When all is said and done, there are really only three ways to grow a business: Get more new customers, get current customers to do business with you more often and
get current customers to spend more money on each transaction. That's it.
I work with a number of businesses, big and small, in a variety of industries. Clients almost always immediately gravitate towards the first way to grow a business – on getting more new customers – because it's the most obvious. It's also, by a very large margin, the most difficult and most expensive option. My clients find that they get the best business growth when they focus on the second and third options. With that in mind, here are 10 strategies for rapid growth to catapult your business to the next level:
1. Figure out who your real market is. It sounds simple enough, but nobody can be all things to all people. Be very specific about your target market and who your ideal customer is. Then focus your marketing efforts only at those customers. Don't be worried about turning off people outside of your market, so long as you're connecting with those in it.
2. Tag-team champions. Ready for some extreme growth? Consider strategic alliances and joint ventures. Somebody somewhere has something you need. Similarly, you have something they need. Look for ways to join forces with others. Here's an example: Restaurants and real estate agents can work together. Real estate agents get goodwill by buying their clients a meal at a local restaurant, which the restaurant provides for cost, because it's getting a new customer out of the deal.
3. Recognize + reward = retention. How often are you rewarding your best customers? Do you know how much they're spending, or how often they do business with you? It's integral that you not only recognize these customers, but you also reward them. Examples include: Personal letters/phone calls, incentives, bonuses, gifts, loyalty programs, VIP clubs, special offers, etc.
4. Walk the walk. Your clients have certain expectations of you. Often, these expectations have been reinforced through your business's positioning, marketing, and advertising. But are you walking the walk, or just talking the talk? Growth occurs when your customers recognize the connection between what you said would happen and what is actually happening. It's your job to ensure you're managing those expectations carefully.
5. Keeping tabs and taking names. The greatest asset your small business has is your list of current customers, and the means to contact them. It can also be your greatest weapon for rapid growth. You wouldn't believe how many business owners look at me with confused and bewildered faces when I ask them about their customer database. If you're not capturing your customer's names, e-mails, and birthdays, at the very least, then you're throwing money away.
6. Nurture relationships. If you've built a customer list then you've got a golden opportunity. And, no, this isn't your chance to become Sir Spamalot! This is your chance to nurture and cultivate lasting relationships with your customers. Share useful and valuable information, recognize customers publicly (everyone loves to see their name in lights), promote new products or services, show them what's going on and what's coming up and give them opportunities to refer you.
7. Put your money where your mouth is. Guaranteeing that the customer will be "satisfied" is a lousy and lazy guarantee. Be specific, provocative, gutsy and put the ball in the customer's court. A strong guarantee can be the difference from your business hovering a few feet off the ground to soaring at cruising altitude. Here's an example: "We'll have your lunch on the table within 15 minutes or we'll pick up the bill, and the next one, too."
8. If everyone is heading north, go south. If you want to experience rapid growth, you need to stand out from the crowd. The marketplace will tolerate almost everything except boring. If all your competitors are moving in one direction, you need to go the opposite. This applies to everything you do. It's even more important in your marketing. Don't be afraid to be contrarian. An influential marketer once told me, "If you're not being un-friended and un-followed on a daily basis, you're not being edgy enough."
9. S-P-E-L-L it out. Your customers are busy. They're tired from a long days' work and, believe it or not, the last thing they're worried about is your business. Making things overly difficult and complicated is like a force-field blocking your ability to grow. You need to make things almost ridiculously simple for your customers and tell them exactly what to do next: Click here. Call this Number. Redeem This Offer. Put your credit card number into this box, etc.
10. Wear new glasses. The TV reality show Undercover Boss is predictable and boring because we always know what's going to happen. The CEO gets a heavy dose of reality when he or she sees how the business is actually being run. Poor employee morale, terrible customer service, health and safety violations, etc. The list goes on and on. Small business is no different. We're often so intertwined in the day-to-day operations that we lose sight of what's really going on. Take a step back. Find an outside consultant to shop your business. Visit your competitors. Take a vacation and come back with a new pair of glasses. Just like you've got to manage your customer's expectations, you also need to manage your own.
Noah Fleming is a strategic marketing consultant specializing in entrepreneurial growth, community building, client loyalty, and customer retention. He helps create companies people love. He's worked personally with over 500 entrepreneurs and business owners. You can learn more about him at NoahFleming.com.