1. Invest in systems
You’re a badass at this whole business ownership thing. We already know that. But if you’re trying to do everything on your own, you might be limiting yourself for potential growth. A business powered by systems is one that can handle the multi-layered demands of expansion.
Have robust systems such as a solid CRM or powerful e-commerce software in place can help you focus on the important parts of growth and expansion. Review your current operations to see what aspects are repetitive or monotonous and make it your goal to automate or outsource as much as possible, so you can remain focused on growth.
2. Improve your homepage
In addition to doing things like improving SEO and making signing up or purchasing easy, make sure your homepage looks as perfect as possible.
Consider this: 96 percent of visitors to your website aren’t ready to buy something. Your homepage is most likely where they’ll land. If it’s cluttered or hard to navigate, they’ll go elsewhere. If the web copy is bad or doesn’t show the value of your product, they’ll be turned off. Sometimes a simple change can boost revenue tremendously. Tandberg, a video conference company, increased lead generation by improving their call-to-action. Through A/B testing and keyword optimization, Tandberg established a call-to-action on its homepage that delivered 50 percent more leads in just the first month.
3. Focus on analytics
The big data analytics market will surpass $200 billion per year by 2020. Clearly, many companies, especially tech giants like Facebook and Amazon, realize the value of utilizing data. And you should, too.
As a report in The Economist notes, “the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” The good news is that data can benefit any company, unlike oil. Even better, you don’t have to splurge billions of dollars (though some companies are). As a business owner with a website and social media pages, you can employ free or freemium tools to gain insights on your customers.
For instance, Google Analytics shows bounce rate, page visits, average time on site, and how your audience is arriving at your website, which can provide insights into where to focus your marketing efforts. Unbounce is another analytics tool worth considering, especially for figuring out how to optimize landing pages and increase conversions.
4. Make your blog shine
It really not surprising that 53 percent of marketers state blog posts are their most important inbound marketing activity. Corey Wainwright, a content marketing expert, writes that good blogging can drive traffic to your website, convert that traffic into leads, establish authority in your industry, and achieve long-term results for your business. When you consider that 81 percent of shoppers conduct research online, good blog posts can bring your business a lot of value over time. Potential customers will naturally find your site once your blog has an established online presence. So make sure the bulk of the content is evergreen. Such posts will only require periodic updating, bringing you better value for your investment.
On all these sites, add in pictures, links to blog posts, and relevant information about your company. Interact with customers—and respond to their needs and questions. This will improve your brand image.
What’s most beneficial about social media and digital advertising is that you can leverage ratings and reviews. In fact, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendation from family and friends. If one customer gives your company a “like” and says something positive, it will get the attention of people in their network, creating a word-of-mouth effect that could grow your business.
5. Make a plan to grow your business
From email marketing campaigns to optimizing your website for mobile, to encouraging online reviews—there are many ways to grow your business. The key is first having a plan that you can execute. Unfortunately, nearly half of businesses are doing digital marketing with no clear strategy. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, don’t blindly stick to it. As Matt Rissell, CEO of TSheets, attests, “the best way to grow your small business is to never become complacent and always be testing. Identify your customers’ needs, test your hypothesis, iterate, and test again.”
6. Focus on scalability
When money, time, and expertise are in short supply, it can be tempting to go with the quick (or cheap) fix, and investing in basic solutions that don’t require a huge financial investment or learning curve can seem wise.
But things are not always what they seem.
Yes, that dream solution may be a stretch and have an intimidating learning curve. But ending up in a patchwork maze of multiple inexpensive and inefficient systems that only appear economical will end up costing money in the long run.
7. Always have a backup plan
When you’re a one-person shop, you’re usually able to pivot quickly when things do not go as expected. As your business grows and becomes more complex, these quick adjustments are more difficult. Have a plan in place for emergencies or unforeseen contingencies so that you can deal with the inevitable bumps in the road.
8. Take calculated risks
A small business expansion is not without risks. To make the right decisions it will sometimes be necessary to move outside your comfort zone. After all, guillemot chicks will plunge off of cliffs with unformed wings to meet the rest of their flock, risking almost certain death if their jump goes wrong.
We’re not saying you should rely only on good luck. By focusing on the end goal and proactively identifying potential roadblocks, you’ll set yourself up for success, even when your next move feels like a risk.
9. Invest in staff and culture
Growing beyond solopreneurship is a big step. But if you talk to others who have grown their small business to include employees, contractors or freelancers you’ll soon learn just how vital the right people are in making your expansion dreams a reality. Any significant staff expansion will come with an adjustment period and require devotion and effort from everyone, but establishing a culture and a staff of devoted employees will pay off in the long run.
10. Forecast for intentional growth
Sometimes business growth takes you by surprise; sales suddenly increase or an unexpected opportunity falls into your lap. In these cases, you’ll find yourself scrambling in a stressful game of catch-up. But expansion can be carefully considered and planned for. By taking a slow-and-steady approach and planning ahead for each step along the road, you’ll set your business up for successful proactive growth, instead of a stressful reactive response to an immediate need.