As a small business owner, growing your business is one of your top priorities. Expanding your customer base, introducing new products, refining your services, or opening another location are all common goals, no matter what your field is. Improving your small business growth today is more than just launching a vigorous advertising campaign. Technology has changed the way that businesses compete and leveled the playing field for smaller businesses to increase their market share.
There are many things that small business owners can implement today that can start showing results as soon as the next month. Here are our favorite 8 techniques to help you grow your business without breaking the bank.
Talk to Your Current Customers
Your current clients, especially those loyal customers who prefer you over the competition, can be one of your greatest assets for improving your sales and service. Simply having a conversation with your regulars can give you valuable insights into what you’re doing best and where you’re missing the mark. In addition, asking your current customers where they see you improving and what they like best about your business gives them a bit of buy-in for your success and encourages authentic interactions, both of which build brand loyalty.
Many people enjoy helping others and advocating great products or services that they like, whether in person or as reviews on your own website or 3rd party review sites. Encourage your satisfied customers to write a review, and always make sure to thank the ones that do using the “owner’s response” field on the review platform.
Create a customer loyalty or referral program, offering a discount or freebie to those customers who bring you new business. 79 percent of customers state that they look for deals in reward programs before making a purchase. Loyalty programs can reward making multiple visits, to a salon for example, or purchasing a certain amount of goods for a discount off their next shopping trip. Customers who produce new referred business may receive something similar.
Focus on Engaging Web Content
Your website is the face of your business. Most shoppers — 84 percent, in fact — browse the web before they make a purchase and an engaging website is their first stop. Offer a blog with well-written, applicable content that keeps users on your page. Web readers want scannable content, with engaging headlines and relevant information broken down into easily digestible chunks, especially those who are using your site on mobile. And if you don’t have your website optimized for mobile use, you’re missing out on a large opportunity. Most people will search for goods and services while on the go.
Your content may include a variety of things. Videos of your products in use tend to be popular — anything from a boutique having a sneak peek fashion show of new arrivals to showing the final product of a construction project. Having your own dedicated YouTube channel may be effective as well. Professional, useful content presents you as an expert in your field and a trusted source of information.
Fresh, relevant content also makes you appear higher on Google’s search returns. The complex algorithms that Google and other browsers use changes often — 500–600 times per year — but unique content on your website’s blog tends to garner the best results. Google analytics gathers data about your customers’ browsing behavior and using this information can help you — or your outsourced web developer — curate content that is valuable for your users.
Choose “Hunters” for Your Sales Team, Not “Order Takers”
When hiring a sales team, look for those personality types that have the tenacity to pursue business, rather than simply take care of clients that come to you. This may mean changing your compensation structure to a more commission-based versus salaried model or offering greater bonuses for results.
You may also want to have someone dedicated to sourcing new business and going on outside sales calls, if you haven’t already. This person can work your client list for referrals or increase the amount that they buy from you. If your sales team is showing signs of ambivalence instead of enthusiasm for marketing your goods or services, it might be time to shake things up a little.
Streamline Your Operations
Take the time to do a self-audit of your business. Many times, small business owners don’t have time to grow their business because they’re tied down with cumbersome “busy work.” If you have tasks that can be delegated to a manager or other key employee, begin delegating. Focus your energies on the big-picture future of your business, including more personalized client interaction and networking for growth.
Analyze your daily tasks to see if there are ways they can be automated, streamlined, or performed more efficiently. Involve your top performers for insight on how to improve the execution of their job duties or consider shifting some operations to an automated computer program. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find better ways to operate, and avoid the “but that’s how it’s always been done” mindset.
Many entrepreneurs think that they can do it all when launching a small business, and it’s true that most owner/operators wear multiple hats. However, if you find yourself getting bogged down with the minutiae of running your business, you won’t have time to source new leads. Once thought to be a strategy reserved for larger companies, outsourcing is increasingly common for small businesses, as well. Anything from web design to public relations, human resources tasks, and IT needs can be contracted through a professional company that specializes in one area, serving multiple clients.
Add Coupons to Your Website
Many shoppers look online for the best deals before they commit to a purchase — 97 percent of consumers to be exact -with 92 percent saying they are always looking. This means that if you aren’t offering a coupon or discount and your competitors are, then potential customers may look elsewhere.
You can use your website to your advantage, with pop-up coupons that create a sense of urgency or “exit-intent” coupons offering a discount when a new customer gives you their email address. Work with your web developer or hosting service to track when visitors are about to leave your site, and have the coupon pop up then, grabbing their attention before they navigate away.
If your budget allows, utilize Facebook and Google customer re-targeting to encourage customers to return to your website. With plenty of options available, statistics show that customers make nine visits to your website before purchasing. Retargeting means that even when a customer navigates away from your site, they still receive targeted ads when visiting another site. This is done via a pixel your web developer can add that tracks your site visitors’ Facebook and Google use.
These retargeted ads can give your customers access to a limited-time promotion or last-minute deal, such as a discount that’s applicable only if they click through the ad to your site.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Engaging with your client base across several social media platforms allows you to announce limited-access promotions for those that “like” or follow your business on social media. These special deals can take many forms, from a barcode on your facebook page to a texted advert to announcements of VIP sales on Instagram.
Social media also allows you to interact with your customers more authentically, something that the millennial generation prefers. The shift from faceless, big-box corporations to smaller businesses has come about through the desire of this generation to have a more authentic brand interaction, with personalized posts and the feeling of being heard.
Engaging with users on social media builds brand loyalty. When you invite your followers to tag you or “@” you in their social media posts, you’re getting indirect recommendations from these users. Their own friends and family may be more interested in your business after seeing someone they know and trust have a good experience with you. In fact, 84 percent of people prefer to have user testimonials and reviews from real people, either those they follow on social media or through friends and family instead of a celebrity endorsement.
This element of trust encourages new customers to try your product or service. Larger companies and brands already have the advantage of familiarity with customers who, even if they aren’t raving fans about the business, at least know what they are getting when they shop at a national retailer. Leveraging authenticity and trusted reviews helps close that gap between locally owned small businesses and larger corporate entities.
Use Targeted, Personalized Emails
Despite the prevalence of spam blockers and email blasts, targeted, personalized emails are still one of the best return on advertising investment dollars for a small business owner. Most customers still prefer email marketing over other types of ad campaigns; and for every dollar a small business owner spends, the average return is $44. The trick is to leverage your customer email list into a more targeted blast, versus a generally spammy blanket.
Your social media consultant can help you use the Google analytics and the data that you’ve gathered from your own customer list to determine which types of emails appeal to which of your target customers. Your business plan should have a primary customer profile and a few secondary ones — and each of these may find a different product, service, or discount more appealing.
To grow your email base, make signing up easy. The “exit intent” coupons referenced earlier are remarkably effective at enticing customers to sign up for your email list. Sprinkling links for customers to sign up throughout your website will make it easier for those engaging in your website in different ways. In addition, make sure that your social media platforms have a link to your email list, as well, for those that engage in a different area.
Once you get customers signed up for your emails, make sure that they don’t unsubscribe. This means varying the content — mix up promotions with teasers about new blog content or YouTube videos, for example. Try not to overload customers, either — three to five emails per month is plenty to keep them engaged.
Bundle Your Services
If you offer several different kinds of services that are related, consider offering a bundled service package that meets several aspects of your customers’ needs. There are several types of businesses that can benefit from bundled services, mostly professional providers, but even some retail businesses can offer a grouping of items to be used together. For instance, a bicycle shop may offer a complete riding kit or an emergency pack collection.
Professional services may find success with giving a discount when multiple sessions are purchased, such as a massage therapist, yoga studio, or salon. Attorneys or CPAs may be able to offer bundled services, depending on their client’s needs. Many people equate bundled services with additional savings, and even if there isn’t much of a discount, the perceived savings is attractive.
Keep your bundles a little flexible — for instance, allow your customers to personalize their service selections to meet their unique needs or offer an array of retail items that can be grouped together at a discount. Allowing customers to swap out different products or services entices them to purchase bundles, instead of offering a fixed group where your customers only need half of what is offered.
Many small businesses fail to grow because the owners get weighed down by the minutiae of daily operations. When possible, streamline your services and move your focus towards your customers. Consider hiring a professional social media management service to help you maintain a vigorous, active online presence, and don’t forget to periodically review your Google analytics to ensure that you’re targeting the right customer profiles.
Growing your small business involves getting creative about sourcing new leads and getting to know your customers to cultivate special offers and discounts that they truly want, and find value in. Feedback from your website and in person, active engagement with customers on social media, and networking to find new opportunities to gain market share can all help your business organically grow.