Is your online business not growing at the rate you want? Do you feel like you are spending too much time trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing tactics, but don’t know which way is right for your business’ growth?
If your goal is to grow your online business and your share of the market, you need a plan. Growth can come from many different places and methods.
Traditionally, a business growth strategy focuses on developing new products, reaching and converting more customers (market development or market penetration strategy), or entering a new market (market expansion).
An online business will have similar primary strategies and a multitude of marketing strategies and tactics to get them step-by-step to achieving their growth milestones. Whether brick and mortar or online, without an organized and strategic approach it’s easy for growth to stall out.
You can read more about the most common business growth strategies (market development, product development, market penetration, diversification) in this article.
This article will provide 8 tips that have helped me develop strategies that have delivered growth for my clients’ online businesses in the past few years. I will also give insight into which business growth strategies work best for certain businesses with differing goals, resources and skillsets.
1. Establish your company’s growth goals
As a small business owner, it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to your business growth plan.
Here are some tips on how you can create an effective growth plan that will give you more clarity of what it would look like for your business.
1) First things first – write down the goals and objectives of your company as well as what success looks like for each goal. This will help keep everything organized and clear in your mind so that you’re able to move forward with confidence knowing exactly what needs done next.
2) Next up, break down each goal into actionable steps (this is where a marketing consultant would come in handy).
3) Once those steps have been created, prioritize them based on their importance and urgency level
4) Lastly, schedule time every week/month/quarter on a calendar for working through these tasks one.
2. Your business model impacts your growth strategy
A business model is a way to make money. It’s how you generate revenue and stay in the black. Your growth strategy depends on your business model so it’s important that you are familiar with what works for your specific model, otherwise you may be spinning your wheels for months or even years before realizing a change is needed. This, of course, could be very detrimental to your business, and could disrupt critical supply. Companies like KeySource Acquisition alleviate this by buying directly from manufacturers, which is often the best for overall effectiveness and cost reduction.
For instance, growth strategies or the marketing methods companies use would differ if you’re a B2B or B2C, if you are ecommerce or service provider, if you offer done for you or done with you, if you offer online courses or digital art. Same goes if you’re looking at expanding into new markets, planning a product expansion or thinking about market development for your company.
3. Know the target market for your product or service
A lot of companies don’t have a clear idea of what their target market is. This leads to a lot of wasted effort and resources, because they’re trying to sell something that nobody wants. It’s also why marketing campaigns yield little result for very expensive input: your time and money.
The best way to get clarity on your business growth strategy is to know your target audience inside out. Start by creating a customer avatar. It’s really a win-win situation that is going to reflect in any action plan you will ever draft to increase your customer base.
Remember: creating a customer avatar can help you get more customers and make more money! You’ll spend less time and money on marketing efforts if you know exactly who your audience is before you start spending any resources at all on promoting your product or service.
Same goes for investing time in product development, market expansion etc before knowing who is the type of customer who will most benefit from it.
In return, your audience will trust you and consider your company as the go-to source for whatever their need or desire might be. Which will help you increase your company’s market share with less friction.
A quick win is to include your customer avatar in some way in your value proposition. That way both you and your audience are clear about your promise.
4. Business growth strategy essentials: Track your numbers
Many businesses don’t know their numbers. Owners say they are bad at math, or that it is not really important to know what is actually happening behind the scenes as long as they are getting customers for their product. It’s one of the first things any business should look at if growth is on their agenda. In fact, if you’re serious about staying in business and improving your bottom line, you won’t be able to see any growth without knowing your numbers.
Utilize free tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to track data about your overall business’s and specific product performance.
If you have an online shop, look at your average conversion rate from website visitor to purchaser, map your funnel and identify the conversion rates for each of the steps in that funnel. Identify your best selling and lowest selling product, as well as the product with the highest profit margins. You might discover that a product line is costly to produce and it doesn’t generate as much revenue as you thought.
When you will know your numbers, you will be able to identify growth strategies that are going to have immediate impact on your company’s revenue. And you will have valuable insights to put into product development so you can increase profits.
5. Businesses that grow have a strategy to achieve profitability
There’s nothing worse than giving your best to grow your online business only to discover that you are barely profitable.
To build the best growth strategy for your company you need to understand where you are making money and where you should focus on improving sales performance so you can increase profitability and grow faster.
Many business owners think that they can improve their sales by improving marketing tactics and investing in advertising. However, if they don’t know their profits (or what they need to stay profitable), the problem usually is with the product pricing strategy, as it does not reflect the cost of production, supply chain fees or the time put into delivering the product or service.
For instance, if you have an online shop and your product costs you more to make and sell than the selling price, increasing the sales volume significantly is not a growth strategy that is going to help you. Drop the product line that is costly and look for options that increase your profits with less the hassle.
Three steps to determine your profits:
Determine your business’s net income (Revenue – Expenses)
Divide your net income by your revenue (also called net sales)
Multiply your total by 100 to get your profit margin percentage
6. The secret weapon of online growth strategies: the CRO method
There are many growth strategies to increase profits. One of the best is by increasing your conversion rate.
Conversion rate optimization is a growth strategy businesses use to increase the number of people who perform some type of action in their funnels. Most often it looks at increasing the number of visitors who become leads (acquisition strategy) and who buy products or services (conversion strategy).
There’s always something to improve in your funnel, but if you have an online shop, two of the quickest business growth strategies you can implement are reducing checkout abandonment and increasing the average order value.
It’s a good idea to look at the overall user experience on your website before you put any more effort into traffic generation.
If you don’t know where you stand against your competition, look for industry benchmarks and compare your conversion rates to those.
An even better idea is to look at the user experience on your competitors’ websites to see what strategy they are using at the funnel steps where you are underperforming.
7. All business growth plans include some type of lead acquisition strategy
Start thinking of your website visitors as potential customers and realize that every time one of them leaves your website without purchasing your product you are missing out on new customers. Instead of a building a visibility growth strategy, aka getting more traffic (visitors), do your best to convert the traffic you have into new customers now.
If you can’t get them to buy before leaving your website, don’t give them up just yet in favor of another company. Invite them to sign up for your email list and if you’re ecommerce swoon them over before they even consider your competitors.
Many ecommerce businesses are missing out on leads and sales by not incentivizing conversions in the funnel triggered by various engagement or lack off (eg exit intent in checkout that triggers a special discount or offer with a countdown or new visitor popup that offers discount on the first purchase when becoming an email subscriber).
There are plenty of ways to acquire leads, but out of the multiple growth strategies available, you need the one that matches your current goals, resources, budget and skills. If your competitors are using tactics or tools that you don’t have the time, budget or team for, identify the next best thing that would produce results for you.
8. Businesses need to learn how to think long term
Most small business owners have no plan for their future, so they’re focused on making sales right now but fail to see what comes next. This leads them nowhere and makes them feel like a failure even though they’ve done good work.
Most companies want more customers, they want growth, but they have no real strategy behind their desire. Many struggle with shiny object syndrome which has them jump on any new growth strategy they will hear off in a Facebook group or run to create an account on any new social channel that launches.
Every company has different needs, resources and goals for their future success. Setting on a growth strategy without researching it or really understanding what that means for your company, is a great way to set yourself and your team for some disappointment and sleepless nights.
Start by figuring out your long term strategy and what is the future you aim for in your company.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Where is your company now?
What are some milestones you can set for your company year by year, quarter by quarter?
What can you do right now with what you have available to get closer to achieving the first milestone?
Any growth strategy will need a realistic and customizable actionable plan.
There are a lot of growth strategies, but it’s hard to know which ones will work for your company without a proper auditing of numbers, goals, and resources.
If you’re looking for more leads or sales, there are many things that could help like social media marketing or SEO. But the most important thing is figuring out what works best for your company and how much time and money you have to spend on those growth strategies before they yield results.
It’s a good idea to get some professional advice from someone who has experience with growing businesses before making any decisions about your own growth strategy. If you can’t do that, then do as much research as makes sense to discover how other companies, similar to yours have used it. You can start by identifying your competition and look at their website, sign up for their list, see how they warm up their user base, perform the journey a customer would. Another great way to learn more about strategies for growth is to look at the case study section of marketing agencies and tools (email marketing, Facebook advertising, lead acquisition, CRO etc).
Need help figuring out your business growth formula?
In business there’s no one glove fits all. Your business is unique, and so are you. Together we discover what strategy and tactic can work to get you to the next level of business growth.