As I said previously, there are hundreds of strategies for business growth and it’s worth mentioning again that there are many people out there who are eager to take your money for the latest quick growth “fix” and “revolutionary programs,” so please be careful.
Below I am going to outline 5 simple growth strategies and I am going to assume that you have created a basic growth plan that ensures:
- You have a solid sales and marketing strategy, that is based upon deep market research.
- You have the finance to facilitate and fund the growth.
- You have the people, systems, and other infrastructure in place (or a plan to implement).
- You have conducted a risk assessment.
So, let’s get straight into it:
#1. “Turnover for sanity, profit for vanity” – this is an old saying that is worth highlighting because many companies and owners become obsessed with top line sales figures and at the expense of overall profit. Take stock of where you are today and in terms of both operating or gross margins and net margins. You do not want to double your turnover and half your profits! You may experience some margin erosion as you grow, but you need to keep an eye on it. I managed to maintain most of my margin as I grew my business, but it was a challenge that required discipline.
#2. There is growth potential within your existing customer base – don’t ignore your existing customers as you strive for growth. I found that my obsession to find new customers, distracted me from the ones that were currently paying more than the bills and who had many opportunities within them. This was pointed out to me through a mentor, who kept reminding me that I could probably increase my sales by 10%, just through delving deeper and hunting for more business within my existing customer base. He was right. Your existing customers know you, trust you and are paying you – focus on them first.
#3. Move up the value chain – you must have a clear profile of the customers you wish to attract. If you are selling to corporate clients, (B2B) then you need to work “top down,” starting with the CEO. The CEO/executive leadership team holds the ultimate responsibility for the success of failure of the business. They are open to fresh thinking and new ideas, from anyone who can provide them, so don’t be intimidated and connect with them. Be aware that you must have a clear value proposition that is well thought-through and do your homework before trying to connect at this level. If you are dealing directly with the public (B2C), then you must ensure that you are targeting the right people, so take the time to understand the profile of your ideal customer. Right now, I am working with an online business in the US, who supplies gift boxes, and they had a “scattergun” approach. By taking the time to conduct some in-depth market research, we created an ideal customer profile and by targeting corporate executive leaders, who were interested in high-end, or upscale gift boxes for their clients and key employees, their overall margins were significantly increased.
#4. Deliver the best customer experience – this goes way beyond customer service. Be mindful of the entire experience any customer has with your company and make sure that each customer “touchpoint” is carefully thought out and the experience is excellent and consistent. I learned a lot about this aspect of business while living in the US and I must say that it puts the UK idea of customer experience to shame…in the most cases anyway! Right across the board and whether buying a car (where on one occasion the salesman told me to bring it back if I don’t like it and they will change it), dining out or simply ordering something online, the level of service and the overall customer experience was excellent. Always try to go the extra mile and be consistent. This is a critical aspect of solid growth.
#5. Find profitable niches – If you look hard enough, you can find profitable niches in almost any market, just like in the gift box example I talked about above. Take the time to thoroughly research and understand your market and look at everything from the customer perspective. You will more than likely find a need for a high-value service. If you are a law firm for example, you may want to target high net-worth individuals who need a more custom/personal service, which comes at a price, or you may want to create a regular recurring revenue model that charges retainers to corporate clients to provide them with a predictable legal cost model, which acts more like an insurance policy. You just need to be creative in your thinking and bold in your approach!
There is nothing more satisfying in business that to see your company grow…and profitably.
It takes hard work, discipline, and creativity, but it can be achieved by anyone and in any market, if you take the time to conduct thorough research and prepare the foundation.
Next month I am going to talk about creating an exit strategy for your business, something that every business owner has in the back of their mind and when you can finally “cash out” and enjoy the fruits of your hard work and success!