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As an owner of a small business, you've indulged in some dreams of expansion. Farther reach, a larger impact, and a larger profit margin all sound great. But growing a small business isn't always easy. Limited time, limited money, and limited manpower team up to keep you down and make meaningful expansion seem like a fantasy.
If you want to scale up your business, you'll have to do more than just daydream. You must carefully plan and streamline the process, and you'll have to work hard to stretch the capital you already have. That means cutting costs and adding in time-saving techniques wherever possible.
If you're up for a little belt-tightening, small business expansion is well within your reach. Let's go through three ideas that will help you streamline and get ready for growth.
1. Revamp Your Marketing Techniques
Nine out of ten small businesses invest in marketing, even if just to keep up with the status quo. Much of that marketing is online, through search engine optimization and social media. And that's where it should be, since it turns out that 71% of consumers look at social media to guide their purchasing decisions, and a full 81% of customers do an online search before they decide to buy anything.
Even if your business is focused on a local community, Web advertising can make the difference between quick turnaround and stock that just sits. A study from Acquisio found that 75% of local-intent online searches actually result in a visit to a local storefront or office within 24 hours. That's a full three-quarters!
So when you decide to scale up, the first thing to ramp up is your advertising.
Here's what makes it complicated, however: Your budget won't increase as your need for better marketing increases. In fact, if you've decided to grow your business, you'll be looking at ways to cut costs and slash your budget in any way possible. Doesn't that put a marketing extravaganza out of the question?
Actually, it doesn't. Marketing is one of those areas where what you get out doesn't necessarily equal what you put in. You can actually cut your marketing budget—redirecting that much-needed cash elsewhere—while increasing your reach. If you're smart about the way you market.
One big money sink for small businesses, for example, can be graphic design, but this cost can be cut easily with the right tool. You can get professional-looking graphics for a fraction of the price—or even free—if you take advantage of free online graphic design programs like PosterMyWall with templates for a variety of themes that you can customize—think posters, flyers, and digital marketing assets—and a premium subscription offering unlimited downloads, free sharing, and collaboration features.
Video marketers can get up to 66% more leads per year, which could translate into some serious new growth. However, creating professional videos isn't exactly a walk in the park; you need to put in a lot of time, effort, and money to come up with an output you are satisfied with.
Hiring video-making professionals is expensive, and constant content iterations are a huge time-sink. But there's an easier way: affordable video templates that can be customized just as easily as a poster template can, allowing you to take advantage of all the benefits of video for business without any of the hassle of hiring your own video creator or doing video shoots in house:
2. Attend Networking Events
If you aren't the sort to attend conferences and conventions, this may be a good time to change that.
Attending networking events helps you to build better relationships with people in your field and gives you a prime opportunity to spread knowledge of your product through word of mouth. In addition, it allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your market to see what's working for other small businesses.
But attending a convention in your field gives you not only exposure and information but also the potential to create strategic partnerships with other small businesses that offer complementary services. Such partnerships can be incredibly profitable for both players.
What does it take to move past a pleasant one-off meeting and into the realm of productive partnership? It begins with follow-up, and in enabling your new contact to follow up with you—by leaving them with a professional, well-designed business card.
Provide enough information on your business card, in your linked website, and on any sales brochure to make your encounter memorable and make your new contact eager to hear more. But don't spell it all out, either. Invite engagement by leaving unanswered questions, paired with a variety of contact options: phone, email, and social media.
Again, this does not have to be a large expense: You can use business card templates and customize them. Simply add your details and logo and start impressing new contacts!
3. Use a customer management system
The larger you grow, the harder it will be to manually track customer transactions. One step you'll want to take early in your expansion plan is investing in a good customer management system.
Ultimately, the system you choose will depend on the nature of your business, but for many a good choice ends up being a Cloud-based service such as Salesforce. This customer management system works in the Cloud, and instead of a one-time investment you'll be paying a monthly fee.
A customer management system like Salesforce will allow you to track each customer, personalize their experience, and provide top-notch customer support while keeping tabs on all your aggregated data in easy-to-understand graphs and visuals.
Salesforce services 83% of Fortune 500 companies, but its offerings are highly scalable and its small business plans are reasonable.
The ability to track leads and conversions in real-time can invigorate your marketing campaigns and give you immediate feedback on which of your small business marketing strategies are working, and which are falling flat.
Get ready to grow
Once you have a customer management system, and you're being intentional about networking, and you've revamped your digital marketing strategy, you should be well on your way to some serious growth. Now all you have to do is check your supply chain, prepare to ramp up your services, and get ready to reach new heights.
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