As of 2021, there were 32.5 million small businesses in the United States — approximately 99.9% of all businesses in the nation. Of course, that’s an enormous percentage, as you well know — almost the entirety of all businesses in the country.
But the Small Business Administration (SBA) has long reported that only about half of all startups make it to the five-year mark.
For entrepreneurs and small or medium-sized business (SMBs) employees, this means that formulating strategies that will enable them to persist in spite of the many challenges they face is crucial. It’s also important to not only maintain profitability but grow.
How, then do you take your SMB to the next level? Start with these five strategies.
5 Ways to Grow Your Business
1) Communicate with customers: Listen to them.
Ninety-two percent of consumers are reluctant to purchase a product or service if they don’t first see a customer review, according to a survey by Fan & Fuel.
Appealing to consumers is the basis of your entire business, but this goes far beyond guesswork and estimations (or feelings). You need to listen to what they’re actually saying.
Reviews are one vehicle for understanding and communicating with customers. Not only do they provide feedback to other customers, but they can inform your own strategy as well. Plus, if you respond to reviews, you will demonstrate that you value them and their perspectives and will take what they have to say to heart.
But if you do respond on platforms like Yelp or your website, make sure to keep your tone helpful and empathetic. Avoid getting into arguments with customers who are unhappy with your services — this will only reflect negatively on your brand — and instead incentivize them to give it another try by, for example, offering them a discount or freebie next time.
Remember that your reach must extend beyond direct marketing efforts. You are building a community. Welcome, all feedback, the positive and the negative, and demonstrate your authenticity by avoiding filtering out criticism. Initiate a dialogue to connect beyond one single platform.
2) Have flexible scheduling.
During the Great Resignation, many employers around the world are struggling with labor shortages. It is critical for businesses to develop initiatives that incentivize employees to stay in the coming year and beyond.
Flexible scheduling — and flexibility in general — is key to these efforts. This will not only support them and allow them to achieve a better work-life balance, but it will also encourage them to work harder when they are on the clock.
On a related note, allowing employees to work remotely, at least some of the time, can also help them feel more satisfied with their organizations and jobs.
SMBs often lack the resources, employee base, and time to scale their business ventures as quickly as they would like. That’s where automation can help. There are plenty of platforms, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, that can help you automate and track tedious processes, saving time and effort.
From social media marketing to customer service, finance to recruiting, the vast majority of your departments and areas of specialization can benefit from automation and help you expand into new markets, as well as appeal to your current base.
4) Expand your social media opportunities and marketing strategies.
By now, you probably know how important social media is to your overall marketing strategy. This is the year to seek out new channels to grow your brand, as well as embrace the existing ones. If you’re not on platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, now is the time to consider which ones most closely align with your mission.
Not only should you have a presence on these channels, but you should seek out different ways to capitalize on them. Use a mix of content, including pictures, videos, and infographics, to convey your message and engage users.
Social media is just one piece of your overall marketing strategy; it’s also important to seek out additional venues for promoting your products and brand, such as through newsletters, blogs, and more.
Any solid marketing strategy is supported by strong data. The good news is there are plenty of ways to collect this information in today’s tech-driven world. Your social media platforms, website and landing pages, software like a CRM and CMS, and other tools generate an enormous amount of data, and you can leverage it to make informed decisions about how to proceed in terms of your marketing efforts.
5) Make customer loyalty a top priority.
It takes far more effort to find new customers than to retain existing ones. That, of course, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make strides to land new accounts and gain clients. But at the same time, you must invest time and funds into keeping the customers you already have, demonstrating that you value them and their loyalty.
In 2022, it is critical to build or ramp up initiatives that strengthen your commitment to your consumers and, in turn, encourage them to strengthen their commitment to you.
CRMs, for example, allows you to see a customer’s journey with regard to your business. You can look at an overview of how frequently you have interacted with them, the number of times they have purchased products or services from you, the emails they’ve opened, click-through rates, and more. This will help you determine their value as a consumer and allow you to prioritize your efforts with them accordingly.
Think about other ways of engaging consumers, too, to encourage them to keep coming back: rewards and loyalty programs, VIP incentives, freebies, early access to new products, and so on.
Business Trends to Watch in the New Year
We have underscored the importance of encouraging consumer loyalty. But connections can’t just be an afterthought. They require a certain amount of finesse — and authenticity.
How do you build authentic connections with your consumer base? Consumers must see the humanity in your brand. They want to see you being vulnerable. For example, you might have your employees blog about their experiences working at your company to demonstrate that there are real people behind your brand. Share videos and pictures of team bonding across social media channels, too.
Another strategy is to share your story. How did your brand start? Seeing your journey also gives you an air of honesty and authenticity.
Respect for employees needs to be far more than a passing trend, of course; you should always value your workers and treat them with the respect they deserve. But during the Great Resignation, it’s critical to ramp up your efforts to show that you truly believe in your employees and want them to succeed. You also need to incentivize them to stay with you, even when they could very well be fielding offers from your competitors.
In addition to retention efforts like offering higher salaries — which, naturally, can do wonders in keeping employees — try implementing or building up initiatives to support your team members. They might include:
- Mentorship programs
- Skills-building seminars and tuition reimbursements
- Wellness programs and gym or health reimbursements
- Remote work options and/or hybrid workplaces
New social media platforms and tools
While social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn remain as popular as ever, as we’ve discussed, you should also be making use of newer tools like TikTok. Consider your target audience and business needs in order to make the most of your presence and more effectively reach your base.
Small business marketing depends on these and other tools. In order to optimize your online presence, you should also focus your social efforts on advertising, as well as your organic posts and reach.
Don’t forget to analyze your results, too. That way, you can find ways to improve the customer experience and attract a new and stronger consumer base.
Central to your business growth is the capitalization of your mission. Chances are when you began your brand and conceptualized your strategy, all toward the goal of creating a successful organization, you focused on your mission and values — what you originally wanted to achieve with your ideas.
Last year and the previous one were enormously challenging for SMBs and large businesses alike. In the midst of pandemic-related stress and other chaos, some organizations may have struggled to remember and hearken back to that central purpose.
Now is the time to return to your mission and values. Business owners and leaders must take a moment to reflect on why they do what they do. Employees, too, should take this time to consider why they perform their work and why they remain committed to the organization and its purpose.
Once you have spent some time reflecting on your central purpose, look for ways to convey it to your audience and the larger world. Consider revising your mission statement to incorporate new ideas. Formulate innovative goals and objectives. And communicate these elements in your marketing and messaging. These are crucial aspects of growing businesses of any kind. You must believe in yourself in order for the public to believe in you.
How do you keep thriving and demonstrate appreciable results? How do you cultivate trust and achieve loyalty from existing and new consumers? How do you attract investors and funding?
In order to build and maintain relationships, you must be intentional with your branding. This can be a somewhat tricky concept, but it’s a critical part of your strategy. Be deliberate about each and every measure and step you take toward growing your business and achieving success in your future.
Work closely with your employees, listening to them when they speak about their area of expertise, whether that’s software development, marketing, finance, sales, editorial, human resources, and so on. Trust these perspectives, remembering that you hired your employees for a reason and must be able to respect them.
Be willing to take advice when it comes to branding your organization, too. At the same time, trust your own instincts. Your intuition is there for a reason, and it can help you navigate the challenges and obstacles you face moving forward. Understand that there will be challenges — no SMB or large organization is immune — but that if you have a solid, intentional strategy in place, you can weather the storms that come your way.
Working with other brands
It may seem like that in order to gain a competitive advantage in your space, you need to work against other brands. Not so. Actually, by teaming up with other organizations — yes, even ones in your industry or field — you can facilitate growth for the both of you.
Small business owners can achieve success by networking with other business leaders, offering advice and tips, or even connecting for initiatives and events. Grow together — cultivate relationships and support one another. This can help you expand into new markets.
That might mean teaming up on social media campaigns, for example, or generating content that applies to both brands. In turn, you can help each other increase brand awareness and gain consumers.
Growing Your Business: Moving Forward
Many SMBs struggle with a lack of resources, including time, employees, and tools and platforms. Business growth doesn’t necessarily depend on having large quantities of any of these resources — it depends on creating a solid strategy that will not only allow you to attract them but also evolve organically, developing a mission-driven purpose and gaining value.
Growth is about learning. That learning curve may seem a bit steep when you’re just a small operation, especially when you’re starting out in your industry.
Keep these strategies in mind as you move forward into a new year. You will encounter plenty of challenges, but through communication, automation, flexibility, digital marketing efforts, authenticity, and other critical initiatives, you can ensure that you are equipped to meet these obstacles head-on and scale your organization — and success — as you dive into the complexities of business leadership.