While starting a business can be easy, it's much harder to take your business to its full potential. Some entrepreneurs toil for years and never really see the growth they'd hoped for. Others seem to go from zero to 60 in a matter of months.
The key to quick growth is to think strategically, be open to new opportunities, and stay focused on your results. Here are seven things you can do to help jump-start your business growth, without spending a fortune.
1. Provide an excellent customer experience
It costs five times as much to bring in a new customer as it does to keep a customer you already have. In a world of impersonal transactions, you can really set your business apart by putting in the extra effort to make your customers' experience awesome.
To do this, start by getting to know your customers: what they like, what their problems are, what they talk about on social media. Ask them about their customer experience and pay attention to online reviews. Consider creating a customer loyalty program, to reward your regular customers with special offerings and discounts. Buying a product or service is often an emotional decision, so strive to make your customers feel happy, comfortable, and valued. Make this a core part of your business philosophy.
2. Build your email list
If you're relying solely on social media channels to stay connected with your customers, you're betting that those channels will still be around in a few years. A stronger strategy is also to build your own email list.
With email, you can send targeted messages and promotions to your customers. Email subscribers also tend to be more engaged with your company than your typical social media follower. And you won't lose touch with your target audiences when a social media channel falls out of favor—or changes a key algorithm. To boost your email list quickly, try giving something for free—like a discount or e-book—to everyone who signs up.
3. Set SMART goals
It's hard to achieve a growth goal if you've never set one, so goal-setting should be high on your list of priorities. And goals like, "I want to be the bratwurst king of the upper Midwest," are too vague to be really helpful. When thinking of goals, follow the "SMART" approach, where your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
For example, you might have a goal to get 100 new email subscribers in June. How smart is that goal? Well, you're aiming for a specific number: 100. You can measure your success by looking at your email list. The number isn't so high that you can never hope to achieve. It's relevant because a larger email list is part of your growth strategy. And it's time bound: the month of June.
4. Look for new opportunities in your niche
Your customers already look to you for a particular product or service. If you can expand to offer something else they need or want, they're likely to buy that from you, too. For example, if you sell electronic cat feeders to people who travel frequently, your customers might also like self-filling water bowls or electronic cat toys that light up and scoot around the house at preprogrammed times.
When considering new products or services, be innovative. Don't just sell what your competitors are selling: Look for something new that will make your customers' lives easier or better—or both.
5. Improve your time management skills
One of the main reasons small businesses stay small is that their owners don't delegate and prioritize well enough. There will always be errands to run, social media that distracts, and business opportunities that don't align with your goals.
Learning to minimize distractions, delegate or outsource tasks, and stay focused on your goals can make a huge difference in your business's growth and success. If you need inspiration, classic books like David Allen's Getting Things Done, Timothy Ferriss's The 4-Hour Workweek, and Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are good places to start.
6. Find ways to generate passive income
Service businesses can have trouble growing because every transaction takes time, and there are only so many hours in a day. To overcome this, look for ways to create passive income that aren't so time-intensive. Examples of possible passive income streams include e-books, webinars and online courses, and affiliate links.
While a passive income stream can take time to set up and manage, you can sell a single e-book or course thousands of times. And your buyers are primed to become customers for future offerings, which may include more expensive, custom services.
7. Track everything and make adjustments
If you want real business growth, it's crucial to track everything you're doing and change course if your initiatives aren't working. Every day, new tools and apps are coming online that can contribute to your small business's success. Website and social media analytics, customer relations management software, and financial software all make it easier to see how much you're spending, how your potential customers are reacting to changes you make, and what's moving you toward your growth goals—or not.
Set aside time regularly to review the numbers, and be prepared to make changes to your products or services, your marketing and social media strategies, your website, or anything else that's not working as well as it could.
Growing a business takes persistence and passion, and yet it's important to put your energy in the right place. Setting smart goals, being willing to innovate, and treating your customers well are just a few of the ways you can put your business on the track to rapid growth, even on a tight budget.