The hurdles of starting a business are tough enough to overcome, but when things level out, it’s time for the next challenge: growth! Growing a business is exceedingly difficult in its own right, especially when you’ve got pressure from investors and other eager stakeholders.
If you’re struggling to initiate a growth phase for your business or just curious what experienced entrepreneurs have to say on the topic, here’s some advice for effective growth strategies from successful owners and execs.
Ready to Invest
While some businesses get lucky breaks and experience rapid growth overnight, you’ll likely need to be more tactful with how you allocate resources and focus. Steady and sustainable growth requires a sound game plan from the outset.
“You have to invest in your growth,” said Chris Vaughn, CEO of Saucey. “At Saucey, a lot of our initial investments went into activations to elevate client experiences. One of our opening activations was, if you spent a certain amount of money in-app, a bartender would come to your home and make you drinks for an hour. We sent our mission statement as delivering ‘experiences’, and that was what ended up setting us apart. Set your own company mission statement, and don’t be afraid to take some chances to grow and elevate your business from the jump.”
As long as you weigh your risks and don’t seek shortcuts, growth can be attained at a stable rate and bring your business to new heights.
Big Picture Thinking
What metrics are you using to measure growth, and are they giving you the full picture you need to sustain those trends? Reconsider your metrics and be ready to change direction if the data suggests a shift in momentum.
“I always take a week at the beginning of each quarter to strategize,” said Kiran Gollakota, Co-Founder of Waltham Clinic. “I meet with board members and team leaders to see reports and projects. I look at if we are reflecting our goals and make changes as needed to be successful in our growth strategy. It is okay to slow down and take a step back to see the overall picture.”
If your business is on a steady upward trend, don’t worry so much about speed – growth should be treated as a marathon.
Think and Grow
To grow a business, you need to be intentional and focused on process, just as you were when you started the company in the first place.
“When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation,” said Researcher and Professor Carol S. Dweck.
Refine your mindset and orient it towards growth, then ensure everyone within your ranks is on the same page moving forward.
Now that lockdowns and restrictions are almost totally lifted, it’s time for everyone to rediscover the outdoors and enjoy life to the fullest. That presents more opportunities for ads and growth, even if your brand is entirely online.
“Outdoor marketing is often overlooked when it comes to growing a business,” said Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “It should not be. Outdoor advertising is a highly effective way to reach your customers. If you want to grow, outdoor advertising is a huge opportunity for your business.”
People appreciate creativity with in-real-life marketing, so take some chances and see what you can accomplish.
Think Way Ahead
Rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day numbers, zoom out and set goals further down the road. This will help you stay out of the weeds and focus on high-ROI tasks and activities each day.
“When it comes to growth strategies, look at where you want the company to be next year,” said Jason Wong, CEO of Doe Lashes. “Create mini-goals and objectives to hit throughout the year in order to complete the overall goal. This will help create an overall plan for growth.”
By the time you finally run the numbers, you’ll be blown away by how far you’ve come.
Follow a Blueprint
There is certainly some value in trial-and-error when growing a business, but don’t rely too heavily on experimentation if you’re serious about results. This is especially important on social media or other high-octane marketing channels.
“A startup company should begin creating a social media strategy by outlining the content pillars, or content themes that will be regularly posted,” said Harris Rabin, Co-Founder of R3SET. “These should be brand focused and related to the industry the brand is tapping into. I suggest choosing one or two social media platforms to begin with for the first quarter to gauge how fast the growth is. Make quantitative goals for how many followers you want to obtain, how many people you want to reach, and how much average engagement you want to see over the course of the first month. You can then use this as baseline metrics over the first quarter.”
When you’ve got a blueprint to follow and track progress, growth is simply a matter of time and effort, not guesswork.
Hop on Social
If you’re still weighing the pros and cons of social media marketing, it’s time for a wakeup call. Being active on these platforms is non-negotiable if your goal is to grow.
“Growing your business through social media is essential these days,” said Tyler Forte, Founder and CEO of Felix Homes. “A social media strategy that startups can use to grow their businesses is to post/create content around asking the audience fun and original questions. This type of strategy boosts engagement on social media platforms and provides an opportunity to get creative and differentiate your content. An excellent tip to posting questions as part of your content strategy is to stay away from questions that sound rhetorical. Ask a question that stops the viewer and sparks a thought that will lead to a response.”
Social media rewards out-of-the-box thinking, quality content, and most of all, consistency. Be ready to bring all three to the table.
In today’s super-competitive business climate, strong partnerships aren’t optional. Link up with other businesses, influencers, and publications that can earn you clout, or better yet, funding.
“Angel investors are an excellent vehicle to expand your networking opportunities,” said Shahzil Amin, Managing Partner at Karlani Capital, Founder of Emagineer and Well Before. “They can help you make the right connections in your industry that you would not otherwise have the chance to make. Fostering relationships with people who share the same interests can result in new ideas, innovations, or partnerships. And evolving your business can help you to stay in business longer.”
The best partnerships will help you navigate tough times and maximize profits when opportunities strike.
What’s the best way to grow your business in its early stages? Start on the right foot and coordinate a launch that makes the competition do a double take!
“In 2018, the initial launch of the first SBLA product was an enormous success, generating over 8.3 million in sales in the first five months of operations,” said Randi Shinder, CEO of SBLA. “Since SBLA exploded into the digital market, SBLA has grown beyond its signature product. The company transitioned SBLA Beauty to better showcase its commitment to the science behind the beauty products and its expanding portfolio. It is this forward-thinking and understanding of the market that has led me throughout my career.”
Having a successful launch is easier said than done. At the very least, aim to gain momentum soon thereafter and generate hype moving forward.
Lock into a Niche
If your business is stagnating in terms of growth and reach, you may be casting too wide of a net with your marketing campaigns. Narrow things down and focus fully on your niche.
“Finding and defining your niche enables you to target the right customers, at the right time, with the right message,” said Jared Pobre, CEO and Co-Founder of Caldera + Lab. “Knowing exactly who your customers are, where they hang out online, and how they can benefit from your product or service saves time and money on costly and exhaustive market research, which is especially important for a small-staffed business.”
As you master a specific market in your industry, then you can begin to push into other areas.
Optimize, Then Expand
Too many businesses are eager to introduce new products and services before they even have a firm grasp of their current strategy. Before you expand, optimize what you’ve built and maximize efficiency in every area.
“Instead of adding a service or product to your company for expansion, you should first consider if you have optimized what you are producing for your consumers so they have the best you can offer,” said Tyler Faux, Co-Founder of Supergreat. “At Supergreat, we offer a user-generated video platform for the beauty community so people can connect to share products, reviews and tips. Since our founding in 2018, we grew our platform by 300% integrating shoppable live-streaming in 2021. Brands featured on our platform have seen their products sell out in seconds, and with higher user retention and signups, we are looking into live videos for the brands for even greater interactivity.”
Expansion will come naturally when you’ve fully optimized your business from the ground up.
Sometimes, you’ve got to confront some difficult truths – are the people on your team holding your business back from growth? It may be time to replace some members of your roster, or at least make some new hires.
“Growing a business can be tough,” said Lauren Picasso, CEO of Cure Hydration. “That is why it is important to hire the absolute best talent you can find. If you have the right people and the right product, everything else falls into place.”
Employees make a big difference in the success or stagnation of your business – choose wisely.
‘Ad’ it Up
With so many ways to advertise online, your marketing team has no shortage of options. Social media, search engine results pages, on-page ads – it’s all legit, and all worth a shot.
“Online advertising is critical to a business’s success in 2021,” said Craig Carter, CEO of Jack Mason. “Utilizing this channel and maximizing its benefits will prove dramatic in helping your business grow.”
There is more than meets the eye when advertising online, so don’t approach this haphazardly – learn the ropes and execute properly.
Listen and Learn
Intuition is key to growing a business beyond its original limits. You’ll need to be closely tuned into what people are saying within your organization and beyond. Listen up, because their words will guide you in the right direction.
“Growing a business is a difficult task,” said Peter Horvath, CEO of High Times. “Here at High Times we have grown our business organically and from the ground up. I suggest you do the same. Don’t force things when trying to grow your business. Instead, listen to your customers and adjust accordingly. Growth will stem naturally from taking care of your customers.”
Not all feedback will be useful, of course – always trust your instincts and do what feels right.
A unique and exciting product will naturally help your business grow. While it might take some time to see results, you’ll be better positioned to attain ‘cult followings’ and make big waves down the road.
“We’ve led a successful product launch of De La Calle’s Tepache during a pandemic because we are a unique product in a competitive market,” said Alex Mathews, Co-Founder of De La Calle. “My co-founder, Rafael Martin del Campo, and I saw a need in the probiotic beverage industry for a product that was rooted in culture and connectivity. My first encounter with Tepache was on the streets of Mexico at a tepachería. Rafael and I developed De La Calle’s proprietary large-scale fermentation process and studied this flavorful drink. De La Calle has developed a twist of modern and traditional flavors of this cultural beverage for everyone to enjoy. We understood our brand’s story would individualize our product in the market.”
When organic interest in your product is on the rise, that’s when it’s time to double down and go for the gold with campaigns and PR.
It’s not just about having the right teammates – they also need to feel respected, empowered, and free to make decisions they believe will benefit the company the most.
“One strategy to grow your business is trusting the people you have hired,” said Jason Butcher, CEO of CoinPayments. “Trust their judgement and place your faith in those around you. By doing this you will give your employees the freedom to do what they want, and what they think is best for the company. This will promote growth and learning.”
If there’s a lack of trust within your ranks, go back to the drawing board and establish solid team fundamentals to drive you forward.
Growing pains are real when it comes to business, as well as personal progress on our own goals. Be ready to hit some roadblocks and deal with difficult decisions – that’s part of the process.
“Someone once told me growth and comfort do not coexist,” said former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. “And I think it’s a really good thing to remember.”
Not all discomfort is productive, of course. Know the difference.
Target to a T
Long before the internet, targeting has always been a key part of marketing. Now, targeting is more precise, more detailed, and far more important than ever before. This will be essential to growth, no matter where your business is at.
“Targeting your specific audience in marketing cannot be understated,” said Olamide Olowe, CEO of Topicals. “Younger generations, especially our target audience Gen Z, are always on social media platforms like TikTok and VSCO because social media plays a huge role in how people feel about themselves. That’s why it is important to us to create a brand that doesn’t focus on perfection or unattainable beauty standards. We want to transform the way people feel about skin and we do that on social media by showcasing people with visible skin conditions living life in full color.”
Once you’ve done the groundwork in terms of targeting, growing your business is just a matter of execution.
Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, and tackle their goals in unique ways based on style and experience. One thing is for sure, though – nothing is left to chance.
Take this opportunity to build a growth strategy and stick to the plan, even if it’s subject to change in the future.
“Business growth strategies can be hard to create,” said Bari Medgaus, COO of Stabili-Teeth. “It is important to look at your business goals and overall mission, and base it off of that. We wanted to take dentistry to a new level and create a new product to help people, so we changed our strategy to reflect that new goal. Take on initiatives and base growth strategies around those.”
Starting a business from nothing is an impressive feat, but growing it into an empire takes even more focus, ferocity, and sustained strategic effort. With advice from entrepreneurs who have made it to the top, you’ve got what you need to grow and succeed.