Getting your business off the ground is challenging. Continuing to grow your business once it’s established is just as difficult.
And while generating new business and growing your customer base is necessary to succeed, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effective planning, strategy, and the willingness to get creative.
If your sales have recently hit a plateau, check out these 10 proven methods to continue growing your business.
1. Know your customers
Knowing who your customers are and what they need is vital. You went through the process of identifying a target market when developing your business plan. But now you have an active customer base that you need to engage with and in the process improve your business.
Whether it’s through a quarterly survey, user reviews, or direct customer service communications, you need to be asking for honest feedback. Take note of consistent grievances amongst your customer-base and use those to launch new features, make internal adjustments, or any number of fixes.
And while direct feedback from your customer base is invaluable, you need to also be paying attention to the market and your competitors. Conducting a market analysis on a regular basis ensures that you’re aware of any competitive moves and how different economic events may affect your customers. Combined with the insightful feedback from your customers, it provides a full picture of potential avenues for growth.
2. Focus on customer service
As you look to grow your business, quality customer service for your current customers can fall by the wayside. Sure customer churn is part of doing business, but you don’t want it to be a direct result of your attempts to grow. And you don’t want to compound people leaving by providing a poor experience.
At the same time, focusing on quality customer service can be a direct avenue for growth. If your current customers are treated exceptionally, they’ll be more likely to leave positive reviews, recommend you to their friends, and of course purchase from your business again.
3. Extend value from current customers
It’s common when looking for growth opportunities to immediately try and attract new customers, but what about your current ones? You’ve built credibility with them meaning they’re more likely to purchase from you again or even pay more for additional services and new products.
Explore opportunities to extend the value of your customers. Add a new product line that compliments previous purchases. Test increasing service prices in exchange for additional features, hands-on direction, or other additions that your customers find valuable.
Just because you’ve possibly hit the limit of growing your established target market, doesn’t mean that you can’t pull more value from it. And who knows, any changes you make to increase the value for current customers may be a springboard for bringing on new ones.
4. Leverage social media
Diving into social media can be daunting. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to have experience with it to leverage social platforms. It can be as simple as opening a business profile and beginning to grow a community of customers.
You don’t need to post every day or even create incredible looking images and videos, but do establish a consistent schedule your followers and customers can expect. From there it’s up to you to actively engage with your followers, read comments, answer messages, and generally build your social brand.
Overall it’s a great way to identify trends and insights about your customers. If you want, you can even use the insights you gain and try running social ads. It’s easier than you think and is an inexpensive way to test promotions, gauge the interest of a new customer base, or even run a full-fledged digital campaign.
5. Grow your team
Growing your customer base and growing your sales typically means growing your team. And just as you need to focus on providing exceptional customer service, you need to focus on the quality of the people that join your team.
Focus on finding diverse voices that can not only fulfill the duties of the role but that can provide unique perspectives that challenges your own. It’s harmful to have a staff full of “yes men” and can potentially lead to poor internal culture and self-serving decisions. Having a vast range of employees that differ in experience, background, beliefs, and specialties bring new perspectives to the table that would be nonexistent without them.
Additionally, as you look to bring on new employees, you’ll also want to focus on your current staff’s professional development. Show that you value them and their contribution to your business. Give them more opportunities to lead and collaborate, involve them in the goal-setting process, and even foot the bill for them to attend seminars and trainings.
The way you treat your employees will be reflected in the way you treat your customers. Start by optimizing internally and your business will grow from there.
6. Showcase your expertise
If you want to continue building clout amongst your customers and other businesses, you need to showcase your expertise. This means providing resources, hosting webinars, conducting research studies, and even running Q&A’s through your social channels. Find opportunities to share what you know, and present it as a free opportunity to learn and grow.
Just be sure to gather contact information or provide a link to a specific promotional page when you host an event or give access to a download. You’re not just showcasing expertise but using it to grow an audience that will hopefully one day turn into customers. Follow-up and keep providing valuable insight and you’ll be able to turn it into consistent growth.
7. Support your community
Giving back to your community and being socially responsible is a great way to grow your brand and showcase your business values. Sponsor or donate to nonprofits, provide free products or services for initiatives you care about, or host community events. You could even look to partner with other businesses with similar nonprofit interests to promote greater change.
Aside from donating and sponsoring, you can also look internally and promote socially responsible business practices. Maybe this means moving production to run on renewable energy, giving employees paid time to volunteer, or only purchasing supplies from local vendors. Do the right thing and grow your brand reputation around sustainability and responsibility in support of your community.
Part of growing your business is making the right partnerships and knowing your business community. Take the time to network and build relationships that can potentially build your business.
Having a strong network can lead to new customers, partnerships, employees, and even investors. It’s also a great way to share industry insights, emerging trends, and best practices that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
9. Develop additional income streams
If you’ve been struggling to grow revenue from your core business model, developing additional income streams may be necessary. This could be a new product or service offering, separate pricing models for different customers or subscriptions, and even passive income from ads and sponsorships.
Treat any new income stream as an expansion of your business. You’ll likely want to build out at least a lean business plan to make sure the new initiative is viable and that your current business can support it. Consider startup and operational costs, your goals with the expansion, and how long it will take to break even.
Lastly, be sure that your new initiative makes sense for your business. It may simply start as additional income to support operations but may need to transition into a separate business altogether.
10. Measure and iterate
However, you choose to try and grow your business, make sure that you are actively measuring and tracking success. It can be really easy to simply make a change and let it run without any goals or key results in mind that determine success. Without them, a growth initiative can easily turn into a costly idea that sinks your business.
Set your organizational goals upfront and don’t be afraid to kill or pivot projects if you’re not seeing positive results. You can always set up new iterations and run again, refining your approach to identify the most successful path to success.
And even when you have hit a home run, continue to measure and iterate. A series of webinars or new product lines may lead to growth for a time, but that could easily change if you’re not paying attention.
Continue to look for growth opportunities
Your business will consistently transition between points of growth and points of stagnation. The key is to keep searching for new growth opportunities and not being afraid to get creative and test them. But be sure to have goals and measurable results in mind so you can avoid turning potential growth into a severe misstep.
If you’re unsure if you should pursue a growth opportunity, revisit and update your business plan and forecasts. It can help you determine if your initiative is viable and that your business can manage any potential costs or negative cash flow in the short-term. You can always do this manually or try out a planning tool like LivePlan to make updating and tracking results on a regular basis accurate and easy.