Small Business Growth Strategies: How to Plan Ahead
It’s no mystery that every small business wants to be successful, but is it actually possible to plan for the growth of your small business? Absolutely, if you’re willing to put in the work. Once you feel comfortable with where your business is currently sitting, you can start to put in the work to re-strategizing for business growth. This will likely mean amping up all areas of your current strategy. Identify what areas of your business are really working and focus on improving or refining that process as much as possible. Be willing to make some changes, test out new ideas, improve your marketing plan, and reach out to a completely different group of potential customers.
Listen to Feedback in All Areas
Change doesn’t happen overnight and without reason. Improvements happen within businesses because small business owners listen to what others have to say and improve. This doesn’t only mean taking criticism from customers, but from your employees as well. Most likely, your employees are experts when it comes to your product or service. They’ve been trained on the ins and outs and they should know about the product more intimately than anyone else (maybe besides yourself). Trust that your employees have seen any existing hiccups in your system and can offer you sound advice on how to improve your overall package.
Of course, customer feedback is equally invaluable to the business and should be treated as such. Ask your customers for feedback if you aren’t already. It’s a tough task trying to sift through many comments and reviews, but putting in the time to understand feedback will undoubtedly help you come with ideas on how to improve. You can also ask your customers for targeted feedback about certain aspects of your business. This might give you clearer feedback than just feedback in general, especially if you’ve already got some ideas on ways to expand or improve.
Do some market research and figure out what other competitors are doing. This isn’t to say that anyone should be stealing ideas or creating carbon copies of other businesses ideas, it’s more about seeing where you might be lacking. In the process, you might even be able to see where other businesses are lacking as well. What products/services are customers asking for from other businesses? What products/services would you want to see if you were their customer? Get a feel of what customers are saying about your small business and other businesses in your niche. This will likely help spark some ideas of directions for the future.
Reevaluate Who You’re Marketing To
Market research is a great companion to this activity, because you’ll likely learn the types of communities that are involved with similar product and service offerings. As a result, you might open your business up to an entirely new group of individuals that you could be selling to. This might give you some ideas about improvements that can be made or new product offerings that could be a good idea.
This is a pretty straightforward way to gain new customers as long as you completely understand the niche that you’re selling to and what their needs are. The goal is to offer these people something that specifically fits their needs within their niche community. Hopefully, when all is said and done, you’ll be selling something that fits perfectly into their needs, interest, or hobbies and they just simply cannot live without it anymore. You want to disrupt the market with your groundbreaking idea.
If you’re stuck and you’re not sure how to open up your offerings to new markets, ask yourself some questions. You likely started your business because you have a passion for what it is that you do. Dive a little bit deeper into what got you excited about this business in the first place and figure out what might be lacking for you, as a customer. What item or service doesn’t exist that could make your life and other customer’s lives easier?
If You’re Not Sure About it, Test it
Once you’ve gathered feedback and have some ideas, it’s time to get experimental. They only way you can know if something works for sure or not is if you test it. You’ll never know how beneficial an idea can be until you decide to bring it to life. However, just because you test something, doesn’t mean it has to stay around. Be willing to try some things out and have most of them not work out. These aren’t failures, they’re early stage ideas that just need some refining. In the process, the best ideas and improvements will stick. A lot of them probably won’t look anything like what you started with, and that’s totally okay! Try, try, and try again.
When you’re testing, you don’t have to roll out each of these ideas directly to your customers. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t. Save only the best ones for large group testing. In the meantime, plan a small test run of something new before you roll it out. Your test group’s goal is to poke holes in your plan. If there’s something not working quite right, you’ll want to know about it before it’s available for customers. Ask your friends, family, and employees to try something out and give you some feedback about how to make it better. You can refine the idea from there.
How Will You Know When to Expect Growth?
Planning growth is a tricky thing. Setting goals is the first clear step towards expansion. Yet, sometimes things don’t pan out the way that we thought they would. So, how can you ever truly be ready for growth periods in the future? If you follow the steps above, you can start to get an idea of the excitement that your improvements could bring to your business.
Tracking your progress is another way to start planning future trends. You should be tracking your sales in great detail anyway, so use those statistics to your advantage. What kinds of trends are you seeing? Are there certain times of year that you see a boom in business? Why is that? Have you seen exponential growth in your overall sales over time? What does that trajectory look like for the future?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll at least be able to understand trends and predict where your small business might be in a few months. You can then start to prepare yourself for the level of growth you expect in the near future.
As for long term growth, I suggest using all of the tactics we discussed here and make sure that you repeat the process. The beautiful thing about small business growth, is that there is no limit to the growth you could potentially achieve. There are endless markets you can reach and better products and services that you can provide to your customers. There is always some way in which your business can perpetuate growth. When you understand those aspects of your business a little bit deeper, you can better calculate the type of growth you might expect to see.
Small business growth can be unpredictable. You may see periods of fast growth, followed by a plateau, followed by slow growth over time. Don’t become frustrated by the variation in growth that you see. All of this information can be tracked and examined in order to understand the trends that might be happening with your sales. As long as you are willing to spend the time necessary to evaluate your weaknesses, plan improvements, test out ideas, and track your results, you can plan significant growth throughout the life of your business.
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Trisha is a writer and blogger from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan, an avid gamer, cat lover, and amateur SFX artist.
This post was updated December 7, 2017. It was originally published October 30, 2017.