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Businesses of all sizes are constantly looking for ways to expand both their offerings and their reach. For small businesses in particular, growing must often be accomplished on a shoestring budget.
Here are six tips from the experts on smart ways to grow your small business.
1. Believe in yourself
The power of belief, especially belief in yourself, can’t be overestimated. As business mentor Siimon Reynolds says, “You will only be as successful as your self-identity allows. Nobody can consistently perform at a higher level than they deep down believe they should be at. So be careful what you think about yourself.” Spend some time to develop a positive self-identity of yourself as a successful entrepreneur. You will inevitably hit some bumps along the way, and a strong belief in your own abilities will go a long way toward helping you overcome those obstacles.
2. Stand out from the competition
This tip comes from Caron Beesley, a small business owner who works with the U.S. Small Business Administration. She writes: “Standing out means being different. If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique.” Of course, just being different isn’t enough—your target customers must know that you are unique. To make sure your audience is aware of your unique value proposition, Beesley reminds you to “weave your differentiators into your company’s messaging and marketing.”
3. Focus on getting referrals
As entrepreneur and author Ken Varga puts it, “Referrals are the least expensive way to grow your business on a budget.” Small businesses especially have a lot to gain from referrals because they often result in high-quality leads and come at little or no cost. Some ideas for how to get referrals include providing the best products and services, making referral agreements with other companies, providing ways for customers to recommend your company (for example, through a referral email), offering incentives (like “Give $10, Get $10”), and simply asking for them.
4. Project an image of growth
Startup entrepreneur Larry Kim recommends that you “run the business you want, not the business you have.” By this, he means projecting “an air of confidence and authority” that is consistent with the bigger business you would like to reach. Kim, of course, doesn’t advocate deliberately lying to or misleading customers, or over-promising about what you can actually do. Instead, he says, “you should think big when growing your business and make sure your client-facing materials (and employees) exemplify everything you want your business to be.”
5. Grow at a reasonable pace
We are conditioned to think bigger is always better, but when small businesses are expanding it is essential that they don’t outgrow their ability to continue to provide the same level of products and services they are known for. As Brad Egeland writes: “Trying to grow too fast can kill a small business quickly as too much emphasis can be placed on growth and not enough on the customer relationships the product quality that got you to that growth point in the first place.”
6. Maintain focus on customers and quality
Finally, nearly every expert recognizes the importance of maintaining your focus on your customers and on the quality of the products and services you provide. Small businesses often stand out for their more personal customer relationships and their attention to quality, and this is something you can’t afford to lose sight of as you grow. Stay focused on your core mission and you will be able to take it to the next level.
Whether you are actively growing your business or simply making plans for some time in the future, take a moment to reflect on ways you can make these six expert tips work for you.