If you’re an SMB, you’re always looking for ways to grow your business.
Business owners who already have an established customer base may feel comfortable in their current position, but a steady influx of new prospects is important to growing your business. The truth is that stagnancy is the precursor to organizational failure, and businesses that are not able to sign off on new clients run the risk of turning off the office lights for good.
It’s one of the many reasons why approximately half of small businesses fail within their first 5 years of service.
If your existing client portfolio serves as the bedrock of your organization, new customers offer the potential to expand into solutions, replace legacy partnerships, and further invest in your people. If you are an SMB owner looking to expand your reach in local markets and grow your business, here are a few key strategies to include in your growth efforts.
Funding Your Efforts
If you’ve ever struggled to secure a consistent, growing cash flow, your business is in good company. A reported 69% of SMB owners are losing sleep over their cash flow (or lack thereof), and the problem shows no signs of slowing down.
In terms of growth strategies, poor cash flow management raises one critical dilemma: when your money coming in is equal or less than your money going out, how can you put a financial stake into growing your business? It’s hard to justify larger spend in marketing, brand visibility, new sales technology, or other common growth practices when you’re focused on paying office rent and monthly payroll.
Depending on the size and age of your organization—as well as the state of your personal and professional finances—there are a number of different opportunities to delve into that will give you the right amount of financial updraft. A great place to start your research is looking into government-backed grants, which are essentially free funding programs designed to help grow your businesses to the next level. The key to a successful application and eventual approval is to find grants that are best suited for you and your business—whether that’s a fund for disabled veterans or environmentally conscious organizations.
Loans are another viable option to give your business the cash injection it needs to expand. Although it’s important to ensure that you are in the right financial position to take on a personal or business-related loan, these types of opportunities can help you establish credit toward your future and hire out the resources you need to serve new customers. A premium example is home equity loans, which are designed to utilize the value already invested in your home toward a one-time payout. Because interests are typically fixed in a home equity loan, it’s easy for business owners to treat repayment as a regular expense in their bookkeeping.
Advocacy Campaigns Can Grow Your Business
Now that you have a good amount of capital on hand, it’s time to invest in your people, technologies, and strategies in order to boost your customer numbers. Enter employee advocacy, where your employees are the biggest promoters of your brand and your reputation as an employer.
First, let’s delve a bit deeper into what employee advocacy actually accomplishes, and why it’s an essential growth tactic in the age of modern business. Essentially, employee advocacy hinges on the philosophy that customers will always trust other people more than they trust brands. Although it’s always a great idea to promote your brand online, your employees who engage with your posts and share them on their personal networks will craft an infinitely deeper understanding of your brand’s identity with your audience.
So, how do you create an effective employee advocacy program if you haven’t already? 65% of advocacy marketers agree that the key lies in recognizing your employees—whether they’ve recently posted a review on Glassdoor or followed your newly made LinkedIn account. This recognition can be as simple as a public shout-out for the biggest advocates of the quarter or as comprehensive as a monetary or gift-based incentive.
One of the best places to begin your investment into employee advocacy is gamification, which takes your existing tasks and converts them into games that your employees can win for awards or other types of recognition. Many aspects of gamification include a leaderboard for tracking the progress of each person, a space to tailor your game toward your specific advocacy objectives, and opportunities to track the progress of the contest over its duration.
Having an engaged workforce isn’t always the first idea that comes to mind when brainstorming new ways to grow an audience. But for industries where employees interact with customers and prospective clients on a regular basis, employee engagement is directly correlated to customer experience. The more invested your team is in their work and the overall business, the better care and attention they will give to your customers, and the stronger your marketing efforts will be.
Some experts argue employee engagement and customer experience are so intrinsically linked that a company able to focus on employee engagement will yield 233% greater customer loyalty than their competitors who do not.
Growing your business through customer engagement manifests itself through a number of valuable pathways. The first is through customer referrals, where your existing audience advocates for your offerings through reviews, shares, and other public commentaries. Customer referrals are critical in a time where 71% of shoppers read reviews online before they purchase on your website or in your store.
Great customer experience will also naturally generate word-of-mouth marketing, which is proven to be one of the most successful factors in converting prospective visitors into loyal customers. Word-of-mouth marketing contributes anywhere from 20% to 50% of all purchase decisions and is especially effective for customers who are looking to buy a product or service for the first-time. In this regard, if you are able to continue to delight your existing customer base, you will automatically start to grow your business through their personal endorsements.
Similar to many growth efforts, there is no singular path to building up employee engagement in your organization and must be long-term effort.
The Small Business Difference
SMB owners who operate in either highly competitive markets or locations know all too well the familiar stress that comes with keeping up with their much larger competitors. When comparing the sizes of your customer bases or the number of resources on hand, you might feel that there’s no feasible way to become a contender in your industry.
Growing your business requires the mindset that your size is your greatest asset—not your biggest weakness—against larger competitors. A small customer base might mean a lower monthly cash influx, but it also means that you are able to devote all of your time and attention toward both current and prospective customers.
In this perspective, small businesses are much better equipped to deliver personalized experiences on an individual basis than corporations that need to divide their time among a vast pool of customers. This is particularly important in an era where 71% of consumers are frustrated by impersonal or irrelevant shopping experiences.
The laws of physics tell us that objects with larger masses will take a longer time to change directions, and the same principle is true with businesses. Big companies are typically burdened by their weight when it comes to enacting organizational change, making smaller competitors much more agile when it comes to serving their customers’ new or shifting needs. If you are able to detect changes in your field and tailor your services accordingly, you’ll naturally become the leader of the pack and bigger brands scramble to adapt and follow suit.
By treating your size as your organization’s greatest strength in growing your customer base, you will be sure to continue to satisfy the people you already do business with while also attracting new customers who are seeking a fresh, personalized experience to meet their needs.