One thing pretty much every small business wants is to increase sales and grow their business! Here’s a rundown of some fairly simple yet effective ways for doing just that. Concentrate on one or two to start, then add another as you incorporate each into your everyday routine.
1. Expand your offerings.
One relatively easy way to grow your business is by giving customers more opportunities to interact with you. This may mean adding a wider variety of products to what you’re selling or offering additional services under your business’s umbrella.
Be careful not to stray too far from your current, successful identity, but think about how to increase the scope of what you’re doing and who else you can appeal to. If you’re a manufacturer or retailer, add inventory that complements your current stock, or introduce a product line at a different price point to attract a broader range of potential customers.
For a service business, branch out into related areas in which you have expertise (or hire someone who does). A client who already has a relationship with you would be very likely to use you for another service you can provide.
Finally, extend your business’s physical reach. Open a new location. This could be a store, kiosk, or an e-commerce site. Target a new market for your existing products and services.
2. Sell online.
Adding an online component to your business can help you expand way beyond your current customer base. If you’re a brick and mortar retailer, add a web store into the mix. If you’re a restaurant, make it possible to order and reserve tables online. If you’re in a service business, make sure your website makes it easy to contact you and schedule appointments.
There are many options for how you can establish an e-commerce presence. Today, not only should your business be online to grow, it pretty much has to be just to survive. The Commerce Department says online sales grew almost 15% in the last quarter of 2014 compared to a year earlier. Don’t miss out on your piece of the pie!
3. Get more out of your existing customers.
The people who are currently doing business with you are among the best resources you have for growing your business. Not only are they a great source of referrals, but if managed correctly, they can provide you with even more business than you’re already getting from them.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help you track your current business and analyze who’s buying what. CRM is also used for keeping tabs on leads and prospects to make sure no one slips through the cracks.
Even if you decide not to use a CRM, examine your current business relationships for ways to increase sales. Launch a customer loyalty program to ensure more repeat business.
4. Turn your customers into salespeople.
No doubt about it, it’s hard to find less expensive and more effective word-of-mouth than people who are happy to do business with you. Many may share this information without prompting, but you can help the process along by offering incentives for doing so.
Put together a referral program and make sure your current customers are familiar with it. Reward your clients for sending you new business. Think along the lines of giving a free month of service, an extra percentage off, or even cold, hard cash. Whatever you choose, make it worth someone’s time and effort to refer you. Then, back it up with great service, making both your new and old customers happy with the relationship.
Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews for you on social media sites such as Yelp and Facebook.
5. Get the word out.
Existing customers are great, but you won’t be able to grow without adding to the pool. People can’t do business with you if they don’t know about you, so get a plan in place to make sure they do.
Ideally, your efforts will include paid advertising, social media, and a strong public relations effort. If you don’t know where to get started, talk to a couple of advertising agencies for ideas. Some ad agencies will coordinate a program at no cost to you (except for the cost of the media buy). They then get paid a commission from the media they buy on your behalf.
If you don’t have the budget to pay for advertising, there are still ways you can make a splash with a free. Use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to promote your business.
6. Embrace technology.
Automate whatever you can, such as by using a point of sale system (POS) to keep track of your sales and inventory. Use accounting software for keeping your books, and make sure the POS system integrates with your accounting software so you’ll always have a complete picture of how you’re doing at any given time. This’ll give you a great look at what’s selling and what’s not, and allow you to make adjustments on the fly.
Make sure your equipment and computers are up to date. Also, use accounting and inventory systems that store your data in the cloud, where you’ll be able to access it from anywhere at any time.
Whether you’re selling online or not, make sure you have an attractive website that explains who you are, what you do, and makes it easy for current and potential customers to get in touch with you. You can hire a company to do this for you, or use one of the many user-friendly templates available. Be sure the website is optimized to look good and work well on mobile devices.
Building business relationships will help your company grow for little to no cost, other than time and attention. You can get out and meet new people at official networking events or informally whenever the occasion presents itself.
Go to civic meetings and community events, take part in panels, join trade and local associations. Volunteer, donate goods or services, and become known as the “go to” person in your field.
8. You can’t do it alone.
Even the most organized and efficient owner-manager will eventually get maxed out. At that point, your business growth will be limited by your own capabilities and the finite number of hours in the day, and it will be time to delegate more and share of the responsibility.
Whether you choose to expand your own in-house staff or go outside for professional services and support, making this investment in your business is both necessary and a good sign!
Ask for help and advice wherever you may find it. Join your local chamber of commerce and whatever business associations are appropriate for your company. Learn from the mistakes and successes of others. While you’ll want to put your own stamp on things, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel as you grow. Chances are what worked for someone else can be personalized, adapted, and applied to your business.
9. Get the financing you need.
Not only will you probably need more people to expand, you’ll likely need some money. Hiring new staff, investing in inventory, opening another location, buying new equipment—it all costs money.
When you’re ready to take the next step but don’t have enough cash on hand, it’s time to look into a small business loan. Of course, you’ll want to put together financial projections to make sure you can handle the payments, but a cash infusion could be just the thing you need. If you decide you need a loan, first do your homework so you understand exactly what you’re signing up for.
10. Dare to dream.
No matter where you are with your business, set goals for the future and work toward them. As an entrepreneur, you demonstrate your passion for business every single day, and that’s what will help fuel you as move forward. If you don’t already have one, put together a business plan describing where you’d like to be and how you can get there.
Don’t let setbacks throw you; they’re a part of doing business. Figure out the problem, come up with solutions, and carry on. Don’t accept the status quo. Constantly ask yourself how things can be done differently, and what can be improved; what can you do better? Then do it.
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