How to grow a small business in 5 steps
Starting a small business can be an exciting time. But launching your business is only one piece of the puzzle. Once your business is up and running, you need to figure out how to best find, connect with and serve your ideal customers.
Or, in other words, you need to figure out how to grow your business.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a look at how to grow a small business—and five strategies you can use to take your small business to the next level:
- Start with a marketing plan.
- Expand your digital presence.
- Look for partnership opportunities.
- Experiment with different marketing strategies.
- Tap into your existing customer base.
1. Start with a marketing plan.
As the old saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s true in life—and it’s true when you’re figuring out how to grow a small business.
Before you take any steps to grow your business, you need a marketing plan - think of this as a road map for your business. Your small business marketing plan should help you get from where you are now (a new venture looking to grow) to where you want to be (a thriving business with tons of customers and revenue), and ensure that every strategy or tactic you employ will help get you there.
Your small business marketing plan should include all the information and details you’ll need to effectively market and grow your business, including:
- Your customers. Who is your ideal customer? The more specific you are in who you’re trying to reach with your marketing, the more effective your marketing will be.
- Your competitors. Who are your competitors in the market? How are they connecting with your customers? The more you know about the competition, the better equipped you are to position yourself as a preferable alternative.
- Your marketing strategy and goals. What marketing strategies are you going to leverage to connect with your target customers? What are your goals for those strategies? If you’re not clear on what you’re trying to accomplish with your marketing, it’s going to be hard to evaluate whether your strategy is ultimately successful.
Now, keep in mind, you’re not married to your marketing plan; you can change and adjust as necessary. But having a marketing plan in place will give you clear direction on how to grow your small business—and make sure that the steps you take are bringing you closer to your goals.
2. Expand your digital presence.
A digital presence has always been an important part of growing a small business. But for many small business owners, digital initiatives took a backseat to building their business in person.
But if you want to grow your small business in 2021, as COVID-related restrictions continue to make it impractical (or, in some cases, impossible) to do business in person, consider reprioritizing your digital strategy.
Focus on expanding your digital presence to build relationships, connect with new customers and sell to existing ones—even if they can’t interact with your business in person.
So, what exactly does expanding your digital presence look like? There are a number of ways to increase your reach online—and grow your small business in the process. Here's a digital to-do list for your small business:
- Optimize your website. Everyone who visits your website is a potential customer—so, if you want to grow your business, your site is a great place to start. Look for ways to engage your customers and drive growth for your website. For example, you might start a blog that provides helpful information to your target audience, install AI chatbot software to answer common customer questions or revamp your ecommerce strategy to make purchasing easier and more streamlined for your customers.
- Get social. One of the golden rules of marketing is to engage your audience where they already are—and in 2021, your audience is on social media. Social media can be a great way to connect with new customers, foster relationships and ultimately grow your business. Start creating content and having conversations on the platforms your customers use most—and offer your social followers incentives to engage with your business (like exclusive discount codes).
- Try social advertising. Posting on your social media channels is a great way to connect with your audience. But if you want to get your brand in front of new customers, social media advertising can be a great way to do it. And because social media advertising platforms (like Facebook Ads and Instagram ads) allow you to customize, tailor and target your ads, you can ensure that your brand is getting in front of the people most likely to convert into customers.
3. Look for partnership opportunities.
Growing a business can be hard—but luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.
Partnering with other businesses that aren’t competitors (but have a similar customer base) can be a great way to get your brand in front of new customers and grow your business.
For example, let’s say you own an organic juice bar—and you’re looking to drive local health enthusiasts into your shop. You might reach out to nearby gyms or fitness centers to see if you could host a pop-up event in their facility, where their clients could sample your juices and learn more about your small business. Or, maybe you’re trying to build buzz around your wine subscription service. You might reach out to meal kit companies to see if they’d be open to including a sample (along with a promo code!) in their upcoming boxes so customers could enjoy your wine with their dinner.
The point is, there are plenty of companies out there that aren’t competitors but have already built a relationship with your target customers—and partnering with them is a great way to bring those customers into your business.
When reaching out to other companies for partnership opportunities, make sure you showcase the value you’d bring to the partnership. What can you offer your partner—and their customers—that will make them want to work with you? For example, you might offer your partner a percentage of referral sales or to promote their business across your social media channels—and offer their customers an introductory discount.
4. Experiment with different marketing strategies.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to grow a small business. A strategy that helps one business connect with hundreds of new customers might fall flat for another...and a strategy that helps one small business owner drive tens of thousands of dollars of revenue could prove a total loss for another company.
So, if you want to effectively grow your business, what's the best thing you can do? Experiment with different strategies until you find what works for your business and customers.
For example, you might find that your content marketing strategy consistently delivers qualified leads that you’re able to convert into paying customers—but your marketing brochures aren’t delivering the same kind of ROI. Or, maybe you find in-person marketing events are driving a ton of new business—but you’re not seeing the same kind of revenue spike after rolling out a new digital ad campaign.
Bottom line? There’s no single, universal or surefire way to grow your business—so make sure to experiment with different marketing strategies until you find what works best for you.
5. Tap into your existing customer base.
Your existing customers already know what it’s like to work with you, whether that’s through engaging your services or buying your products. And if they’re continuing to do business with you, that means they’re happy with the experience—so, you essentially have an ideal growth tool at your disposal.
Tapping into your existing customer base is a great way to connect with new customers and grow your business. Ask current customers to refer their friends and family. Send an email to your contact list asking customers to write reviews on Google, Yelp or any other relevant review sites. Identify your most loyal customers and get them to write a testimonial for your website—or, even better, record a video testimonial you can share across your social channels.
One thing to keep in mind? Even if they’re head over heels for your brand, your existing customers aren’t going to help you grow your business for nothing—so make sure you’re offering them incentives (like discounts or free products or services) in exchange for their referrals, reviews or testimonials.