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    Top 5 Strategies for Startup Business Growth

    Starting a business is exciting, but it can be daunting, particularly once you’re out of the initial set-up phase putting down foundations for the future. There are so many things to learn and do that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Lots of business owners end up in firefighting mode, leaving them little space or time to create plans or develop their knowledge. 

    If you want to grow, you need to get out of firefighting mode and start strategizing. However good your concept, however hard you’re willing to work, it’s important to develop strategies that will help you grow: now and for years to come. 

    Develop your products, your people and yourself now so your business is primed for growth. In this article, we look at how everything from marketing to data integration can make a difference.

    Top 5 Strategies for Startup Business Growth

    1) Know your audience:

    Every business starts with an idea. You come up with a product or service and then you start to figure out how to offer that to people. Naturally, you’re excited about your new idea, but it’s important not to get so excited about the product that you forget to connect with your audience. And of course, without an engaged audience interested in buying, you don’t have a business. 

    The key to connecting with your audience is getting to know them really, really well. Without that, you’re left floundering in the dark.

    When you came up with your business idea, you probably had a broad sense of who you wanted to target - perhaps something like ‘families’ or ‘young professionals’. As you grow it’s important to get more specific. That doesn’t mean you need to restrict yourself to one small niche: it’s fine to have a broad audience made up of multiple small groups.

    You should be looking to find out as much as possible about your audience. How old are they? Where do they live? What are their interests? Do they have children? What’s their income? What jobs do they do? Knowing the demographics of the people who buy from you helps you understand why they’re interested in your products.

    You also want to know about their attitudes, lifestyle and values. Think about what they like doing at the weekend, for example. Maybe you have a product that you want to target families with. But the kind of products an urban family of three with a newborn want to buy might be very different from the products a rural family of five with teenagers want to buy. 

    How do you find out all of this? Take a look at who is currently buying from you. Use data from Google Analytics and other web tools, carry out surveys, look at research that others have done, spend some time on forums where your target audience hangs out, talk to people at networking and trade events. You might find that the people who are buying from you most aren’t the people you expected, and that’s OK – use that new knowledge to inform your marketing. 

    2) Know your competition:

    You might have a completely original idea that no-one else is working on. But most businesses have competitors, and it’s just important to get to know them as it is your audience. What are others doing well that you’re not? And what can you offer that they don’t?

    You can start by simply taking a look at your competitors’ websites and social media pages. This isn’t in order to steal ideas, but simply to see what you’re up against. There are various web tools out there that can help you find out what’s trending in your industry by analyzing popular keyword searches, for example. 

    Offline, do plenty of networking. Attend events and training courses with businesses operating in the same space as you. Go in with an open mind and be willing to share ideas. You might even find that competitors can become collaborators. 

    Read as much as you can. Keep up to date with industry publications and popular blogs. If others are interested in something new, it’s probably something you should know about too. 

    Researching competitors can be scary. It’s natural to fear that you don’t measure up to your them and to avoid comparing yourself as a result. But it’s vital that you do compare. If you can’t offer something that meets your customers’ needs better than they can, the space for your business to grow into isn’t there. 

    3) Stand out:

    Take a look at your website. What are you offering or saying there that others are not? Why are you different?

    Many startups begin their marketing efforts by taking a look at what others are doing and then, sometimes unconsciously, mimicking them. That’s a natural thing to do – if something seems to be working for others, why wouldn’t you try and do something similar? 

    However, just because it’s working for them, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. If you want to grow, you need to know how to differentiate yourself. 

    If you don’t already have a clear value proposition, develop one. A value proposition is simply a statement that demonstrates what you’re offering and how it solves a problem for your customers better than other businesses can. 

    Start by identifying the benefits your product or service provides, and then define the problem that they solve and why you solve the problem better than anyone else. 

    It sounds simple but can be surprisingly difficult to do –  being so close to your own business means it’s often hard to see it as others do. This is an area where it can really pay to get some help in from a marketing expert or business consultant.


    4) Get to grips with your data:

    As your business grows, you’ll find yourself handling ever-increasing amounts of data. As a brand new business with just one or two staff, handling data probably felt quite easy. It just simply happened, you kept records and things just ticked along. Most of the time, growing businesses get to the point where they need to invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to handle sales, and an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to deal with internal processes. If you’re not quite there yet, you’re likely to be there soon.

    These systems work well, but they don’t always work together unless you take active steps to integrate them. Having more than one system for collecting and handling data means that you hold information about your customers in more than one place. 

    This means that you’ll need to share information between the two systems. So, you might need to speak to a customer about a potential sale using the details you have on your CRM, but want to access the credit information about them on your ERP before you do. Doing this manually means either checking more than one system, or copying data between them. Both of those approaches use up valuable time can lead to mistakes. 

    Data integration allows you to see real-time, accurate data collected in two or more different systems in one place, within a mouse-click or two. There are various easy-to-install cloud-based solutions out there, and they’re generally affordable.

    Data integration is a vital step towards business growth. It allows you to respond quickly and easily to customers’ questions, saves money and helps you develop plans for the future based on data you know you can trust. 


    5) Know your personal strengths and weaknesses:

    Growing your business relies not only on understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your products. You need to understand your personal strengths and weaknesses too. As you grow, you’ll also need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. 

    It’s important to be able to look dispassionately at your own abilities. While having confidence in yourself is obviously important, particularly if you’re battling imposter syndrome, everyone has areas they could do better in. If you can’t stand back and see what those are, you leave yourself open to making mistakes. Believe in yourself – but not so much you can’t see where you’re going wrong. 

    It’s a really good idea to look for a mentor or coach to help you do this. They’ll support you to identify where you’re doing well and what you need to work on. They’ll help you develop confidence and ask tough questions where they need to. They’ll help you explore new ideas and think around problems. Because they’ll have worked with many business owners before, they’ll be able to see very quickly where changes can be made and they may even have personal contacts you can use. 

    Working with a mentor or coach can help you develop your own coaching and mentoring skills too. Businesses that succeed tend to have a culture that encourages openness and discussion, and the ability to coach and be coached is vital to that. Learning more about the coaching process will help you develop the kind of open, trusting internal relationships that encourage creativity and growth. 

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