Uncertainty is not unfamiliar territory for business owners. However, this past year has brought a significant amount of it to entrepreneurs everywhere and in nearly all industries. Many companies are facing serious challenges. While survival may be their short-term goal, focusing on paths to growth can help position them for success long-term. Developing sound strategies for growing a business, executing those strategies, and streamlining processes are all part of the equation that makes a tremendous difference, whether in an environment of consistency vs. unpredictability and of abundance vs. scarcity.
Let’s take a look at 11 ideas entrepreneurs might consider as they strive to put their businesses on a growth trajectory. As you read through these thoughts, keep in mind that there are no “one-size-fits-all” growth solutions. What might benefit your business may be different than for someone else’s.
1. Choose Your Business Entity Type Carefully
Whether a company is a brand-new startup or has been around for years, its business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), C Corporation, etc.) can affect its ability to thrive and grow. That’s why entrepreneurs need to discuss the available options with legal, financial, and tax professionals.
Operating as a sole proprietorship or general partnership offers simplicity and has fewer compliance requirements than other entity types. However, they do not give owners personal protection against the liabilities of the business. Nor do they provide tax flexibility.
Conversely, the LLC and C Corporation entity types come with more formalities and filing fees. However, they shield business owners’ personal assets from business liabilities. They also—if the business meets IRS eligibility requirements—allow business owners to choose between the business structures’ default tax treatment and taxation as an S Corporation.
Realize that the ideal business structure for a company when just starting out may not remain the perfect entity type as the business grows and evolves.
It’s helpful for entrepreneurs to get professional guidance about the various entity types available and weigh all of the pros and cons related to their situation.
To help business owners prepare for discussions with their attorneys and tax advisors, CorpNet has some helpful online resources with information about business structures. Here are a few that might help you better understand the possible advantages and disadvantages of business entities:
2. Make Customer Service Excellence a Top Priority
First and foremost, this requires understanding your customers. Your products and services must satisfy their current needs—and evolve as their needs change. Surveys, focus groups (which can be done virtually), and online reviews can shed light on what your business is doing well and what you need to improve upon.
Besides fine-tuning the quality of your offerings, look for ways to improve how quickly, thoroughly, and professionally your company’s customer service team responds to questions and issues. We live in an era of instant gratification. For example, according to the 2020 Sprout Social Index, 79 percent of consumers expect brands to respond to them within 24 hours of when they reached out to them on social media (40 percent expect a reply within the first hour!) (Sprout Social, Inc. 2020). However, the speed of responding alone cannot create a stellar customer service experience. Customer care team members must be empowered through training to understand your company’s offerings and how to build rapport with your customers.
You’ll find many articles online about how to deliver stellar customer service. Here are a few you might find interesting:
3. Explore Opportunities to Diversify Your Offerings and Delivery Methods
In challenging times like these, it’s also critical for business owners to look for ways to expand their offerings and ways of delivering them. The available options for growing your business will depend on the industry, the locale, the customer base, and other factors. The internet has many inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have prevailed through the pandemic by pivoting their businesses. Several examples include:
4. Establish and Communicate Company Core Values
Core values express how a company aspires to achieve its mission. They set the foundation for how leadership and employees treat each other, customers, and the community. Core values serve as the glue that helps ensure everyone (from the business owner to managers to customer service and more) shares a common purpose and strives for the same level of excellence.
Developing core values isn’t enough, though; you must also communicate them to your team and demonstrate your own commitment to following them.
Creating core values is a process. Here are some articles that offer insight into how to go about it.
5. Value Your Employees’ Input
Now, more than ever, employees need to know that their thoughts and ideas matter. They are the people who represent your brand and see your strengths and weaknesses firsthand.
Listen to their observations and concerns—and ask them about ways they think your business can improve issues and leverage opportunities. This is a great way to demonstrate your respect for your team members and recognize practical changes that can benefit your business.
For more information about involving your employees, check out these helpful articles:
6. Understand How You Measure Up to Your Competition
Whether your primary competitors are near or far, it’s crucial to know what they’re doing to attract and retain customers. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, you can find a wealth of information about competitors’ products, services, and marketing tactics via Google searches.
Take some time to look at their website and social media accounts to research their offerings, pricing, promotions and special deals, and branding and marketing messaging. How does their approach differ from yours? What strategies appear to be working well for them that you might consider incorporating into your customer service, product, and marketing strategies?
A few articles that might help you in your competitive analysis efforts include:
7. Consider Creating a Customer Loyalty Program
Marketing researchers have found that it costs approximately five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Moreover, existing customers are 50 percent more likely to try new products, and they spend 31 percent more than new customers (Invesp 2019).
That’s a powerful incentive to put effort into retaining customers, isn’t it? Loyalty programs are one way to keep existing customers and get them to buy more. By rewarding loyal customers for their continued support, companies can facilitate more sales and get an edge over the competition.
Here are some sources of insight that share tips on developing an effective customer reward program:
8. Create and Share Content That Matters
Craft blog, email, and social media content that will, in some way, help prospects and customers solve a problem or achieve a goal. The more relevant your content, the more interest it will generate, and the more it will get shared.
Consistency also plays a role in content marketing success. Posting regularly helps ensure that you don’t lose momentum in the online following you’re building.
I know, I know…who has time to for all that? It’s challenging for sure, but tools like Hootsuite, Loomly, SproutSocial, Buffer, and others enable business owners to schedule social media posts in advance. Several of them also make it easier to monitor engagement and interact with followers who leave comments and share your posts.
Sticking to a consistent blog and email schedule is essential, too. If you don’t have a strong writer on your team or someone familiar with SEO and the ins and outs of your website’s content management system, you might consider outsourcing all or some of your blogging and website updating tasks.
Also, consider building an email list so that you have people opted into receiving periodic email messages from you with tips, announcements, new products, special deals, and other information. Sources vary in what they say is the average ROI, but most estimate it’s in the neighborhood of $40 in sales for each dollar spent on an email marketing campaign.
To help you in your content marketing efforts, here are several articles from blogs that provide expertise in that arena and tips for growing your business:
9. Seek Funding to Fuel Growth
Sometimes growth requires more than the financial resources a business has readily available. Fortunately, there are programs and services geared toward helping small businesses fuel their ability to expand. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers helpful information about getting business loans, seeking venture capital, crowdfunding, and other funding options.
10. Get Guidance from a Mentor
For example, SCORE, a national nonprofit, provides free, unlimited mentoring to small businesses everywhere in the United States. All mentors are volunteers with valuable business experience and expertise to share with entrepreneurs looking for guidance as they start or grow their companies.
11. Keep Up With Your Business Compliance Responsibilities
To grow a business, it requires staying in business! That’s why companies must keep up with their business compliance responsibilities. Paying taxes, submitting state filings, maintaining required licenses, and performing other formalities correctly and on time must not be ignored or overlooked. Businesses that don’t pay attention to their compliance requirements risk fines, extra fees, penalties, and even possible suspension. Business owners also risk losing liability protection (in the case of LLCs and corporations) if they don’t fulfill their obligations.
Business owners should research the requirements that apply to them by checking with their state and local agencies and asking their attorneys and tax advisors for guidance.
CorpNet has many articles about business compliance. I’ve listed several below:
CorpNet Is Here to Help as You Start and Grow Your Business
You can count on CorpNet’s team to assist you with all of the crucial filings for registering your business with the state, obtaining your EIN, applying for business licenses and permits, and much more. And we’re here to handle the ongoing filings required to keep your company in compliance year after year.
No matter what stage your business is in, CorpNet is here to help you on your journey to growth and success. Contact us for a free business consultation today!
References and Sources:
Sprout Social, Inc. 2020. “Why you need to speed up your social media response time (and how).” Sprout Blog. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-response-time/.
Invesp. 2019. “Customer Acquisition Vs. Retention Costs.” Invesp Blog. https://www.invespcro.com/blog/customer-acquisition-retention/.