6 Smart steps to sustainably grow your business
The new year is always an exciting time for business owners, full of new opportunities to grow your business and take it to the next level. And there are plenty of reasons to do so. Whether you want to capitalise on recent successes, seize an opportunity in the market, or use economies of scale to boost your profit margin, you’ll need solid plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
Here are our essential steps for growing your business the smart way.
1. Figure out what growth means for you
Every business is different, so every business owner will have a different definition of “growth”. You’ll need to come up with one that makes sense to you. That might be:
- Opening another store in a new geographical location
- Expanding into ecommerce and opening an online store
- Boosting your sales to existing customers
- Servicing more customers
- Entering a new market or vertical
- Wholesaling in addition to your retail sales
- Exporting your products to a foreign country
- Introducing new product lines.
If you’ve got a growth target in mind, it can help you narrow down how you’d like to grow. For example, if you’re aiming for a 15% increase in sales over the next year, you might be able to achieve that with your existing customer base, but doubling your sales would probably require finding new customers.
2. Understand your business
Before you can start on your plan of attack to reach your growth targets, you’ll need to thoroughly understand how your business is performing both in the market and internally.
A big increase in profit is a good sign that you’re ready to take your business to the next level, but if your main competitors have shown even larger increases, you’ll want to know why. Are your operating costs higher? Are your prices lower? Are your systems and processes less efficient? A good way to understand your business is to analyse its strengths and weaknesses in the context of market opportunities and threats. You’ll find plenty of SWOT analysis templates online.
You’ll also want to keep in mind the less tangible elements of your business, such as your brand values, corporate culture, and value proposition, so you can preserve or improve them as your business grows.
3. Plan your growth strategy
Once you’ve got a good understanding of where your business is, and where you want it to be, it’s time to map out a route from beginning to end. Here are just a few of the things you’ll need to consider:
- Do your staff have the skills they’ll require as the business grows? Do you need to hire more employees or contractors, or provide additional training?
- Do you have the physical space you need to grow your business? This might include retail floor space, showrooms, warehouses or office space.
- Can your existing supply chain support your growth, or will you need additional suppliers? Would it make sense to import your inventory?
- How will you fund your growth? You could apply for a government grant or bank loan, seek investors, rely on your increasing sales, or secure longer term income through tenders and contracts.
- How are your customers likely to respond to the changes? Will you need to implement education or loyalty programs?
4. Streamline your operations
Your business can only be profitable if you’re making sales, so a good portion of your day should be devoted to selling, directly communicating with customers, and improving your sales process. For established businesses, this should be at least 30% of your time, which means everything else needs to be running smoothly and efficiently.
Write down your business processes and check they don’t have any unnecessary steps. If there’s something you’re doing that’s not industry standard, ask why. Automate processes such as bookkeeping, invoicing, business reporting, and procurement. Choose an omni-channel ecommerce platform that integrates with your other systems with to avoid double handling, so your inventory levels are always up-to-date in your point-of-sale system, and every transaction automatically appears in your accounting package.
And don’t forget your customers! Make it easy for them to get the information they need by ensuring your website or online store contains detailed product descriptions, a customer support chat feature, and integrated social networking.
5. Let the world know
Whichever route you choose, you’re going to want to tell the world before you even open that new store or start selling that new product. In addition to traditional marketing channels, take advantage of social media to connect with customers and related businesses. You’ll get the best reach if you’re posting content that viewers want to share further.
Of all the channels available, email marketing continues to generate the highest return on investment, with every dollar spent bringing in average sales of $38. Why is it so high? Largely because your email subscribers have opted in to receive news and special offers from your business. Your database—which you own and control—is full of genuinely interested customers, so you get a higher click-through rate. Most email marketing platforms also offer powerful tools for segmenting your subscriber lists and tracking user click-throughs and conversions, to help you target users with information and special deals that will appeal to them. And if your platform is fully integrated with your ecommerce or POS system, you’ll find it easy to sign up new customers and follow up on incomplete transactions.
Depending on the nature of your business, you might also have the opportunity to speak at a conference, publish an ebook, write a guest column or blog post, or volunteer as an expert source for journalists and PR agencies. These are all excellent ways to build brand awareness and trust by establishing yourself as a thought-leader in your field.
6. Test and adjust as you grow
Whenever you make changes to your business, you’ll want to know whether they’re having the desired effect. Monitor your progress and review your targets regularly, at least quarterly. Pay close attention to your cash flow. It’s one of the most common problems for growing businesses, as there’s often a lag between the increased operating expense and the flow-on increase in sales. If you implemented the right systems in step 3, and you have a good business analysis tool, you should have all of the data you need—including customer feedback—to know whether you’re on track.
By following this six-step plan for growing your business, you can be confident you’re setting yourself up for sustained and scalable success through 2017 and into the future. Neto POS is an omni-channel POS system that can help you at every stage of growing your business. It offers full business analytics to help you monitor your performance and growth, plus a wide range of add-on integrations to the other platforms you use for accounting, inventory management, shipping, helpdesk, and more. Try Neto today.