How to grow your small business: 4 strategies to help you now
- Sales and marketing are worth a little extra investment when you’re a small business owner
- All the branding in the world won’t help if your product or service isn’t exceptional
- New business isn’t everything—work hard to keep your current customers happy
Scaling your business to the next level of growth can feel like a never-ending effort. In the beginning, you’re the one creating the business plan, managing your social media accounts, searching for new customers, and managing cash flow.
What’s more, there are countless growth strategies for small business owners to consider—which can feel even more intimidating—but don’t get discouraged. Take a look at these four manageable tips on how to grow your small business and boost your bottom line.
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1. Improve your sales funnel
This is where the magic happens. A sales funnel is the path customers take when interacting with your business, each starting as a lead then eventually landing at the final transaction. Moving them through the funnel smoothly is the key to growing your small business.
Adding new businesses and clients to your sales funnel is critical to your business’s success, but tracking those leads, customers, and sales is even more important. If you aren’t tracking it, you won’t know what’s working. As such, there is no function more useful to your business growth.
Here are the five stages of a sales funnel:
A lead is anyone in your target market you haven’t spoken to. Keeping track of all leads is crucial when thinking about how to grow your small business. When nurtured, leads become sales—sort of how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Imagine your sales funnel as the cocoon.
A prospect is like a lead, except that they’ve heard of your product or service and have expressed interest. Don’t get too excited yet—it’s still too early to tell whether they will purchase from you. But a prospect is a step in the right direction as they’re open to more communication and could be your next potential customer.
Here you will be thoroughly investigating your prospect to confirm that they need what you’re selling and that you are both aligned on your product or service’s value and price.
It’s also your opportunity to gauge their sense of urgency so you know how to prioritize them in your sales funnel.
Here are some examples to illustrate how to gauge what stage a client is at in your sales funnel:
- If the prospect is interested but there’s another decision maker involved, that may prolong your sales process.
- If the prospect is ready to purchase and just needs confirmation on an aspect of the product or service, you’ll want to follow up promptly after it’s provided. This is a high priority.
- If the prospect says they’re interested but hasn’t agreed to cost or timing, this can push them to a lower-level priority in the sales funnel.
This is when you get a verbal “yes” to move forward in the sales process but still need to iron out a few details. Speed is of the utmost importance during this stage of the sales funnel. If you’ve received a “yes,” you need to act quickly to complete the transaction.
The transaction stage of the sales funnel is when your customer has made a purchase and you can thank them for choosing your business. After you’ve completed your sale, you have the unique opportunity to build rapport to convert these new customers into loyal customers.
2. Retain your customer base
As a small business owner, you’re in the perfect position to retain your customer base as long as you have a solid and reputable product or service. Most people feel good about “supporting local” and want to build relationships with small businesses that stand out and go above and beyond.
Here are several effective ways to retain your customer base:
Do your market research
You can be the friendliest, most social media-savvy business owner on the block. But if your product is the pits, you’re going to lose customers.
To know if your product meets your current customers’ needs, you must perform a bit of market research to gain insight into what’s important to them. You can use information from other industry leaders or experts or conduct the research yourself through methods like online surveys or focus groups. Adding every suggestion into your business model is unrealistic, so instead, focus on an area that you know your competitors are missing.
Engage intentionally on social media
If your new customers or current customers are talking to you on social media, don’t take that for granted. Stay on top of the conversation as best as you can. Try using social media management tools like Hootsuite, and stay consistently engaged in the reviews section of your Yelp Business Page.
You’ll want to direct customers to communicate in one or two places where you can see all their comments and reply promptly. When you have the budget to hire a social media manager, you can branch out more widely.
Use your email list
Aside from social media, email lists also serve as an excellent way to keep in touch with current customers and potential customers. An email list can help people get familiar with your small business and brand.
You can build an email list by providing small discounts to first-time buyers who provide their email address or offering webinars that require email verification to sign up. You can also create “lead magnet” content like checklists or a free mini-course if it’s relevant to your product or service.
Whatever email marketing strategy you take, keep an eye on the local anti-spam laws to avoid unnecessary fines that can result from not knowing the current rules.
Look for new opportunities to reward loyal customers
There are many ways you can reward your current customers to keep them engaged and happy. Here are a few ideas:
- A loyalty points card where they accumulate points with each new purchase
- A tiered reward system (like bronze, silver, gold)
- Providing a premium feature that they can pay an annual fee for upfront
- Free shipping
- In-store gift on their one-year customer anniversary
- Gift with purchase
- Partnership offers
3. Spend money on the right marketing strategies
These first two business growth strategies are contingent on this third one. If your ideal customers don’t know who you are as a brand, what product or service you’re providing, or how to reach you, then it will make everything much more difficult (read: impossible).
Small business owners are often advised to be conservative with spending at the beginning—and that’s good advice. However, investing in a marketing strategy is crucial to meeting your business goals.
If you have a tight budget, start here first:
- Branding: Hire a freelance graphic designer to help create a professional and polished logo.
- Target market research: You’ll understand target customers better when you build a customer avatar—here’s a free template to get you started.
- Step up your SEO: If this is uncharted territory, don’t worry. Check out this guide to small business SEO or consider taking a course to teach you search engine basics.
- Promotion: Create a free Yelp Business Page so that your customers can easily find you.
4. Consider franchising
An interesting idea when you have a popular business idea is franchising. That’s when you duplicate your business idea into new markets and help others become small business owners like you. The startup costs are substantial and the marketing can be tricky, but it can lead to astounding growth for you and your business.
Learn how to grow your small business strategically
One day when you’re a big shot business owner, you’ll look back on this startup stage with fondness. It may seem impossible to compute all the tasks you manage to see successful business growth. But with a bit of planning and strategic investment, you will achieve your business goals and then some.
In the beginning, try to keep it simple with these four concepts and keep an eye to the future for new opportunities. In the meantime, you can pluck the low-hanging fruit with simple steps like claiming your Yelp Business Page.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.