Getting your business in operation is one of the biggest personal and career achievements you can make in a lifetime–but starting up is only half the battle. Once the initial surge of excitement ends and your business falls into a comfortable routine, it may be time to start bringing in some adrenaline into the operations by thinking about a larger future. Expansion is one of the trickiest and most difficult phases in any business because there’s plenty of things at stake, including finances and stability.
However, the only way for a business to truly grow, see a substantial rise in profit, and make it beyond the four walls of its comfort zone is to expand. Expansion can take as little as a few weeks or as long as a few years. Whatever the case, plan things out and take things at a pace that works best for your business. Here are a couple of ways to get things going.
Study Your Market
You might be mentally prepared to expand your business, but are unsure of where to start. Finding that starting point can be one of the most challenging steps because it can be painful to make changes to a business that’s already running smoothly. One of the first things you can do is find a problem to address, which you can do so by studying your market.
Some of the most valuable insights come directly from your consumers, so find a way to get to know them, connect with them, and collect various data. For instance, you can encourage clients to provide feedback by opening up channels that enable two-way communication, such as social media platforms, live chat, email, or mobile customer service. That allows you to understand their needs and pain points, communicate solutions to their issues, and gather data to influence business development.
You can also directly reach out to your market by implementing email newsletters and actively engaging with them through social media–methods that encourage lead generation and customer acquisition. If you change your business model to accommodate these efforts, then ideas for growth and expansion will eventually flow.
Upgrade Your Systems
If you’re gradually expanding a small business, it’s pertinent to rethink the software and platforms you’ve been working with and determine if it’s time for an upgrade. For instance, if you have a small business dealing with retail and have been handling all transactions through Instagram, you may want to upgrade to an actual e-commerce website such as Shopify. While it costs money to establish, design, and maintain, it reduces error from an inventory standpoint and takes care of administrative functions such as collecting, confirming, and calculating orders.
Expanding your business doesn’t have to be all about a major business partnership or a huge step from its current position. Start with small changes like transitioning to a proper e-commerce system, which reduces human error and gives you more time to work on larger projects. Customers will also benefit from a less restrictive shopping experience and a wider range of payment options.
Depending on your line of business, it may be possible to break out of the local loop and expand your horizons to the larger world. Retail companies can easily do this by offering international shipping and explicitly advertising to a global market. While reaching an international audience won’t be easy–especially if you haven’t penetrated a large enough local market–it’s a small adjustment that will benefit your company regardless.
Thinking about going global also opens opportunities to build partnerships. For instance, if you own a small-scale beauty brand that’s growing in popularity, you can pitch your products to large retail companies for them to carry in their online stores and open the possibility of expanding your market reach.
It’s not just retail that can easily turn to a global solution–a housing, or rental business can always benefit from making a listing on Airbnb and other rental platforms. Custom craft businesses are always welcome on Etsy, and while food businesses might not be able to expand globally, you can turn to food delivery partnerships instead.
Expand Your Product Lineup
Any business that deals with products or services will eventually lose its luster if it doesn’t change with the times. While it’s reasonable to want to hold onto a fan-favorite recipe or your best selling product, tweaking formulas or creating a new line of goods and services is important in keeping your company relevant. The worst thing that can happen to your brand is for it to become a one-shot wonder–a viral trend that everyone forgets about six months down the line.
Continuously developing products is a challenge that large and small companies alike face. It’s not something that you have to rush, but then it might be a good idea to give it a try when a big idea comes. Product development can be costly and time-consuming, but it’s an investment that’s necessary for any company to expand. You can look into business loans to help fund the development process or the increased production cost to launch a new item.
Amp Up The Customer Loyalty
When the time for making significant changes to your company comes around, the conversation about stability is something you’ll eventually have to sit through. Some businesses, especially subscription-based companies, are molded around the model of acquiring as many new clients as possible. However, retail and service-based businesses will more strongly benefit from building a loyal consumer base who will stick by the brand regardless of its growth spurts and awkward phases. That way, when you make a big decision, such as changing the packaging or remastering the recipe of your products, your business will remain in its loyal customers’ minds.
There are plenty of ways to start a customer loyalty program. You can encourage customers to collect stickers from every purchase to win a free meal or a limited-edition item, offer % off coupons for a limited period, or offer free shipping or freebies for every purchase amounting to a certain value. Any perk that fuels a call-to-action to come back and shop for more is beneficial for both the business and the consumers–a win-win solution that you can try if resources permit.
Expanding your business and finding ways to increase profit while keeping costs low can be a challenge, but much like the start-up process, it takes a lot of guts and preparation to take on the gamble and see results.