Every new business has one thing in common. Whether you are a startup with the intent of becoming a multi-national company or a small business owner looking to build a steady income stream, there is one thing they all have in common…
The need for growth.
Growth is the one true indicator of success for a new business. And while it is essential to the long-term success of your company, growing too quickly can actually be detrimental in those early stages; delaying – or derailing – that success.
Before chasing your dreams of expansion, it’s important to have a solid foundation in place that can support the ups and downs and twists and turns inherent in new businesses.
Having a plan is important. Having a vision is important. Having the right infrastructure in place is important. But strong foundations are more than big-picture strategies. Strong business foundations are also about mindset. A mindset of laying a foundation for growth as opposed to just growing.
3 Steps to Supporting Business Growth
1) Gather Data & Insights
Even if you don’t use it at first, it’s important to start tracking both online and offline data as soon as you set up shop. Why? Because you don’t know what you know until you see it all laid out in black and white.
Setting up a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) can help you figure out who your best referral partners are, how long it takes on average to close a sale, and what products or services generate the bulk of your revenue.
Talking to your customers and gathering insights directly from them will help you in making critical business decisions as you move forward. How did they hear about you? What services are – or aren’t – working? Is there something that you can tweak or add that will provide more value?
Ensuring that Google Analytics is installed on every page of your website will show you where your site traffic is coming from, what content readers engage with most, and which of your products or services are being searched for most.
Learn more about tracking your customer data.
2) Be Scalable
Being scalable doesn’t just mean scaling up. It also means scaling down. Many businesses make the mistake of taking on staff too soon, losing their ability to quickly pivot and change direction.
Employees are expensive, costing both time and money.
The more people involved, the more time you need to spend training, and the harder it is to get everyone in alignment if you need to make a major change. The more people you employ, the more people you have to let go if times get hard. And the more time you’ll need to spend coming up with a Plan B for getting things done.
If the position you’re looking to fill doesn’t require a full-time employee at the start, consider hiring someone part-time or outsourcing.
Outsourcing certain functions is a great way to fill in knowledge gaps while keeping overhead low. Bookkeeping, HR, marketing, financial planning, etc. are all necessary functions that probably don’t require daily, full-time attention at the early stages of your business. Using consultants, contractors or outside firms on an as-needed basis is a great way to get needed expertise without taking on unnecessary overhead.
3) Consult a Marketing Expert
There is a general misconception between marketing and advertising. And it’s common for business owners to think, “We’re not ready to market.”
The reality is that they aren’t ready to spend money on promoting their product to large audiences.
I am a marketing expert, so I tend to be a bit biased here.
But the truth is that Marketing is integral to business success. Yet it is one of the most overlooked disciplines. As entrepreneur and marketer, Christy Liu puts it, “Great companies have marketing intentionally built into the DNA of their products.” And it should be built into the DNA of your small business or startup.
Market research, product development, identifying a customer base, brand positioning are all functions of marketing. They are different disciplines from advertising and they should be done before you open your doors and way before a product is ready to launch.
It’s common for many founders and owners to seek advice from other startup founders and business owners when it comes to marketing. Don’t. Marketers are in marketing for a reason. Marketers think differently. They approach finding solutions to problems differently. And they have the one thing that most owners don’t – expertise in marketing.
Founders focus on product development. Marketers focus on who is going to use that product. Owners focus on running the business. Marketers focus on how people perceive the business.
Marketers are the voice of your customers.
Bringing Marketing on board in the early stages can help you define who your target is (and if it’s different from your end user), provide insights that impact service offerings and product development, and help you position – and differentiate – your business in the marketplace.
Start by sitting down with a marketing professional. Talk to them about your business and goals to get their insight and expertise. Working with a marketing consultant or firm that is outside your core team is a great way to get objective advice and recommendations
And when you are ready, they can help determine which marketing activities can be handled internally, which would be best served by a 3rd party, and if you’re ready to bring on someone part-time.
It all comes down to intent
If your intent is to build something sustainable – a business that will be around 10, 20 or 30+ year down the road or a venture with the potential of tremendous growth – you need to lay a solid foundation.
If your intent is to just grow, chances are what you build is going to come down as quickly as it went up.
And if you’ve been in business awhile, but may have skipped a step or two… don’t worry. It’s never too late to change your mindsight and start strengthening your business foundation!
Jacqui Genow is the founder and principal of J. Genow Marketing. She works with clients in building Marketing Roadmaps, fine-tuning their brand message and coaching them in how to improve their marketing. As a business Marketing Strategist, her focus goes beyond marketing to understanding the connection between marketing decisions made today and how they can positively impact a client’s business in the future. Contact Jacqui to find out how improving your marketing can improve your business.