Are you tired of playing small ball? Ready to think bigger? Here are some ideas to help turbocharge your business growth strategy this year.
1. Get Cozy With Your Customers
Some of the most successful companies have a laser focus on customers. They know what their customers want even before their customers do. You may not have a big budget, but there are steps you can take to get better understand your customers and keep them happy. For starters, ask them. Focus groups and multi-question surveys will give you the most insight.
If that sounds daunting, try something more simple. For example, electronic receipts offer a chance to ask for feedback—even if it's just selecting a smiley or frowning emoji. Or try incorporating questions into your newsletters or social media communications. Customer feedback can not only help you identify areas where you can improve, but also new services, features and even brand new products to grow your business. And consider finding ways to reward your best customers with loyalty programs or special VIP offers.
2. Rethink Your Brand
Now that you understand your customer better, you can use that insight as a springboard to rethink your branding. People want to feel emotionally connected to brands; is yours resonating? When was the last time you revamped your logo, packaging or website? If you feel you're in a creative rut, try a design thinking class or workshop.
The design thinking approach encourages businesses to challenge long held assumptions and reimagine solutions. For example, are you in the business of selling coffee—or providing a place for social interaction? Do you offer accounting services—or are you in the business of financial wellness? A little creative thinking can lead to fresh ideas and innovation.
3. Take a Retreat
Running a business day to day can be all-consuming, and sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. It's important to build time into your schedule to step back and do the big picture strategizing that can really grow your business. Off-site retreats are a good way to reward your team and brainstorm away from the demands of the office. It doesn't have to be expensive—you could just head to a park or go on a hike. In addition to periodic group retreats, it's a good idea to block a couple of hours of uninterrupted time every week on your calendar for thinking, reading and strategizing.
4. Engage Your Employees
Are you getting the most out of your employees? Only 34 percent of U.S. workers are engaged, meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. (The poll consisted of a random sample of 30,628 adults working full or part time in the U.S.) That's a record high according to Gallup tracking, but it still means that the majority of employees are not engaged—and that can have harmful effects on a business. Companies with highly engaged employees can be significantly more profitable and productive.
So what can you do to increase engagement? Communication is key to creating a healthy workplace culture. Make sure you share the company's mission and values to help employees feel a sense of purpose, and explain new policies or strategies. Communication is two-way. Listen to employees and empower them to come up with solutions. They're often the ones on the front lines and may have valuable insights and ideas to share. Give them new projects that give them a chance to shine and learn new skills. And just as you reward your best customers, think about how to reward your best employees, such as an employee-of-the-month award. It's especially important to pay attention to culture as your business grows. What worked for five employees probably does not work for 50.
5. Give Back to Your Community
As the saying goes, it takes a village, so why not acknowledge and give back to your community? Doing so can not only raise brand awareness and goodwill, it may also strengthen customer loyalty. There are lots of ways to show you care. Sponsor an event, throw an open house or host a talk about a topic of interest to your community or customers. You can also donate a portion of your sales to a local charity on a particular day or time period.
Running a business day to day can be all-consuming, and sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. It's important to build time into your schedule to step back and do the big picture strategizing that can really grow your business.
6. Buy a Business
Sometimes the fastest way to grow is by acquiring another company that complements your business or adds a new revenue line. Growth by acquisition can be an especially attractive option during economic downturns or industry disruptions; inevitably there are companies with valuable products, technology or know-how that just can't make it, and you may be able to find a good deal—and perhaps some grateful new team members.
7. Line Up Funding
Investing in your business takes capital, but you don't want to jeopardize your cash flow. If you're planning to invest in growing your business, make sure to plan ahead for funding. Some loans may take several months to complete. And with any kind of funding, it's always best to negotiate from a position of strength, before you urgently need the money. And make sure the funding is suitable for your needs—for example, what is the length of time the investment will take to pay off and what will your cash flow support?
With a little creative thinking, your business growth can achieve new heights.
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