One of the most frequent questions asked around business growth is ‘how to grow my business fast?’. The answer is there is no shortcut to success. Remember the old saying Rome is not built in a day? However, there is definitely wiser and more tactical ways of doing business that can ensure growth. Proper planning and growth strategy are must to build a sustainable business. According to Counselors to America’s Small Business website, 78% of small businesses fail due to lack of a well developed business and insufficient information on the industry and competitors. Some of the other reasons for failure include competition, poor management, economic circumstances etc.
In this article, when we try to understand how to grow a business, we are in turn looking at ways to prevent failure. This will help you organize your business plan to acquire new customers and get more business from the existing.
The growth tactics to be used depends on what stage of the business you are in. My points of discussion will mostly refer to businesses which are already operational. For new businesses, the whole business dynamics works differently. So here we go.
Do your research
One of the biggest threats to any business is competition. Studying your competition can help you in the following ways:
- The latest industry trends and areas of investment.
- How well they are doing in terms of market position and financial performance.
- What causes their success or failure in different streams of business. This will help you to adopt successful techniques and methods they have used.
- Determine the gaps existing in the market.
Analyzing competition also includes understanding their online presence and reach. Tools like SEMRush, Stat, Similarweb.com etc. can help to see who your competitors are and how well they are doing online. To study the social media presence of your competitors, True Social Metrics is very useful.
But as obvious it is, research goes much beyond this. It involves researching customer behavior, competitor pricing, estimating market size, competitor product portfolio, promotion techniques commonly used in the industry etc. The list can go on and on. To organize your research, it is a good idea to break it down to smaller steps or components. Define your overall goal as the business problem. An example for this could be ‘improve sales in APAC region’. The business goal can be further broken down into research problems such as ‘find out the reasons for low sales’, ‘determine the best marketing channel for APAC’, ‘understand what is the most demanding service in the geography’ etc. Under each research problem, various points to be researched can be listed. This will help in systematically collating all the research findings and utilize them for framing/altering the business model and plan.
Build and sustain marketing channels
This is inevitable, but at the same time can drain the budget of a company, if not planned well. The key lies in identifying the right channel for each type of business. There are a variety of marketing channels you can choose from, and this will also depend on your business, product/services offered, target audience/consumers etc. An FMCG company would want to leverage TV ads as one of the promotion channels, but not a service oriented company like an IT firm. Both the type of companies can use online marketing strategies like SEO, social media, email marketing etc. Some of the other marketing channels include workshops, events, trade fairs, conferences etc.
To know more about choosing marketing channels, have a look at Choosing the right marketing channels for your business. If you are a budding organization and want to know more about creating an ad you may look at The process of creating an advertisement in 9 simple steps.
A lot of marketeers focus so much on building their marketing channel, but fail to sustain it in a way that brings long term benefits to the business. When it comes to sustaining a marketing channel, longevity is important, which means the channel should reach the target audience frequently. So companies have to wisely distribute their budget to ensure the following:
- To keep the channel active for a longer duration
- To optimize the expenditure in each of the channels
Marketeers and brand managers need to take utmost care to ensure that they are able to reach their potential customer not just in the initial phase of a product/offering release, but throughout its lifecycle. Following are a few steps for sustaining your marketing channels:
- Create your content for the long term: A good idea for marketing content to stay relevant is to build it to convey a message for long term (at least six months). Because a company is very unlikely to have enough budget to carry out a promotion every now and then.
- Keep your customer engaged: This is one of the toughest things to do. It might not be wise to send a ton of emails just to promote your product/service. So how do you keep your consumers engaged? You can do this through sharing your newsletters, hosting events or contests, sending free content relevant to your industry, collecting regular feedback etc.
- Update your content: Creating content for the long term doesn’t mean not updating it. Any content becomes irrelevant because of change in product portfolio or features, pricing and other strategic reasons. So keep updating your content based on such changes.
- See what your competition is doing: This is one of the easiest ways of devising your marketing strategy. Look at what the best in the industry are doing. Take what would be useful and relevant for your business.
Keeping your marketing channels active through other means than just selling will help to improve brand loyalty and improve repurchase rate.
Innovation is a widely used term nowadays. There is a common misconception that innovation is about introducing a completely new product line or technology. And many business professionals and entrepreneurs tend to believe that they always have to spend millions of dollars on innovation. This is not the case as innovation can be at different levels as shown below
- Product/technology: Here, it’s not always about developing a new product or technology, it also includes product modification , product extension and developing service offerings using a new technology.
- Branding and promotion: Many companies, especially FMCG companies keep coming up with innovative ads that catch consumers’ attention. The Vodafone zoozoo ad is a classic example. Also, marketeers employ several new techniques to improve reach and impact. Branding using virtual concierge kiosks is a good example
- Pricing: There are many ways to bring innovation to the pricing of your product/service. For a product, it is usually limited to discounts, combo pricing, use of coupons etc. In the case of a service, companies can use a combination of fixed and variable pricing to attract customers. To know more about pricing models have a look at Comparison of pricing models
- Process: This is more internal to the organization. Process innovation is used with an aim to improve productivity & efficiency, increase resource utilization, improve speed to market etc. Since internal process innovations can lead to faster product release and service delivery, it has a significant impact on customer satisfaction as well.
- Culture: Cultural innovations are done with a long term view to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility among employees. It is necessary for an organization – small or big – to keep their employees warm and feel a sense of partnership than participation. Cultural activities, training and certifications, team outings etc are ways to develop good culture. To know how to improve culture in your organization please read 10 dead simple ways to improve your company culture
Build and strengthen your sales funnel
This is a very challenging task, especially for startup organizations. Building a sales funnel primarily requires establishing your sales goals. This will depend on the budget as well as business priorities. Once the sales goals are established, hiring sales people, preferably with industry experience is the next step. One common strategy adopted while hiring is to look for people who already have enough contacts in the company’s business domain. After putting together a good team , these following steps need to be followed to develop a solid sales funnel:
- Prepare your TL (target list): Out of the customer segments the business has identified, the target list has to be prepared based on the product/service you are offering, geographical presence, business domain and your available marketing resources.
- Be prepared with content and prototypes: A common mistake a lot of sales people make is that they aggressively go about getting new leads, but forget to prepare themselves with points to pitch. The sales people have to be always ready with relevant content and proof points the customer might want to discuss. A first level interaction usually hovers around knowing the company and its product and services.
- Decide and design your sales channels: This works in collaboration with point #2 of the article – building and sustaining marketing channels. You can create customer leads through email communication, LinkedIn campaigns, cold calling (or inside sales) etc. In large organizations, usually the marketing team helps to monitor the results from these efforts using various tools. However, in small organizations, the sales team might be vested with both the responsibilities.
- Engage and convert: Once you setup your channels, the main aim should be to stay constantly in touch with the customer, follow up leads, setup business interactions and eventually convert a lead. Sales people need to ensure that they follow up after their first meeting, as studies show that only 2% of first level interactions have resulted in a business deal. Making a good sales pitch is also very critical. If you wish to know more about it please have a look at How to make a good sales pitch.
Maintain a good customer relationship
Managing customer relationship effectively provides your business with both short term and long term benefits. Short term benefits include improved customer experience and satisfaction, more credibility in the industry, improved customer survey rankings etc. Long term benefits mostly have direct positive impact on your business. They include future business from existing customers, new business through customer referrals and market performance, analyst mentions, increased brand value etc.
Maintaining your customer relationship smoothly is not easy as it sounds. It requires a combination of techniques and approaches to reach a mature level. Following are the essential elements for a good customer relationship:
- Understanding the customer type: Every customer is unique and understanding his/her type is key to designing your pitch. To know more about customer types and how to effectively manage them, have a look at The curious case of customer relationship.
- Preparing yourself: This is about preparing your people and other resources ready to serve and interact with the customer. This could include developing your capabilities, training employees to be customer friendly, modifying company processes to suit customer needs and establishing proper communication methods.
- Give something back to your customer: Customers encourage their vendors to come up with suggestions to improve their business. So when a customer is a revenue generator for you, give something back other than your service to them. This could be in the form of business advice/business consulting, cost savings, innovation, partnering with them in their initiatives etc.
Every organization has to have practices in place for problem resolution as well, which becomes very critical when the customer faces a crisis. More care is required if the problem is business critical. This topic is very vast and needs to be looked at in detail. You can read about ways to improve customer relationship in 10 ways to improve your customer relationship.
Here in this article, I have covered only points other than those related to the daily operations of your business. Maintaining your daily business is equally important. But my intention was to look at ways that can have a direct impact on business growth.
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