small business growth strategies

DISCLAIMER: This article was written in 2022. For updated information on this subject, please go to Using Small Business Funding to Fuel Growth and Expansion

Learn to survive and thrive in today’s challenging times.

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners thought 2021 was a challenging year and that 2022 would be better.

Approaching the halfway point of 2022, it’s clear the optimism was unfounded.

Last year was all about the coronavirus pandemic.

This year will be remembered for record inflation, supply chain issues, extreme weather, a war, lack of quality employees, and more.

Here are my top business growth strategies to help you fight all the battles you’re facing in 2022 so your startup or small business can survive, thrive, and grow.

Build a business plan

If you don’t have a business plan, why not?

If you haven’t updated your business plan lately, what are you waiting for? The year 2022 is entirely unlike 2020 and 2021. And those years were utterly different from anything that came before.

Your business plan is your step-by-step guide to grow your business from where it is today to where you envision it in the future. Writing out a business plan makes you think through all aspects of your operation, the products and services you offer (whether they’re still valid in these changing times), your target customers, competition, how you sell (is it digital enough for today), a marketing plan, and more.

A business plan requires that you make revenue projections and set growth goals for your company for 2022 and beyond. This is a valuable exercise during changing times because you can regularly track progress toward your goals to ensure your business is always on track. If not, you can make adjustments to your operations in real-time and not wait until it’s too late.

You can find many easy-to-use business plan templates online. Simply find one that works for you.

Increase your business presence online

The pandemic forced people to do things digitally they never imagined

Even if your brick-and-mortar business is thriving, having an online presence is critical for future success. The exponential growth of e-commerce isn’t expected to slow in the years and decades to come. Even if your business is dependent on in-person visits, it’s unlikely those visits will happen if people can’t find you online.

Don’t limit your online profile or digital marketing to a website. Get active in social media to stay top-of-mind with prospects and customers. Optimize your Google My Business profile. Request online ratings and reviews from your top customers. Most consumers check them before doing business online or in person.

Also, if you’re not ready to move a retail operation online, consider starting in a limited way by getting set up on a platform like Shopify, Etsy, or Amazon.

Attract and hire top talent

Of course, it’s challenging to find qualified employees in today’s period of low unemployment.

Still, at the foundation of every successful business is a strong team. Investing in talented and committed workers will significantly positively impact your small business growth.

Think about it: Does it make sense to spend money to promote your business if your employees don’t serve the customers you bring in well? You’re wasting money, and unhappy customers could spread the word and do more harm to your organization.

To attract quality employees, write detailed job descriptions so applicants know exactly what to expect when they come to work for you and what will be expected of them. Make sure your interviews are a dialogue, not a monologue, so prospective employees can learn as much about your business as you do about them. Do your due diligence to ensure you’re offering a competitive salary and benefits. If too many of your offers are being rejected by talented candidates, you may need to offer signing bonuses or other incentives to make your offers more attractive.

Consider more gig workers

At the same time, full-time workers have become more scarce, the number of gig workers, freelancers, and contractors has grown. You may find better talent that may not be willing to work for you over the long term but may want to take on a short-term gig. It could be a possible way to get through the current hiring crisis.

Create a strong company culture

Everyone by now has heard about “The Great Resignation.” It’s the recent trend where unhappy employees up and leave the businesses they work for to seek greener pastures.

This costs small businesses a lot in lost productivity, job search, recruiting, retraining, and other related costs.

One of the best ways to retain quality employees is to build a strong company culture. It could be worth investing in things like events to bring the people who work for you together to get to know each other. Make it a point to build trusting relationships through transparency. It’s also critical to have an open-door policy so your employees can voice concerns before they become issues that cause them to leave. Also, after the last couple of years of remote work, be as flexible with schedules as possible. All these employee retention efforts will cost less than replacing employees who leave.

Upgrade your marketing

If you haven’t reviewed your marketing in a while, it’s probably a little too 2019.

The world has changed a lot in the last few years, and your marketing programs must stay up-to-date.

To get ahead in these uncertain times, invest in innovative marketing strategies that build brand awareness, spread the word about your company, and get people to do business with you.

Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. Leverage paid promotion in social media (including social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin), Google Ads, posters and signage, an updated website, localized print advertisements, email marketing, and other marketing strategies. All can be effective ways to make your business known and attract potential customers.

Also, consider getting into video marketing if you aren’t already doing it, especially if you’re promoting your organization to younger people who prefer video to the written word. Short videos have become an integral part of a successful marketing strategy with the rise of live videos on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

If you’re unsure how to do marketing right, partner with a marketing professional to guide you. A small spend on expert help could save you a lot in mistakes over the long run.

Work with micro-influencers

People today are more likely to purchase goods and services recommended by celebrities they admire or experts they respect. While you may not get a Kardashian to work for your small business as an influencer, you may be able to collaborate with micro-influencers. Simply find someone in your community or industry that people in your target audience like or respect, reach out to them, and see if you can work something out. Depending on the situation, you may be able to develop a mutually beneficial arrangement that is affordable, finds your new customers, and generates sales.

Utilize partnership marketing to reach a broader audience

Partnership marketing is a strategic collaboration that provides your organization and a partner company a chance to market to each other’s customers. For instance, a wine seller partners with a gourmet food purveyor. They promote themselves to each other’s customers and offer joint promotions to sell more.

What’s crucial to success is that you partner with organizations that have similar customer bases and offer complementary products or services at comparable price points. You don’t want your customers surprised by a marketing pitch entirely out of left field.

Focus on your best prospects and customers

Do you know who your target audience is?

Do you clearly understand their needs, wants, and interests?

Have they changed because of the pandemic or economic flux?

If you’re not sure, understanding and defining these things should be a top priority. Your operation can’t be successful if you don’t understand — and can’t meet — your customers’ needs.

Developing consumer personas is an excellent way to start thinking through your customers’ needs and how you can meet them. Personas include essential information about the people you’re targeting, including their education level, home life, income, issues your business can solve, and how they interact with your operation. Developing them will help you understand — and serve — your prospects and clients better.

The internet is full of good persona templates. Select one that aligns with your business needs.

Make customer service a top priority

The internet has made it very easy for people to change business providers, even for complex things like medical, legal, and contracting services. If you don’t provide people with a better customer experience than your competitors, they’ll head there fast. Customer loyalty is rare and must be hard-earned today.

Customers feel valued when their questions are answered, and issues are resolved rapidly. You and your employees must always go the extra mile to help your customers and deliver the absolute best experience possible.

Check-in with your customers

Are you and your employees doing a good job? Are you meeting consumer needs?

Are you sure?

Take time to check in with your buyers to find out if your products and services meet their needs, wants, and interests. Find out if they’re getting good customer service. Learn if there is anything more you could do for them. Ask them for feedback. They are the perfect people to tell you how you’re doing and offer suggestions for improvement. Also, use these check-ins as an opportunity to ask for referrals from happy purchasers.

Communicate to stakeholders about changes you make

It’s critical to inform your clients and partners about adjustments you’re making to your business, whether it’s offering new products or using different vendors because of shortages, moving more business online, or if you’re forced to replace an employee who left. Stakeholders who find out about these things on their own could lose trust in your business and move on to a competitor.

Leverage new product options

Distributors and businesses worldwide are dealing with supply chain issues caused by work stoppages resulting from COVID-19 and distribution and transportation issues. You need always to be aware of these issues and be prepared for them when they come up. Be open to new product options or different suppliers. Plan for eventualities ahead of time. It’s wise to have agreements for new options or suppliers before you need them. If you wait too long, you could be fighting your competitors for the same limited resources.

Plan for business funding needs

With all the uncertainty in the world today, you never know when you may need a loan or extra infusion of cash, whether to deal with a crisis or take advantage of an unexpected opportunity. Start by getting a business line of credit from a loan provider like Biz2Credit. It will provide you with access to cash when you need it. It’s also a good idea to have a relationship with a solid lender to get customized financing fast when you need it.

Conducting business always comes with some level of risk. Even the most careful and by-the-book ones get sued over things like customer injuries, professional errors, employee accidents, cybersecurity issues, and more. Many fall victim to fires, extreme weather events, and vehicle accidents.

The best way to protect against these issues, which could halt business growth, is to have adequate business insurance. Each business has unique insurance needs, but the most common coverages purchased by many companies are:

  • General liability insurance protects you and your business if a client, customer, vendor, or other non-employee becomes injured on your business property or if you or an employee damage someone else’s property while conducting business.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance provides benefits to employees, including medical payments, lost wages, disability, work retraining, death benefits, and more if they’re injured or become ill for work-related reasons. If you have employees, your state likely requires you to get workers’ comp.
  • Commercial property insurance protects business property from damage or loss from things like fire or extreme weather events, vandalism, or burglary.

Work with an insurance agent specializing in small business coverage or a representative at an insurer to ensure you have the right insurance to protect your company and keep it on its growth path.

The year 2022 is proving to be a year like no other for small businesses. Use these small business growth strategies to take control and start planning for 2022 part two and beyond so your business can survive and thrive through whtever comes next.

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