automation platforms to save you time on routine tasks such as uploading content to social media profiles and sending email autoresponder messages
- Customer-relationship management (CRM) software to store contact information, track sales activity and personalize sales efforts
- Customer service automation tools, such as:
- Knowledge-base software, which provides your staff and customers with information to assist with customer service issues
- Chatbots, which provide automated online service to website visitors
- Interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which automate phone service
These types of tools can be deployed individually or integrated for streamlined performance. For instance, sharing customer data from a CRM service with your IVR system can automate the process of pulling up caller account information, speeding up your customer service and improving customer satisfaction.
Applying Business Growth Strategies
In the long run, you may wish to apply all of these strategies. In the short term, however, it might be more practical to implement a handful of these strategies at a time and build them into your everyday business workflow before adding other ones.
To decide which strategy to deploy first, consider whether your business growth would benefit most from improvements in marketing, sales or customer-service performance. Select and implement a strategy related to your top need first.
In the process, you can begin tracking key performance indicators in the area you select. Meanwhile, you can begin considering software that would help you implement your new strategy efficiently. This will give you experience with using KPIs and automation to improve your performance in a single area of your business. Once you’ve made gains in one area, you can use this as a foundation to replicate your success in other areas of your business.