Small Business Growth Guide for Ambitious Business Owners

  1. Expansion. At this point, your business is stable, but you might be pursuing ways to increase your market share. The tough thing here is that you’ll be inching up upon even more formidable competitors while expanding your inventory, services, and marketing. Hiring highly specialized employees or third-party firms can help you surpass these challenges.
  2. Maturity. This stage is as close to business completion as possible, though modest growth pursuits may be necessary. After all, the market is always changing, and longtime businesses may need to adapt. Alternatively, you may find yourself wanting to exit, and strategies for doing so are rarely easy, as personal relationships are often on the chopping block. Methodical, well-considered decisions are most effective here.

Rapid growth problems

Presumably, you have a hunger to achieve your growth goals as soon as possible. While that ambition is respectable, it can also be unstable, as growing too rapidly can lead to myriad problems. Employees can become thinly spread, leading to work and customer service that leaves buyers dissatisfied. You might also run out of space if you have physical inventory or hire many employees who work in person. However, if you spend on growth more quickly than you earn, you might struggle to afford to move.

Losing track of your finances is perhaps the easiest trap to fall into during rapid growth. After all, with things accelerating faster than you can handle, can you really track every sale and expense? Plus, sales alone don’t mean success during growth – your market and competitors influence your future too, and if they’re outpacing you, these efforts may not have as big an impact on the market as you’d hoped.

Just as your sales tracking might get disorganized, so too can all your operations. Rapid growth can mean that some procedures and tasks get left by the wayside in lieu of more important, growth-oriented tasks. It can be easy for you and your team to fall behind, and that can translate to customers who can notice the impact.

Organic business growth

Another concept you should be familiar with as you grow is the distinction between organic and inorganic growth. The latter describes growth through acquisitions or mergers; all other growth is organic.

You can typically drive organic growth by optimizing your business operations and production budgets. As you do so, try diversifying your internal workflows, marketing, promotional activities, products and services, and more. Firmly identifying your target audience, unique selling propositions, key performance indicators (KPIs), and key qualifications can help too.

Organic growth typically gives your business more cost efficiency, flexibility, financial freedom, steady rates of growth, and basis in your strengths than inorganic growth. That said, it can be slower than inorganic growth and subject to market fluctuations.

Small business growth strategies

All the above advice can be distilled into the below tried-and-true small business growth strategies:

  • Market penetration. Enter the market by lowering your prices, offering products or services unavailable elsewhere, acquiring new customers, and developing an unforgettable brand identity.
  • Market expansion. Take what you already have to new markets. Doing so can mean opening new physical locations or targeting customers with different demographics.
  • Product expansion. Stay in your market, but begin offering new products. You might see customer loyalty increase and experience a sharp uptick in customer lifetime value.
  • Market and product expansion. Sometimes, identifying new customers and addressing their needs with products you don’t already offer can lead to growth. This strategy might take more work, but the potential return on investment can be worth it.
  • Inorganic growth. As explained earlier, acquisitions and mergers are rapid conduits to growth. They connect you with new markets and customers virtually instantly.
  • Integrative growth. This acquisition strategy hinges on where within your supply chain the companies in a merger are compared to one another. You can merge with a company at the same supply chain stage as you, one before you, or one after you. Alternatively, you can cut out all your middlemen. In every case, greater profits can result.
  • Diversification. Another inorganic strategy, diversification involves merging with a business entirely outside your supply chain or market. Though risky, it can be a good move if a business consultant advises it.
  • Multi-channel marketing. In general, the more channels through which you market to customers, the more customers you can acquire. Each new customer adds revenue that can lead to growth.
  • Market segmentation. When you focus on a subset of your current market, you can conduct more targeted marketing campaigns that lead to higher conversion rates. You’ll be employing the same marketing tactics, just to a smaller but more responsive audience.

How to measure growth

The final step in any growth strategy is to measure your growth rates. To start, choose the right KPIs, look at employee satisfaction and performance, and review your business plan. Next, track changes in your revenue, workforce size, market share, cash flow, and expenses. Do the same for your customer acquisition costs.

Compare all these figures to those of your competitors, and compare all your marketing tactics to one another. This combination of comparisons will tell you if you’re on the right track and, if not, how you can switch gears to get there. Admittedly, it’s a lot to take on yourself, so bringing in outside help may be necessary.

Grow ahead

With this helpful guide, you’ll have a better understanding of the fundamentals you need to acquire new customers, increase your sales, and earn more revenue. Of course, a successful business will still face challenges ranging from funding to employee management. Visit the SmartBiz Learning Center for advice that can help you with various issues that may arise.

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