Part 1 of 2
Starting a business isn't easy, yet keeping that business afloat is often the more grueling task. According to recent research, 20 percent of small businesses don’t make it past their first year in business, 30 percent don’t make it past their second, and an additional 50 percent don’t make it past their fifth. Only 30 percent of small businesses survive past their tenth year in business.
With such staggering statistics, new businesses are rightly afraid of failure.
How do you beat the odds and ensure your business is part of the 30 percent that soars past the 10-year mark? How do you give your business the competitive edge to overcome obstacles and avoid standstills?
Here’s the best advice from business experts about increasing business growth in the competitive age of 2018:
Kokulan Mahendiran is the Founder and President of an online retailer of respiratory medical devices (CPAP machines) and accessories, Maple CPAP. He urges fellow business participants to avoid complacency: “Don't ever let yourself become content with what you're already achieving. Finding comfort after a certain degree of success is entirely natural; however, it is important to keep pushing yourself, not only to keep your company growing but to keep it competitive.”
Mahendiran continues to say, “always aim to beat your targets, and make sure to increase your targets every time you beat them.” Lastly, he reminds us that “sustained growth is essential for a sustainable company.”
In light of our technological times, Doug Staneart, CEO of The Leader's Institute, suggests that business owners start a podcast. With podcast popularity rising, Staneart decided to start a presentation skills podcast called Fearless Presentations almost a year ago. Staneart says since then, “we have seen our registrations into our presentations skills class almost double in that same time period. We find that being able to communicate with a specific group of people on a weekly basis via a voice message is more personal and intimate, so our customers are even more loyal now.”
Staneart explains podcasts work well to sustain and build business growth because “we are constantly building and strengthening that personal relationship over time with each of our listeners.” Staneart provides a couple statistics to back up his findings: “According to Nielsen Ratings, podcast listenership is up 157 percent since 2014 because of smartphones.” Consequently, Staneart’s business “had an additional 27 percent increase in repeat business over the next three months.”
If your business doesn’t have the resources to start a podcast, there are still options; you could find local podcasters that relate to your industry and volunteer to be a guest on their show, resulting in more customers and better customer relationships as Staneart described.
Zach Hendrix, co-founder of the lawn care service GreenPal, recommends using Facebook Groups as a simple and effective method for increasing your business growth. Hendrix explains: “No matter your niche or vertical, there is a Facebook Group you can participate in to contribute to the discussion, answer questions, and develop a presence to refer people to your business, often times when they are looking for exactly what you offer.” He continues to say: “Facebook also just launched a dedicated mobile app to support their groups' communities, so now it's easier than ever to manage the groups that you participate in, monitor the conversations, and participate while on the go throughout your day.”
Hendrix and his company use Facebook Groups to monitor local group conversation regarding lawn care. If anyone is searching for a lawn care service, Greenpal respectfully lets the inquirer know about the company. Hendrix’s business has had a great success with this strategy: “We track the success and 60 percent of the time we make a recommendation, they sign up for our services.”
Hendrix adds that an additional benefit to Facebook Groups is that it could work for almost any business, regardless of its niche.
Michael Arking, co-founder of Social Motion Films, agrees with Hendrix that implementing social media into your business is essential for growth. Arking’s advises to “Leverage video across channels on social, on your website and marketplaces like Amazon.” He continues: “Video today is not the same as 10 years ago; it needs to be short, entertaining, and on message. For instance, on Facebook, the cost of video advertising can cost pennies compared to still image ads because Facebook prefers video for engagement. Video on Instagram is also very important, as videos get close to 10 times the clicks and engagement.”
With social media’s significant effect on businesses, Hendrix and Arking use these social media platforms to improve engagement with their brands and to ultimately increase their business growth.
Owner of a marketing solutions company called Empty Desk Solutions, Brittany Hardy suggests automating parts of your business when possible and necessary. Hardy begins: “Seek out time-saving tools that can automate parts of your business. It’s more than just finding the right tool for one job and calling it a day; it’s being relentless in your search of the tool that can automate the most in your business without compromising your core promise or customer experience. It doesn’t matter if you offer a service or a product, there are always tools that can make you more efficient as a business owner.”
Hardy believes that automating parts of your business can free up your time for other, more important tasks. Afterall, in business, time is money.
Hardy provides an example of a problem that could be addressed with automation efforts: “Last month we decided that the ads we were running for our clients on Facebook while effective could probably take less time to set up, which would save our clients’ money, and we wanted to seek out a platform that would give us more easily digestible information for our clients. The reports that Facebook provides us don’t give our clients the level of detail they are looking for, and when we create a custom report, it’s no longer understandable.”
Hardy acted right away: “We went on a search for a tool that could help us optimize the ads in less sets and provide us with a cleaner interface for seeking the reporting stats. Within a couple of hours, we found a tool that allowed us to set up 30 variations of one ad in less than 10 minutes. This is something previously that would have taken upwards of two hours. Sometimes trying out different tools and platforms can seem like a headache but when you find the right one, the time you stand to save can be absolutely game-changing for your business!”
Automation not only helped Hardy and her business save time and effort, but it directly resulted in business growth and more efficient spending.
Caris, Accountability Coach and E-commerce Consultant at Learn With Caris, advises business owners to nurture and grow the community surrounding your business. She says: “When you nurture a community, you open up the opportunity for your potential clients to get to know you without you even trying or being ‘salesy.’ And when they get to know, like and trust you, they are more likely to invest in what you put out.”
Caris proceeds by correcting a common mistake in business: “It's not about collecting a bunch of business cards; it's about building genuine relationships with people who eventually want to see you win just as much as you want for them.” Caris thinks that “having great relationships with the right people opens you up to opportunities you never knew possible.”
Of all the business growth strategies Caris has implemented, she says nurturing the community and the relationships within it has been the biggest driving force for her business growth.
Regardless of the changing times in business, one growth strategy never seems to die out: word of mouth. Adam Jon, CEO of hollywoodmirrors.co.uk, swears by using word of mouth to keep his business growth booming.
Watson uses the Pareto Principle, the idea that “80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your customers or 20 percent of your activities.” With this in mind, Jon urges business owners to focus on this group: “Treat your customers like a king and they will then refer their friends, and you will get natural organic growth through word of mouth. Only when you have tried and optimized this pipeline of 20 percent of customers should you start looking elsewhere to get sales.”
Jon implemented this strategy by utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google AdWords to get better exposure and improved Return on Investment (ROI). Online marketing combined with customer satisfaction led to a 300 percent increase in his business.
In business it’s easy to get tunnel vision, only focusing on one goal, such as sales numbers, and neglecting other areas that need attention. Sarah Brennan, CEO and Principal Strategist of Accelir, validated this fixation on what she calls the “problem area.”
Brennan’s advice is to steer clear of this preoccupation: “It is important to look at growth as a holistic issue. Too often leadership teams focus on the ‘problem area,’ like lack of sales, and invests energy trying to fix that instead of looking at the product, marketing strategy, and current customer and employee satisfaction.” Brennan realizes that “it is easy to spend a lot of time, money, and effort trying to fix the symptom rather than the problem causing a stall in growth.”
To fix this, identify the true problem area in the company, not just the symptom. Your business will get to the root of the issue immediately instead of simply treating the symptoms of a larger issue that needs resolving first.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder and CEO of a marketing consulting firm called Mavens & Moguls, explained a difficult time when her business hit a lull. What freed her company from this slump was a listening tour. Fenn encourages businesses to start a listening tour by making “a list of the movers and shakers, people you admire and prospects. Ask a few smart, open-ended questions, then sit back and take notice. They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind. If you listen to what they share with you, there will be plenty of opportunities to help them.”
Fenn explains that listening with no strings attached allows people to be more open and considerate of what a business has to offer. Fenn started this outreach with simple emails and phone calls, and when the time came to meet with people, she brought a pen and paper to listen to potential clients and to ask what they needed from her.
For the price of a few coffees and meals, Fenn tells us she got an earful and several new clients, getting her business growth flowing again.
Sustaining business growth is difficult but these tips from business experts will help you achieve your advancement goals for your company. If you’re newer to the business industry and need additional help preparing your business for growth, check out the top merchant account companies to help you set up a merchant account and handle your future business payments. We also interviewed experts on merchant account services to make your transition into business operation as smooth as possible.
Want more business growth tips from additional experts? Check out part two of this article.