Small businesses are usually looking for ways to expand their operations, revenue, and profit. Knowing where to commit time and financial resources are key decisions for small businesses looking to maximize the opportunities to add more customers and sales.
Businesses should consider the impacts of technology investments, staffing strategies, marketing approaches, and small business funding options when thinking about effective growth strategies.
Here is a closer look at each approach for a business eyeing expansion.
You need a staffing strategy that reflects where you are today and where you expect to be in the near future. Often, that means having multiple strategies in play at the same time.
Long-term strategies should identify and address staffing needs over a five-year period, factoring in the needs for larger corporate initiatives and goals. This strategy should reflect anticipated needs and the kinds of talent and skills that will be needed to meet those needs.
Short-term strategies for staffing are designed for meeting objectives within a particular planning period. In both cases, benchmarks should be established that help determine progress toward the goals outlined in the strategies and that can be used to make adjustments or corrections throughout the plan.
It is often easier to remain within a short-term perspective, generally in response to a sense of immediacy or urgency in filling needs. However, an overreliance on short-term strategy is usually reactive, not proactive.
There is also a real cost to organizations that hire to complete a short-term or seasonal need, only to then dismiss those employees, then rehire them the next time a project arises. The time and expense of interviewing, hiring, onboarding, training, and letting these employees go is a considerable drain on resources, especially when the pattern repeats itself.
Marketing is a pivotal component of revenue growth and expansion. Knowing where to allocate precious marketing dollars is important. Determining the marketing strategy to use often takes trial and error. It also depends on having a clear understanding of some basics about your current and potential customer bases, including:
- What are the demographic foundations – age, gender, race, national origin, sexual identity?
- Where do they live and what do they do for work?
- What do they do, read, and consume? What social media platforms do they frequent?
- Who or what influences their purchase decisions?
- For what products and services in your business are they looking?
Developing customer and buyer personas allows you to better target the type of marketing and the delivery mechanism that will be most impactful to them.
Here are a few marketing approaches to consider.
- Email marketing. Arguably the cornerstone of digital marketing, email is the natural way to attract customers. In crafting an email strategy, remember that customers will likely not be making a purchase on their first visit. Your initial campaigns should compel would-be customers to visit and gain value, whether through a giveaway, access to information, or another perk. Ideally, you should capture sign-up information that allows you to follow up.
- Print advertising. Print still lives and should be a part of your broader marketing strategy, whether it is advertising buys or pitching stories or contributing articles. Print materials, especially in niche publications, are still an effective way to gain recognition and raise visibility.
- Business organizations. Conferences, networking, and community organizations are a logical way to connect with colleagues, business associates, and potential customers.
- Social media. Your business needs to be visible on the right social media channels in order to be effective. Understanding the demographics and characteristics of each channel is important to determine your strategy. Instagram, for example, is a highly visual medium and ideal for businesses that rely on visuals, such as fashion. LinkedIn is a business networking tool that allows for professional visibility and is an excellent place to share thought leadership and attract potential employees.
- Local search optimization. If you rely on local customers, you need to be sure that your local listings are recognized and grabbed in local search results. For example, if you are a Houston house painter, you want to be sure you rank high in searches for “Houston house painting.” To do so requires having your local results optimized. You can also use Google My Business to optimize your Google+. Google Maps, and Google reviews in one place, while also investing in …
- Google Adwords. One of the oldest online search-driven ad buys, Google Adwords lets you fine-tune your desired results by customizing where your ad appears and the demographics of Google users that see it.
- Other Social Media Ads. Nearly all the major social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – allow for advertising. Facebook ads, for example, are inexpensive and allow for customization around the age, gender, online activity, and organizations of your customers. You can also test different settings and ad groupings to fine-tune what settings are most effective for your business.
- Content marketing. Not every word you see in blogs and online articles is generated simply to provide readers information. Content marketing is a strategic approach to information distribution that uses keywords and rich content to provide valuable insights that draw in readers. Much of this content is targeted to specific customer personas and is designed to consistently provide valuable information that attracts users and encourages them to act, whether to sign up for a newsletter, request a demo, or seek more information.
- Coupons. Depending on the kind of business you own, coupon sites like Groupon might be ideal for getting people into your business and to try out what it is you are selling. Restaurants and service providers rely on Groupon to offer compelling deals that get people in the door. The rest is up to you. Note, however, that Groupon and other sites are going to require significant discounts and will take a chunk of the revenue brought in via your coupon offers.
- Free consultations. Offering a free consultation, even on a general level, can be a great way to introduce yourself to potential customers and share some wisdom. What a great way to build a direct rapport with a potential customer!
Small businesses should spend some time and resources to research the right types of technologies that will make their operations more efficient, more accurate, and more cost-effective. Some of the technologies that are critical are inexpensive and easy to understand and use. Here are a few of the must-haves for small businesses:
- Business analytics. Your business generates a surprising amount of data about your customers, their use of your products and services, and your sales. This data, when collected and used in tandem, can give you great information about who is buying or not buying what you are selling. Business analytics tools can bring this data together to drive future decisions.
- Mobile apps and sites. Your business needs an online presence and today that presence should be mobile-first. More customers are going to look for and consume your website on mobile devices. You also may want to invest in an app that gives services, information, tools, interaction, or other features that are easy to access, fun, and helpful.
- Marketing automation. The varied number of types of marketing discussed above can seem daunting to many small businesses. Having automation tools available that track messaging and coordinate your multiple marketing channels can give you more control and order to your marketing approach.
- Online collaboration. Many small businesses rely on remote employees, temporary and freelance workers, and consultants, many of whom may never be in the same location. Having online collaboration and communication tools available allow these employees to interact and produce together from around the world.
- Cybersecurity. With so much work done online today, you need ways to protect that work and the data that is essential to your organization. Having robust tools that protect websites, data – especially customer information – and systems is important to stopping bad actors today.
Access to Capital
Businesses that want to grow need to have the capital to hire staff, invest in marketing, purchase technology, and otherwise expand their footprint. Securing access to that capital is a critical decision. There are many options, including:
- Traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions that offer capital to small businesses. Unfortunately, in many cases, this capital is hard to come by and comes with payment schedules that may not align with expansion plans.
- Private and angel investors provide capital to small businesses, but with a price. These investors will expect a percentage of revenue in exchange for their investments and may also want an active role in the management of the companies in which they invest.
- Friends and family may be a source of funds but this strategy involves asking those close to you for money, which is not always easy or ideal.
- Out of the box solutions, like 401(k)/IRA Rollover Business funding
At Benetrends, we pioneered this innovative strategy that leverages a business owner’s existing 401(k) or IRA accounts to fuel expansion plans. With Benetrends, your business is established as a C corporation and your existing retirement funds are transferred to those at the new business, free from early withdrawal or tax penalties. Business owners have access to funds quickly, without the interest rates or capital surrender of other small business funding models.
To learn more about how Benetrends can help expand your business, schedule a consultation today!