5 Ways to Scale Your Small Business
“Times are tough”
An adage we’ve all heard repeated (and sometimes felt) throughout the years, but perhaps none more so than small business owners.
With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the struggling South African economy took a nosedive to depths that may see many South Africans under the surface for years to come.
Small business owners were hit especially hard as many of them failed to make a liveable turnover, most retrenching employees, while some closed their doors forever. Basically, people as well as businesses are struggling and are likely to continue to struggle for some time.
Fortunately, all is not lost in the depths and waves of this economic turmoil. There are some strategies that you can implement as a small business owner that’ll see you take that much needed gasp for air after a quick resurface.
Eventually, the plan is that you’ll manage to stay afloat despite the crashing waves and might even make it to the shore for some sunbathing. After all, we’re nothing if not resilient (and wildly optimistic).
The fact that you’re looking for ways to improve your small business indicates that:
- Mercifully, you haven’t closed your doors for the last time
- You’re not looking to just survive; you’re looking to thrive.
With that in mind, we’ve got some of the best ways to grow your small business.
1. Research your market and know your customers
You may have started out doing market research in the early days of your business, but since then not only has the business climate changed, your business has also grown. What worked back then is likely to have worked because of the scale of your business.
Essentially, your market research was based on what to do when starting a business, now that you’re already established you need to take some new insights into consideration, namely, your existing customers.
Your existing customers are the reason your business has scaled to the level it’s currently at, so getting some insights from them would be invaluable.
Whether it’s customer reviews, complaints, grievances, or suggestions, taking note of their input will guide you in deciding where your next improvements should be focused. This will help you to retain their patronage and entice new potential customers.
Maintaining your existing customers base, however, should be one of your top priorities. This is because landing a new customer can cost anywhere between four to ten times more than keeping an existing customer.
With this in mind you may want to double down on retention:
- Offer discounts for repeat customers
- Create loyalty programs
- Make contact with customers that leave reviews, so they know they are heard
- Provide incentives for customers bringing a friend along
- Create a sense of community for your customers (online or otherwise) that shows them how valuable they are.
2. Build a sales funnel
You need to have a conceptualized picture of the journey prospects will take to becoming customers. This is called a sales funnel.
Think of what a prospect sees when they enter your store or visit your website. Their first introduction to your business, whether it’s by accident or recommendation, is their being at the top of the sales funnel.
Your goal is to help them navigate the funnel so their introduction ends up being a sale. A rough look at the different stages in the funnel is:
It’s a good idea to have systems or programs in place to help move people through the funnel. With ecommerce growing at an ever-steady rate, particularly due to lockdown restrictions, an automated selling machine or digitized process will help close out sales tenfold.
In 2019 a survey of 400 small business showed 53% of businesses that adopted new technologies experienced a ‘big’ or ‘somewhat big’ increase in profitability.
3. Use social media
Using technology to boost your small business moves us straight into our next point – using social media.
Lockdown restrictions not only shifted the business climate towards an ecommerce focus, but it also put an emphasis on social media and digital communications. In essence, online presence is more imperative than ever to fire up your business growth.
Over 90% of millennials use some form of social media, so you’ll be squandering a big opportunity to connect with your customers and prospects by neglecting a social media presence.
You don’t need to use fancy filters and immaculate images in your posts. You also don’t need to post every day. You will, however, need to show that your business is available online and post content regularly.
It’s the perfect place to interact with customers by reading messages and comments to build your brand. This is because people tend to voice opinions and leave reviews online more readily than in-store or via a suggestion box.
When creating your online presence establish accounts on the major social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You might even consider Reddit and Pinterest. This increases your reach as the average social media user has eight different accounts across platforms.
You can also use social media to do a full-scale digital marketing campaign.
Considering that almost half the world uses social media, digital marketing might be the step that takes your company from small corner store to being the hot-shot brand in your niche.
4. Give back to your community
This is one of the best ways to get your business’s name out there and build trust.
People want to know that they are cared for, and that you are not just looking to make a quick buck for yourself, but actually add value.
Keep in mind it was your community (local or niche) that got your business to where it is. Offering them something for their continued support can go a long way in showing that your business is a part of the community. This can be done via:
- Charity work in and around your community
- Donating to or partnering with non-profits or offering them free services
- Supporting other local businesses
- Participating or sponsoring community events
The main idea is that you give back and add value. Initially you may not see a tangible return, but brand awareness and trust is a seed that will pay for itself in the long-run.
5. Build an A-class team
Something you’ll know first-hand after running your business, is that you’re not an island. You may be great at many things but you’re not good at everything. This is where your team comes in.
Choosing the right team will go hand-in-hand with growing your small business. Naturally, as your business grows, you’ll need to add more staff to accommodate giving the same exceptional service you’ve been giving.
They’ll also help you focus your efforts where your skills lie. So, if marketing is not your strong suit, bringing a marketer on board will, of course, improve your marketing campaigns while also freeing up your time to complete other tasks.
It’s important to have a diverse team and cultivate a good work culture where people can voice their concerns and ideas. Nobody likes being micromanaged and having a team of ‘yes-men’ won’t go well in the long run either.
Upskilling yourself and your team will also be a worthwhile investment. You know how quickly the business landscape can change; the Covid-19 pandemic showed that. Keeping up to date with the latest systems, practices, and trends can benefit your business and allow for a smoother operation.
Growing your business takes time, but it’s not impossible even in the current climate. Consistent work and small increments of improvement are the aspects that’ll get your business out of the high seas and onto the shore.