Postmodernist author and prolific thinker, William S. Burroughs famously quipped: “When you stop growing, you start dying.”
This doesn’t just apply to organic things either. If you’re not growing your business by acquiring more customers, you’re effectively just waiting around for your existing customers to move on – or actually die themselves – before you eventually go out of business.
Someone’s always going to be out there hustling for the market share you have, and stealing that which you could have in the future, while you’re languishing and doing nothing to grow your enterprise.
Use the following 7 steps to immediately start formulating a growth strategy for your business:
1. Identify or establish your value proposition
Fact is, you’d better have one if you intend to grow.
What sets you apart?
- Is it your product?
- Your impeccable service standards?
- Your business connections?
- The results you offer customers?
- Can you offer quality product at cheaper prices (ie., Walmart)?
- The assurances/guarantees you can offer that others cannot?
Figure out what makes you credible and noteworthy to customers, then when you finally touch base with them through your marketing plan, tell them! Once you know what really defines you, you can capitalize on making it better while maintaining that standard to perfection as you grow.
2. Figure out who your best customers are
This is as easy as clearly identifying the specific problem you solve and identifying who you actually serve. A discount-priced Esthetician is going to need to target a different audience to grow than a high-end shop charging Beverly Hills’ types of rates.
The same market that sustains you can help you grow. It’s all about reaching more of them than you are currently.
3. Figure out what factors have historically led to growth for you
This is easier to do than you might think and it applies just as much to fledgling businesses as it does the established ones. Data will be important here beyond all else. What causes a surge in business for you?
- Is it special local events? (Protip: “Create” more special local events)
- When you actually shell out money for marketing?
- That time you had an employee outside dressed as a rooster encouraging people to stop in your store?
- Has partnering with other businesses ever led to more revenue?
- Perhaps offering free products or services to bring in more customers has led to big surges in business?
Figure out where these growth gems are and exploit them to your advantage.
4. Where do you make your money?
This had better be obvious to anyone who owns a business. If you don’t know where your money’s coming from, you better get your butt in gear and find out!
Are there other income streams that could be added to make even more money? Perhaps putting a banner on your website for a per-referral fee, or renting rooms in your building or company equipment when not in use?
5. Analyze competition
Most businesses analyze their competitors from a casual, often condescending standpoint. Perhaps mocking their paper or magazine ads, or laughing at their television or YouTube commercials.
Are they making more money than you? Are people lined up at the doors or breaking their server with traffic? Ask questions about why your competitors are doing better or worse than you. Do they do something different from you or the accepted industry standard – and why?
6. Decide if you need to improve on weaknesses, or perhaps refocus on your strengths
It wouldn’t do an HVAC company in Las Vegas any good to spend money getting their employees gas and oil burner certificates in order to grow out the company services and make more money. Just like there aren’t any air conditioning technicians working out of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic.
Focus on strengths first when growing the businesses. Improving your weaknesses isn’t always the best growth strategy to employ, unless you or your employees are one of your biggest weaknesses.
7. Look at your talent pool
Is it vast? Limited? Do you have “bad” employees that you keep around for entertainment value – or worse, because you’re afraid to fire them due to their bad temper or because they need the job you offer really badly?
Your employees are your front line. Out with the bad, in with the good. And pay the ones who remain more than the industry average. Encourage profit-sharing to increase sales. Be frugal with office luxuries and other things that don’t directly lead to increased productivity or profits.
There’s no cookie-cutter approach to growth for any single company. What works for some will not work for you necessarily. Implementing the right strategy to identify the factors mentioned above, then being able to adapt this simple approach to your business model will be the real challenge that lies ahead for the growth of your business.