8 Tips for Growing Your Small Business

From nurturing your social network to better understanding your audience, use these steps to expand in 2016.
Grow your small biz
By making a goal-oriented plan, among other things, you will be on your way to growing your small business. (Photo: Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock)

Congratulations on taking your idea for a small business and making it a reality! Ready to take things to the next level? Below are a number of tips to use to help grow and nurture your brand. To help in crafting this advice, we’ve enlisted the help of Michael Parrish DuDell, best-­selling author of “Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business” and host of the acclaimed web series “The Next Crop.”

1. Create a goal­-setting program

While daily checklists are a great way to address short-­term goals for your business, they’re not for everyone. Still, it’s important to set some clear goals over the next 12 months. From growth to outreach, each objective should be aligned with the mission, vision and strategy of the company. To build momentum and stay on track, place some intermediate milestones along the way. For those who prefer a screen over pen and paper, there are also a number of online goal­-tracking programs. Our favorites include the beautiful Life Game and the detail-­rich LifeTick.

“For me, one of the most important parts of goal-­setting is to create non­-negotiable rewards and punishments for each task,” writes DuDell. “This ensures I stay on task and remain accountable.”

2. Fine-­tune your elevator pitch

As a small business owner, you never know where or when having a succinct description of your business might earn you a new customer, client or investor. To that end, make sure to craft and rehearse a description of your business that’s less than one minute. Topics to briefly touch upon include the product, market, revenue model and the problem you’re trying to solve. Faced with a shorter window of time to make an impression? DuDell recommends the following strategy:

“When someone asks ‘What do you do?’ answer back with a question. ‘You know how you always (insert the problem you’re trying to solve)?’ Wait for an affirmation. ‘Right. We’ll we’re the company that (explain how you solve the problem).’ Doing this allows you to get buying on the market challenge before explaining your solution.”

3. Be passionate about building your social capital

Building your network and enriching your social capital is something every business owner should pour daily energy into. Engage with your market over social media, join related LinkedIn communities, and craft personal introductions to influencers you’re genuinely interested to connect with. Beyond the laptop, try and carve out time and money to attend a conference, workshop or local community event that caters to your industry and might lead to new opportunities. Want to perfect this strategy? Check out networking guru Keith Ferrazzi’s excellent book Never Eat Alone.

4. Give yourself permission to try new ideas – and fail

As Richard Branson recently said, no true entrepreneur has ever gone through life without some failures. “If you don’t have failures,” he added, “you’re likely just not trying hard enough.” The point for every small business owner is not to be afraid of failure. In addition to all of the tried­-and­-true methods of growing your business, feel free to experiment with those that have never appeared on a top 10 list. Either way, you learn something new.

“What helps with this is a timeline,” adds DuDell. “When you give yourself a predetermined number of days, weeks, or months to try something new, you remove much of the anxiety that comes with the fear of failure. You may be surprised at just how much creative freedom this provides.”

5. Continue to research and refine your target audience.

Is your business focused on Millennials? Or perhaps Baby Boomers? Keeping your finger on the pulse of your target audience is extremely important. Knowing your demographic is only part of the puzzle. Having a thorough grasp on your customer’s interests, hobbies, values and lifestyle preferences will go a long way to crafting an attractive brand and building relationships. Also, don’t forget to keep tabs on your industry. If a competitor suddenly shifts gears and begins targeting a new demographic, it may offer a hint you’ve previously overlooked.

6. Seek out your brand ambassadors

An expert on the topic, DuDell tells us that while knowing your target market is critical, it’s only the first step in understanding and engaging with your audience.

“As a small business owner, your schedule is overwhelming, especially at the beginning,” he says. “Instead of trying to reach each customer, it’s much easier to identify the brand ambassadors and influencers who can spread word on your behalf. Search social media to find out who’s talking about you, your business or your industry. Come up with compelling ways to win their trust and attract their attention. It’s important to have these advocates on your side, especially in the early stage.”

7. Craft a seamless online and offline experience

The old days of a new customer being introduced to your business through an ad or in-person visit are virtually gone. These days, the first impression they receive is generally through a web browser or app on their smartphone. Make every effort to craft a presence in both the physical and digital world that’s seamless and reflective of your brand’s core values. If you’ve committed to social media, don’t let your pages stagnate. If you want to share images with either the press or your customers, commit to high quality and high resolution. Customers familiar with your brand in the real world should be right at home with your digital presence.

8. Measure and enhance

You’re busy. You wear a lot of hats. And running a small business does not afford many breaks. That said, remember to step back often, breathe deep and take in the view.

“A lot of entrepreneurs are so action­-oriented that they forget to pause for a moment and measure their progress,” DuDell explains. “With so many tools available, it’s easy to see if your efforts are successful. Whether it’s through digital analytics or simply reviewing your quarterly goal-­setting work, take some time to assess your progress and enhance your plan of attack.”

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