Here are a dozen tips to help you focus on growing your business.
1. Focus on cash flow. Review your cash flow statement frequently to assess not only whether your business’s income is sufficient, but also where it comes from and where it goes. If your cash flow comes primarily from financing or investments rather than business operations, you may need to rethink your business model.
2. Target your marketing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, it’s easier than ever to target a narrow customer niche thanks to digital marketing. Use pay-per-click advertising, social media and email to reach out to your specific target market with marketing messages tailored just for them.
3. Listen to your customers. Pay attention to what customers say both to you and about you on social media. Conduct regular customer surveys by phone, email or online. Listening to customers’ feedback will alert you to problems that could cost you business. It will also spark new ideas that can attract more customers.
4. Do a SWOT analysis. Evaluate your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats facing it. Then figure out ways to capitalize on your business’s strengths and correct its weaknesses. Make a plan to profit from opportunities and protect your business from potential threats.
5. Invest in your business. It’s difficult to part with hard-earned cash, but being penny-wise and pound-foolish is a recipe for stagnation. No matter how tight your business budget is, set aside appropriate amounts for essential investments such as marketing your business and purchasing equipment. Measure the ROI to ensure you aren’t wasting money.
6. Explore new markets. Can you grow your business by adding a variation to a successful product line, targeting a new demographic for your existing products and services, or expanding into new geographic markets? Perhaps you can expand from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar, or vice versa. Doing market research helps you predict whether such a move will pay off.
7. Market to your existing customers. New customers mean new business, but loyal customers can mean more business. Reach out to your existing customer base with special offers just for them. Implement a loyalty program that tracks their spending, helps you develop tailored promotions and encourages them to buy more.
8. Partner with other businesses. A strategic partnership with a complementary business can be a way to grow with a minimal investment of capital. Reach out to prospective partners to discuss how you can work together. This could range from sharing customer lists to developing a new product or service together or even forming a new business entity.
9. Ask for and use referrals. Develop a system to request referrals from customers soon after you complete their work or deliver their order. Use customer relationship management software to maintain information about referrals, including when you followed up and what the results were.
10. Keep your employees happy. Your employees are the foundation of your business, so treat them that way. Keep them loyal by offering competitive wages and benefits, professional development opportunities and a positive atmosphere. Arrangements that help with work-life balance, such as offering employees flexible hours or letting them work from home, help make your business a place people want to work.
11. Exploit technology. Is your business making the most of technology to save time, boost productivity and cut costs? If you don’t have an in-house IT expert to advise you, enlist an IT consultant to suggest ways that upgrading your technology can help your business grow.
12. Be prepared. You make plans for everything your business does—but do you have a backup plan? Whether it’s storing your critical data safely in the cloud, working with multiple vendors so you never run out of inventory, or having a strong relationship with a bank so you can quickly access capital when you need to, always have a Plan B.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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