As an entrepreneur, getting your business off the ground is usually hard enough. Which is why, when you’ve just started to turn a profit and are getting comfortable with your business demands, thinking about expansion is often the last thing on your mind.
It’s a good thing to enjoy your well-found success and revel in the results of your hard work up until this point. However, when you do start to think more about growing your business, it’s important not to do too much too soon.
Taking too large a leap in an uncertain economy can lead to encountering problems you may not be prepared to handle. Taking baby steps, on the other hand, allows for more financial security/protection…not to mention enabling you to see where your best chances of successful growth lie.
Here are five low-risk ‘baby steps’ you can take when you’re ready to start expanding your business.
1. Make friends with the competition.
Many businesses believe that any direct interaction with one’s competition should not be entertained. However, businesses shouldn’t shut out their competition but aim to network and forge mutually beneficial relationships. You can learn a lot from other companies like yours, both big and small, and it’s a much healthier and more proactive approach to reach out than keep a closed mind.
Think about other businesses in your field that are doing just as well as you or perhaps even more so. Don’t hesitate to make friends at conferences and networking events, and follow up your new connections with a phone call or offer of a business lunch. You might find a more established business owner who can help take your brand to the next level, or offer you leads that are no longer a fit for their company, but may be better suited to yours.
2. Offer to do some guest posting.
Guest posting has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of sharing your knowledge and expertise with other heads within your field. Whether you choose to reach out to your competitors for a bit of reciprocal guest blogging love, or target independent bloggers who write about emerging trends in your industry…offering up a slice of your unique wisdom to a potentially untapped audience is a valuable way to spend your time.
If you take the effort to make your post a well-researched, genuinely informative piece to which other readers and sites might want to link, then this is even better for both you and your host, and they’ll be more likely to help you out again in the future. Make sure you share any guest content with your own online audiences too for maximum exposure.
3. Introduce a ‘Refer a Friend’ incentive.
What better way is there to expand your current customer base, than by piggybacking off of your existing customers? By offering up a decent discount on their next order, you can persuade your customers to tell their friends about your brand and push them to make their first purchase with you. All the referred customer will need to do is provide the name and address of their referee when they check out.
This is safe way to promote growth because you only need to grant a discount or free gift each time you gain a new customer. For every new customer that buys from you, you’ll have another opportunity to impress and be one step closer to making a regular customer out of them.
Also, because friends of existing customers are likely to have shared interests and similar shopping habits, you’ll know you’re preaching to the right crowd.
4. Make global payments as simple as possible.
If your site isn’t accommodating of overseas payments, this can be a barrier to potential customers across the Atlantic. By offering either credit card and/or PayPal payment options on your site, you can eliminate the hassle of foreign currency exchange rates and additional fees.
PayPal might be an extra cost to add to your list of outgoings, but at £20 a month, it’s a far cry from the money you could be losing down to abandoned sales or currency exchange fees.
5. Target your online ads to other English-speaking countries.
This is a We say to start with English-speaking here, because it will save you the costs of translating your website or hiring and training foreign language-speaking staff.
By adjusting your Google Adwords campaign preferences so your ads will display for searches originating from other countries, you’ll be able to get a better sense of which areas could provide you with a legitimate chance of market growth (as well as potentially grabbing a few new customers in the process).
Monitor your web traffic and conversions over time to see if any of these countries hold audiences worth targeting.
Remember, when broadening your target audience and customer base, you’ll need to have a strong communications and CRM system in place in order to keep up with growing demand. Telecoms company Vodafone and CRM platform creators like Insightly work to deliver specially tailored communications packages for businesses of all sizes. Make sure you research carefully the needs of your business and talk to an adviser about getting set up.
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