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8 Small Business Growth Strategies

Photo Credit: smallbiztrends.com

By Fast Capitol

Aiming to expand? We have 8 small business growth strategies to plot a successful future for your company. 

First, we’ll cover the definition of business growth strategies and the different types of approaches to growing your business, including:

  • Tracking your performance
  • Optimizing your marketing message
  • Focusing on your ideal customer
  • Developing multimedia content
  • Standardizing sales processes
  • Focusing on follow-up
  • Prioritizing customer retention
  • Leveraging automation

Then we’ll outline several high-leverage tactics to increase your bottom line.

Business Growth Strategies: A Definition

What is a business growth strategy? A company’s growth can be measured in terms of multiple factors that relate to the expansion or improvement of performance. These include:

  • A rise in sales and revenue
  • An increase in the number of customers
  • The expansion of market share
  • A decrease in expenses
  • An increase in profits

This is a plan for achieving growth in one or more of these areas or related areas. To illustrate a business plan for growth strategy with an example, consider how a family business might pursue growth strategies to expand their existing location.

For Instance

After 5 years of running a successful family-owned Mexican restaurant, the business owner does some market research and determines that a second location in another part of town might do well. 

Some additional research identifies the best spot to open a new restaurant and the menu options most likely to be popular with local customers. The owner launches the new restaurant with a marketing campaign themed around Cinco de Mayo, offering discounts on house specials. To promote the campaign, the restaurant partners with other local businesses to distribute coupons and social media posts announcing the upcoming event. 

The Cinco de Mayo launch creates a customer base for the new location. This base soon increases through word-of-mouth marketing and follow-up events, quickly making the new restaurant locally competitive.

Types of Business Growth Strategies

Business growth and expansion strategies can be classified using several different approaches. One way to group strategies is to divide them into methods of growing a company through internal expansion versus growing a company through external acquisition:

  • Organic business growth strategies build a company through internal methods, such as increased marketing activity
  • Inorganic business growth strategies expand a company through external methods, such as mergers and acquisitions.

Another way to classify strategies is by organizing them around a company’s relationship to its target market. Strategies classified this way include:

  • Increasing the market share for an existing product or service (market penetration)
  • Expansion into new segments of a market
  • Development of new products and services to fill a specialized market niche
  • Diversification into a new market by introducing products and services distinct from the company’s core brand

A third way to classify business growth strategies is in terms of business function. Several fundamental business functions tend to drive growth:

  • Marketing strategies for business growth through customer acquisition
  • Sales strategies for customer sales conversions
  • Customer service strategies for customer retention

The 8 strategies below represent some of the most efficient ways to expand your business through marketing, sales and customer service optimization.

1. Track Your Performance

Tracking your business growth lays a foundation for effectively managing growth. When you track your business performance, you can set measurable goals, monitor progress, identify shortcomings and make adjustments.

A best practice for tracking growth is to select key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure your performance. KPIs you can track include:

  • Marketing KPIs, such as:
    • Sales revenue generated per marketing campaign
    • Cost of lead per acquisition
    • How much web traffic each of your marketing channels are generating
  • Sales KPIs, such as:
    • Sales revenue target performance
    • Ratio of sales costs to sales revenue
    • Sales conversion rates
  • Customer service KPIs, such as:
    • Customer satisfaction scores
    • How likely customers are to recommend your brand to others
    • Percent of service tickets that get resolved on first contact

For maximum efficiency, track these KPIs by using a business intelligence software tool that syncs with your marketing, sales and customer-service software. Some marketing, sales and customer-service apps have built-in analytics tools.

2. Optimize Your Marketing Message

How you express your marketing message has a direct impact on your marketing performance. The wording of your marketing message determines who your promotions will attract, what benefits you will communicate to them and how they will perceive your brand.

To optimize your marketing efforts, develop an effective unique selling proposition (USP). A USP communicates 3 essential things which make a product, service or brand stand out from competitors:

  • What your brand offers to customers
  • Why customers should want what you offer
  • Why they should buy it from you instead of someone else

For example, consider the classic FedEx slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” At a time when overnight delivery was less commonplace than it is today, this made FedEx stand out from competitors who didn’t offer this service.

As this example illustrates, a good USP should be short enough that it can be used in ads and other marketing material where time and space are limited. Take care to select words that capture crucial components of your marketing message, such as what need your product or service solves, who your brand helps or what benefits you offer.

3. Focus on Your Ideal Customer

To be effective and avoid wasting money, your marketing campaigns need to focus on the right audience. An effective technique for zeroing in on your target audience is to develop a profile of your ideal customer. An ideal buyer profile helps you highlight:

  • Who your best customers are
  • Where you can find them
  • What they want
  • How you can make your product or service appeal to them

A good way to develop your ideal buyer profile is to analyze your current best customers and identify their key traits. You can then focus your marketing on attracting customers with similar traits.

Using a customer profile template can make this easier by simplifying the process of developing a buyer profile. Social media tools such as Facebook Audience Insights can help you automate the process of defining your ideal buyer and finding prospects with matching characteristics.

4. Develop Multimedia Content

Marketers now spend more on digital advertising than on conventional ads, based on data from market-research provider eMarketer. A large chunk of this is spent on video ads. Advertiser spending on video ads will increase by 18% a year between now and 2021, compared with 10% growth for other types of internet advertising, according to Zenith Media. This will make video ad spending as large as one-third of television ad spending. To stay competitive in this advertising environment, it’s critical for brands to develop multimedia content.

Multimedia content can include a mix of:

  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Blog posts
  • Mobile text marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Conventional media channels such as print, TV and radio

For best results, use your various media channels to reinforce each other. For instance, you can use social media posts to drive audiences to your website to read your blog posts and subscribe to your email list.

5. Standardize Your Sales Process

Business growth ultimately depends on increasing sales revenue. The best way to consistently increase sales results is to develop a standardized sales process that works. To standardize your sales process, start by defining the steps in your process. 

  • Capturing contact information from leads
  • Setting sales appointments or getting a prospect to visit a sales page
  • Building trust and rapport with the prospect
  • Identifying the prospect’s needs
  • Communicating benefits to the prospect
  • Making a closing offer
  • Answering sales objections
  • Following up if the prospect doesn’t make an immediate purchase
  • Generating repeat sales and referrals

For each step in your sales process, develop a standard operating procedure describe what your representatives should do for each step. Developing and testing sales scripts for each stage in the process can help improve your results and generate consistent revenue.

6. Focus on the Follow-Up

Relatively few sales close during the first sales contact. For business-to-business email marketing, it may take as many as 7 to 13 contacts with a prospect to close a sale, according to Microsoft data analyzed by the Online Marketing Institute. The process can include multiple emails, direct mailings, telephone calls and live appointments. 

The follow-up also is critical to generating repeat sales and referrals, which can multiply your sales revenue. This means that an effective sales team must focus on following up with customers.

The best way to improve your follow-up is to build it into your standardized sales process. Define what follow-up actions team members should take if a sale fails to close. Additionally, lay out what actions they should take to generate repeat business and referrals after a sale does close. Create sales scripts to facilitate follow-up procedures.

7. Prioritize Customer Retention

Attracting new customers can prove expensive. Once you have a customer, you can continue promoting products and services to them as long as they remain satisfied with your business. This makes retaining your current customers through superior service one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies available.

Techniques you can implement to improve customer retention include:

  • Tracking KPIs that measure customer service
  • Shortening customer wait time on service tickets
  • Offering free and priority shipping options
  • Extending discounts and special offers to loyal customers
  • Soliciting customer service feedback

8. Leverage Automation

Many of the strategies above can be implemented more efficiently by employing automation. Automation tools that can promote business growth include:

  • Business intelligence analytics tools to help you monitor and plan your company’s growth
  • Marketing automation platforms to save you time on routine tasks such as uploading content to social media profiles and sending email autoresponder messages
  • Customer-relationship management (CRM) software to store contact information, track sales activity and personalize sales efforts
  • Customer service automation tools, such as:
    • Knowledge-base software, which provides your staff and customers with information to assist with customer service issues
    • Chatbots, which provide automated online service to website visitors
    • Interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which automate phone service

These types of tools can be deployed individually or integrated for streamlined performance. For instance, sharing customer data from a CRM service with your IVR system can automate the process of pulling up caller account information, speeding up your customer service and improving customer satisfaction.

Applying Business Growth Strategies

In the long run, you may wish to apply all of these strategies. In the short term, however, it might be more practical to implement a handful of these strategies at a time and build them into your everyday business workflow before adding other ones.

To decide which strategy to deploy first, consider whether your business growth would benefit most from improvements in marketing, sales or customer-service performance. Select and implement a strategy related to your top need first.

In the process, you can begin tracking key performance indicators in the area you select. Meanwhile, you can begin considering software that would help you implement your new strategy efficiently. This will give you experience with using KPIs and automation to improve your performance in a single area of your business. Once you’ve made gains in one area, you can use this as a foundation to replicate your success in other areas of your business.

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7 Cold Calling Secret Tips to Get Past Gatekeepers

Photo: Shutterstock 

By David Walter

When it comes to cold call sales, getting past the gatekeeper is the most important step. You can be the best salesperson in the world, but if you’re unable to get past the gatekeeper, your efforts are thwarted before you even get started.

Getting past the gatekeeper is so difficult that it’s caused people to stop prospecting entirely, and some even leave the profession, claiming that cold calling is dead simply because they couldn’t get beyond this stage. Others resort to the “snake oil salesman” approach where they deceive and scam the caller to get through.

This is not the approach to take.

With the seven tips that I’ve perfected and mastered you can instead compliment, distract and mirror and to get past the gatekeeper.

1. Mirroring

The mirroring technique has you mirror the person you’re calling with the aim of building rapport. When you ask how they are and they respond that they’re tired and haven’t had their morning coffee yet, you use this to start a conversation. You can respond by saying that you wish it was Friday or that you also are needing a cup of coffee. And just like that, you’ve built rapport and started a dialogue.

2. Give the person the upper hand

This technique is similar to the above but instead of mirroring, you are giving them a one-up. If they say they’re doing fantastic when you ask how they are, tell them that they’re doing much better than you are, and you want their secret. Give them the upper edge. If they say they’ve had their morning coffee, say that you still need yours. This friendly banter creates a way to move forward in the conversation.

3. Bantering

Being playful with the person who answers the phone keeps the conversation light. If the person asks what the call is concerning, I like to jokingly say it’s a secret, and if I told them, I’d have to kill them. I laugh quickly and say it’s a joke, which builds instant rapport through laughter.

4. Have confidence in yourself

The most important technique is knowing that you are confident in your abilities. People can tell when a person is unsure of himself, so make sure that you are prepared and confident. You will speak with more certainty and get past the gatekeeper when you have the confidence in being able to do so.

5. Use foresight

I recommend sending mailers that indicate that the recipient should expect a follow-up call from you. That way when you call and the person who answers the call asks if the person to whom you are wanting to speak is expecting your call, you can say yes without hesitation.

6. Go negative

At the beginning of a call, ask if the person with whom you hope to speak has already gone for the day. By phrasing the question in this way, it seems like you know the prospect is busy and have an informed understanding. This simple form of reverse psychology creates an illusion that you know the prospect, which makes it easier to get past the gatekeeper.

7. Treat the person answering the phone like they are the decision maker

Most of the time, the person answering the phone is not the decision maker. But, by making your call recipients feel important, they will be surprised and will more than likely transfer the call.

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Reset Your Mindset to Unlock Your Revenue

Author: Caroline Brennan

Many business owners experience struggles with their startup growth. It’s reasonable to expect that there will be ups and downs when establishing your company. Some people attribute these setbacks solely to poor tactics. 

However, sometimes it’s what is going on in your head that keeps you from getting where you want to go. The reality is that your mindset can have a significant impact on your performance.

Let’s dig a little deeper and look at how your mindset can affect your performance and ultimately how to address this issue. If you feel like you need a tune-up mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, keep on reading.

The Importance of Mindset

Your journey to grow your business involves a certain number of activities you need to do to succeed. These include getting leads to make demos and sales calls and then close sales. 

You have goals for each activity you need to achieve that will serve as your indicator for success. However, there may be times when you do the required number of activities but still don’t attain the desired result. For example, you might make the necessary number of sales calls but still fall short of your goal. If this is the case, your mindset might be the problem.

Mindset is the key component in you being successful or not whether you’re earning below $30k or a million per month. What’s going on in your mind determines whether or not you accomplish your objectives.

The Two Mindsets

When it comes to your company and the activities for business growth, you will fall into one of two mindsets.

The first one is focusing on yourself instead of on what the market needs. This is the type of mindset people are guilty of when they accomplish all their business activities but still fail to meet their goals. 

For example, if you’re getting many leads but not enough demos or sales calls, you’re probably thinking about your product and not your client’s success. You’re probably worrying about your problems rather than what your market is going through daily.

The second one is the mindset of people who succeed. This mindset is more concerned with what your market needs rather than with yourself and your problems. With this mentality, even people who don’t have a background in marketing, sales, or business development can succeed and have excellent skills simply by focusing on improving the market and other peoples’ lives rather than on themselves.

How to Shift Your Mindset

The best way to change your mindset for success is to shift your internal focus to external. This means that instead of focusing on what’s going on inside your head and trying to sort it out, you need to focus on what’s going on outside in the market: what people are thinking and doing and what’s going on in their lives. 

And when you learn to stop suffering in your head, you’ll be able to do the same for others. That is what business is all about: relieving the suffering of others.

Your mindset can have a significant impact on how you perform in your business. As such, it’s essential to reset your mindset to aid your startup growth and boost predictable revenue.

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How to cut down hours and achieve more results

Photo: Pixabay

“I work 14 hours a day”, he exclaimed with his chest pumped up. The people around gasped, “Wow, he is such a dedicated guy. I am sure he is an achiever.”

The world believes in the following equation: long working hours = more work done

Many of the organizations even reward the employees who work beyond their working hours.

When a person works over 12 hours often, some real questions need answers.

  • Was there a need to work those many hours?
  • How many of those working hours went wasted?
  • Could the same work be accomplished in 8 hours with better efficiency?

Enough and more articles exist on how hard work leads to success. Yes, effort does play a key role in your achievements, but a long grind every day does not always imply hard work. In most cases, it even causes the opposite effect.

The dangers of long working hours

1. Long hours are an excuse for unfocused work

A few years back I had a routine of working 14+ hours for 6 days a week. I considered it a matter of pride for putting in immense efforts day after day. Today when I look back, I realize I did not make every minute of those hours count. Since I knew I had enough time on my hands, I would compensate for my poor efficiency with long hours.

More work? No problem, I will work a few more hours. New obstacle? I will tackle it by working extra hours. Another project? Bring it on, I’ll do it.

Over time, long working days turn into a vicious circle that pulls your attention in different directions.

2. Long hours lead to poor prioritization

When you have a long day at work, you feel like picking every task thrown at you. You end up delivering average results on tasks that you should have never worked on at all.

When you try to focus on many things, you forget the real goals which matter to you. You end up helping another person achieve their dream than chase your own.

3. Long hours require a compromise

You only have 24 hours in a day. If you spend most of these working, you end up compromising on some other aspect of your life. In most cases, you ignore your personal life, family or sleep.

Over the long term, paying a blind eye to those areas bites you back causing damage you cannot recover from.

4. Long hours are not sustainable

When you are in you’re 20’s, you can manage to work long hours and get by. As time passes by, you have more responsibilities to attend to making your old lifestyle unsustainable. If not anything else, at some point the endless work takes a toll on your health.

How to get more done by working less in 5 ways

Are you surprised hearing you can do more by working less? That sounds like a magic pill, doesn’t it? Well, the secret of getting more done in fewer hours lies in its simplicity.

When you force yourself to end your day at a certain time, you face an invisible deadline. All of a sudden you have limited working hours to complete all your tasks. You now have to pick and choose to prioritize the right tasks. You can no longer afford to waste 1 hour on a task you earlier completed as a part of your daily routine.

2. Have a stop time for a task

As human beings, we like to finish a task we started. Driven by that urge, you tend to keep working on a task until you finish it even if it isn’t the need of the hour.

Set yourself a time to finish the task. Add a small buffer time for any unforeseen scenarios. Once the clock hits that time, you must move on to the next task unless you have a compelling reason to finish it that day. Such an approach helps you keep your overall to-do list moving instead of pulling your hair on a single task you’re struggling with.

3. Cut your working hours by 2-3 hours

On a random day, give yourself 2-3 hours less than what you have. For example, if you work for 10 hours on a regular day, you can only work for 7 hours that day. Though you have lesser time, you must still execute all your tasks for the day.

A smaller time-frame forces you to stretch your limits and think of new ways of doing things faster. If you do not force yourself to improve, your brain prefers to take as much time as possible. Once you achieve your goal in a shorter time, you start realizing ways to optimize your performance.

Do this often enough and your improved performance becomes a part of your routine.

4. Create a list of what not to-do

You have a to-do list, but do you have a not to-do list? Knowing what not to do saves you more time than defining the 100 tasks you have on your plate. For example, here are a few things you can add as a part of your not to-do list:

I will not use my phone when I am working

I will not browse social media during my working hours

I will not spend more than 15 minutes a day on the routine task X

I will not work on more than 2 major projects at a time

I will not check my emails more than 2 times a day

Killing all your distractions and working with focus does wonders for your productivity. When you channel all your attention on the task at hand, you can complete work in 2 days which would otherwise take you a week.

Break some parts of your day into blocks using the time blocking technique. Setting aside 2 hours a day can yield amazing results. During these time blocks, you must focus only on tasks that help you fulfill your long term goals. Pick a time when you have the least chance of disturbance and lock yourself in a closet if need be.

The key to time blocks is ensuring you follow the routine on all working days. These blocks seem small when you begin but over time provide massive compounded returns.

Getting more done in fewer hours is not about learning new productivity skills. It is all about eliminating your bad habits which suck time out of your daily routine.

When you work long hours, you fool yourself into believing that everything you work on is important and that you are at your operational best. The only way you can stretch your limits and focus on the things that matter is by cutting down your working hours.

Now that isn’t a comfortable change to make. Most people who read this article will go back to their old routine. The question is, will you?

Takeaways:

  • Work smarter, not harder
  • Spending long hours on a project doesn’t guaranty success
  • Decide on an end of day time
  • Set a stop time for tasks
  • Identify things not to do
  • Work in time blocks

Author: Maxim Dsouza. I turned down a corporate job in a quest to build something successful of my own. In this journey, I have been a part of and contributed extensively to multiple failed startups. I am yet to find what works, but my experience has taught me what doesn’t.

Today, I write on my blog Productive Club. I share tips on how to improve productivity, overcome procrastination, improve focus and overcome fear based on my lessons learned. My approach is to never run a sprint but take small baby steps like a marathon while enjoying the journey.

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The 4 traits of good leaders to be empathetic and achieve good results in teamwork

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By Daniel Colombo

Leading is one of the most important functions that a person can develop in front of a team ; however, the challenges of being able to do it properly are many and varied.

It is common to hear those who are directed speak saying that they feel excessive pressure or harshness from their superiors; and these, in turn, qualify them as that without this type of management the teams do not work as they would like and the companies need.

Working with leaders from different industries, I have noticed that many times they confuse firmness with hardness or rigidity, and they are different things. You can be a firm empath, although you will rarely be rigid.

There are several things to do in this regard, especially in this age of the growing shift from the typical, top-down, authoritarian boss model to diverse leadership styles based on values of closeness, collaboration, and empathy.

4 dynamics to develop assertive work ties

One of those challenges is being able to measure the way in which each leader connects with the people within the organization, that is, knowing when to press and when to accompany so that each one knows that they have that support, although you are also aware of that results are expected from each of the members, and this is central to understanding the dynamics of interpersonal relationships at work.

Here are these 4 traits that good leaders apply to achieve effortless results. As you will observe, they know how to be kind, empathetic and powerfully human, and also firm, focused and determined, all in its appropriate measure:

Trait # 1: Accompany and Release

Good leaders know that in order to achieve goals, you need to go alongside those who are going to seek those results and make things happen. Knowing how to accompany and how far to do it is one of the leader’s strategic functions.

There will be team members who will need more guidance than others, and knowing how to recognize what you can contribute to each of them is key to regulating the good investment of time and resources that you make available to the members.

The leader who is successful is the one who is on par with his teams; he knows that it has to function like the training wheels of a beginner, until he achieves what he wants, and then steps away to continue pedaling alone.

Trait # 2: Give good feedback permanently

Something that also characterizes good leaders is that they can modulate the style in which they give feedback in the form of feedback delivered on time and in good shape. It is not the same to say “you did everything wrong” to saying “this can be improved and this other is well executed, although if you do it like this it may be even better because …”. Better yet, it is to ask directly: “I trust you: What could you do to make your result noticeably superior?”

Giving good feedback implies adjusting deviations and transmitting them appropriately to each team member, while using assertive communication and active listening, both to calibrate and rectify what may be wrong or away from the purpose they pursue, as well as to detect particular needs of that person, always focused on awakening their potential.

When it comes to giving feedback, it is necessary that you do it with: a) precision in the information you want to make clear, b) consistent between your saying, doing and feeling so that there is total agreement; c) acknowledge, congratulate and encourage before and after, d) And also be flexible in the way you say it.

The suggestion is that you manage to be explanatory, not imposing, and use the feedback as a bridge to a generative conversation for both parties.

Trait # 3: Point and Adjust

Notices about the situations or events that you detect as critical to the team’s performance will allow the people who work with you to become aware of the opportunities for learning and improvement.

Good leaders know that making timely signals prevents errors in the execution of a task from being perpetuated; instead, they take them on time, and they strive so that people can recognize that there is a new learning that will allow them to develop. It’s about using everything to grow, learn, and advance.

The external adjustments that you make can help the awareness to become self-corrections, and that is one of the most important advantages of making value statements for each member.

Marking the improvements implies having firmness and determination, along with the openness and power of listening to receive the suggestions of the other party. And here is a sensitive aspect: the reception of the information will depend on how kind you have been when giving your vision, considering the needs of your interlocutor.

It is possible to achieve high involvement by providing the appropriate information for the other person to act to improve themselves.

Remember that the result of concrete action of each person will be directly proportional to your level of empathy. That is, low empathy, poor results; and with high empathy, significant achievements.

Trait # 4: Mark the Times

Achieving results is a matter of time. Postponing, shortening or lengthening the achievements depends on the dynamics that you implement within the team.

As a leader you need to make things happen in the best possible way that someone can do it, taking both their technical and emotional skills to achieve it.

Deadlines are often set in advance through strategy and planning. If so, when you must, you have the choice to be firm in keeping them if you know that as a team they can pull it off.

Although you also need to have sensitivity to be flexible and kind enough to consider setbacks that have not been taken into account in that initial planning, for example, changes in organizational dynamics, replacements in the team, personal issues of its members and even, alterations in business decisions.

As you can see, from these four traits, complementary to each other, you realize that kindness is not just a matter of form in the treatment , but it contains a profound difference with imposition and rigidity.

On the other hand, firmness is knowing how to demand when necessary, considering the needs of the other party. Right there lies the difference between being rigid and working hard, versus the excellence you aspire to achieve. And this is indeed an overcoming path for the performance of your team leadership.

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