Are you an entrepreneur who wants to expand your business, having already survived those first few crucial months of operation? If so, it’s important to realize that the same set of skills that got you this far might not be what’s needed to move to the next phase of growth. Startups have one goal, in most cases, and that’s to endure the first year of existence without falling prey to competitors, a lax economy, and negligible profits.
From there on out, phase two begins, and navigating the waters of early growth can be much more challenging than anything you encountered during that initial year of existence. What does it take to build a customer base, create effective systems for long-term expansion, craft marketing campaigns that work, satisfy the customers you’ve already acquired, use the reams of data at your disposal, and learn to face off against experienced competitors without falling back? Here are some of the most workable tactics for not only doing all of the above, but doing it in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
Create a Time Budget
Financial budgets are all-important components of any successful enterprise. If you made it this far, you likely have one that works. But far too many owners struggle through phase two (early growth) because they lack a detailed, day by day time budget. Begin by making a list of every must-do task for each day and list the amount of time it takes next to each one. Then, arrange the items based on your best guess for where it should occur in the overall order. Test out this daily time budget and fine-tune it over perhaps a week or two. Then, do the same thing with weekly chores, making sure to place them into the day schedules where they belong.
Use Fleet Management Systems
If your business uses vehicles for any transport function, including customer delivery and branch to branch cargo shipping, installing fleet tracking software is one of the simplest, least costly solutions for boosting profits and ramping up efficiency. The key to the whole effort is getting real-time business insights via live GPS tracking of every vehicle in the fleet. In the digital age, it’s safe to assume that all your competitors use fleet tracking, so even if you prefer the old way of using radio controlled (non-digital) techniques, growing your organization will be that much tougher.
Automate Key Marketing Tasks
To save time, automate as many marketing and promotion strategies as possible. Of course, there’s still a need for personal customer contact in certain instances, but things like welcome messages (new customer emails), special offers for frequent buyers, requests for feedback after purchases, and dozens of others can be set to auto pilot if you select a capable software product and hire an IT pro to install and optimize it.
Focus On Supporting Customers
So many owners talk the talk about making customer support job one, but few follow through on the hype. For growing entities that are just out of the startup phase, paying careful attention to customer needs is essential. This is one of the few areas of operations that pays guaranteed, long-term dividends.
By making sure all customer’s questions are answered and complaints resolved, you’ll be learning the fine art of dealing with the very people who look to your organization for their needs.
Don’t Fear Data
Once any organization begins to grow, there are huge amounts of data available like customer analytics, marketing test results, return on investment, expenditure efficiency, and many more. This ocean of information is one of the core features of working in the digital era. Keep in mind that you don’t need to crunch every number or analyze each piece of data that comes to you. Focus on several areas that impact your particular niche and learn how to use the numbers to your advantage. Most of all, don’t fall into the trap of being intimidated by masses of data or the temptation will be to just ignore all of it and miss potentially valuable insights.
Use Multiple Channels
Though it can seem overwhelming at first, do your best to promote and market in several channels. For example, today’s e-commerce consumers tend to use more than one channel for buying. Make sure your organization is there for prospective customers when they want to engage you via live chat, on social media, through email, with text messages, or over the phone. This omni channel strategy is simply a smart way to be where your customers are. Think of the modern adult who typically orders food and personal services on a smartphone or tablet, makes large purchases from a home-based desktop computer, orders an e-book during a text conversation with a friend, or check their social media comments for suggestions about the latest shoe styles.
Don’t Be Intimidated by Major Competitors
No matter what field you do business in, you’re bound to face competitors who are larger, more experienced, and have vast resources they can deploy whenever needed. Every new entrant into a commercial niche must deal with the very same challenge. The good news is that new players have a couple of unique advantages the established organizations don’t possess. First, consumers are willing to give a new name a chance. The fact that your entity is a fresh face in the crowd is intriguing to many customers who are eager to try your products and services, out of curiosity if nothing else. Second, if you build a powerful website and work the e-commerce angle diligently, you stand the chance of outpacing many traditional businesses who have not yet fully embraced digital marketing.