Growth is important for any small business, but what’s the best way for your business to achieve growth? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, there are several strategies you can employ; the key to success lies in choosing the strategy that best fits your particular business.

Focus on a Specific Market Segment

If your business has hit a plateau, your first thought is probably that you need to find more customers. So you seek to expand by appealing to a larger customer base. However, getting more customer demand isn’t always about finding more customers, but about becoming more important to the customers who will appreciate you most.

When you try to appeal to a broader customer base, you risk becoming an average amenity to lots of people, instead of a beloved service or product for fewer. Your business might lose its special sauce, its personality, and, often, the key characteristics that helped you reach success. So, when you grow, keep the segment of your customer market that has been constant in your focus. Develop products and focus on marketing directly to them.

Specific appeal and customized solutions lead to increased repeat sales and more loyal, lasting customer relationships. The key with this strategy is to remember that growth doesn’t necessarily come from a larger number of customers, but from a greater position of importance within a particular segment of customers.

Create Business Partnerships

Business partnerships are an excellent growth strategy if you’re ready to expand but have limited funds to invest in growth. A partnership can expand your marketing reach and your customer base, adding resources and capabilities to your business without breaking your budget.

Form strategic partnerships by finding businesses that provide a “next-step solution” to what your business offers. Next-step solutions are the services or products your customers would need directly before or after doing business with you.

For example, an event management company might partner with a janitorial company to create packages that provide event planning with discounted cleaning services. By working together to create specials and related offers, both companies can gain market reach, new customers, and increase their sales.

Partnerships create an added incentive for customers to purchase, not only due to the increased value of the offers available, but also due to added convenience and trustworthiness created by the partnership. The key to success with this strategy is to clarify the terms of your partnership up front, in writing, so there is no room for squabbles or misunderstandings as you move forward together.  

Make an Acquisition

Acquisitions are best if you’re looking for significant growth quickly and you have a significant budget to match. Buying a related business or a competitor can send your business into a completely new location or market, expand your specialties, and ultimately increase your profits.

However, acquisitions require a steep investment and won’t bring you surging profits right away; you’ll need to spend time and money to rebrand, train staff, set up operations, and work through the inevitable roadblocks. The key to success with this strategy is a realistic, well-funded plan, divided into key phases, for each step of the acquisition process from purchase to profitability.

Product or Service Expansion

If your small business has growing customer demand it can’t satisfy, product or service expansion might be the best strategy for growth.

New products can increase sales by simply providing more for your customers to buy. But do your market research first; poll your customers and test out new products on a small scale, if possible, before you jump into a full inventory commitment.

You can expand your service offers by increasing your service space and staff.  With increased capacity, your business can meet higher customer demand. You can also invest in further training for your staff, so that they are qualified to offer more specialties and higher-level services to your customers.

Increased inventory or a larger service capacity might mean you need to add on to your current space or move to a larger space, though–which will cost money. The key to success with this strategy is to do thorough research and create a financial plan for each need along the way. Don’t assume you know what your customers want, or which option is best; conduct surveys, talk to customers, do market research, write down the costs, and thoroughly weigh all your options before you make a move.

Consider the growth strategy you choose as a phase in the life of your business; it’s not an all-or-nothing approach. It’s a step in your success. If you plan each step well, you’ll keep climbing.

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