From Startup to Scale-Up: 15 Sustainable Business Growth Strategies

Scaling a business sustainably is a challenge that many CEOs and founders face. To provide you with the most effective strategies, we’ve gathered 15 insightful answers from these leaders. From leveraging data-driven insights and customer feedback to gaining recognition through a Wikipedia page, discover the diverse strategies these experts recommend for sustainable business growth.

Leverage Data-Driven Insights and Customer Feedback

At Treads, a pivotal strategy for sustainable growth has been a blend of leveraging data-driven insights and prioritizing customer feedback. For example, one major pain point for customers was not knowing whether a nail in their tire meant the tire could be repaired or needed to be replaced. 

This insight led to the development of a visual, machine-learning product that allows customers to get all of this info by simply uploading a photo of their damaged tire from their phone to the Treads app. They will then receive an AI-powered response and recommendation of the service type they need before scheduling any service. This is a huge time-saver and a win for the user experience.

Zach Olson, Founder and CEO, Treads

Build Robust Partnerships for Growth

I believe sustainable business growth occurs through robust partnerships. Through business networking, I have associations with various industrial leaders. They have been in the industry for a prolonged time. Hence, they have profound knowledge and expertise in the industry. I decided to collaborate with them to enhance sustainable growth in my business. I could learn many things through their guidance. 

Their insights helped me to make better decisions for my company. Through their contacts, I could also gain better access to the markets. They even update me on the latest market trends. It made the scaling of my business smoother. Although I got successful outcomes, it didn’t impact my company’s budget much.

Kurt Uhlir, Chief Marketing Officer, kurtuhlir

Offer Free Trials and Focus on Marketing Channels

Right from the beginning, we have followed a product-led growth model where we allow our users to experience the full potential of the product before they commit to it. This helps in building trust and, at the same time, gives you a ton of insights into your user needs.

Also, rather than trying multiple channels to acquire customers, get deep into one or two channels and try to create authority there. For us, it was SEO and content. By writing helpful content around our product and available integrations, creating dedicated product pages helped us attract the right kind of traffic and drive growth.

We actively conduct A/B tests on the product and website to try out new ideas that can enhance user experience and boost conversions. Make sure to prioritize the right experiments by doing an effort vs. impact analysis.

Yogesh Joshi, Head of Growth, Kommunicate

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Balance Organic Growth and Strategic Partnerships

In scaling EchoGlobal, I’ve come to deeply value the balance between organic growth and strategic partnerships. One cannot solely rely on scaling by numbers; it’s about scaling with the right ethos and quality. For instance, rather than casting a wide net, we meticulously curated our talent database, emphasizing domain-specific expertise and cultural fit. This organic growth ensured our reputation remained untarnished. 

Concurrently, we’ve engaged in partnerships with ed-tech firms to develop proprietary tools, enhancing our recruitment analytics and efficiency. It’s a dual strategy: ensuring internal growth remains quality-centric while leveraging external partnerships to bolster and innovate our operational capability.

Lou Reverchuk, Co-Founder and CEO, EchoGlobal

Drive Growth Through Google Ads

I know that people don’t talk about this strategy much anymore because it’s older and not as sexy as the next big thing, but Google ads have been a huge winner for our business. 

We’ve been able to figure out the set of keywords that drive sign-ups at a price that makes the ads super profitable. There’s also the added benefit of seeing which keywords have high buyer’s intent, which helps us know where we should focus our SEO efforts.

Adam White, Founder, SquidVision

Construct Scalable Processes and Tools

In business start-ups, or when assisting clients with the same, I aim to construct my processes and tools in a scalable manner. I consider, “Will this tool or process be useful if I expand my team? Will it remain functional when I’m so occupied that I delegate tasks to other contractors? Will the monthly cost justify the investment, considering it saves me time and enables me to focus more on tasks that generate income?”

Take email marketing, for instance. Many tools are available to facilitate and automate email sending. They might seem costly for a start-up, but if you start as you intend to continue, it will prove profitable in the long run. 

Instead of opting for free platforms that impose limitations on contacts and sends, invest from the outset in something like Flodesk or Klaviyo. They might be slightly pricier, but they will prove their worth when they save you time and attract better clients through automation and conversion email marketing.

Clare Walter, Owner, Clare Walter Design

Tap into Abundance Groups for Acquisition

While I was at Uber, I picked up a tactic to scale customer acquisition by tapping into what I call “Abundance Groups.” These are groups that already own or have access to high volumes of your target customers. They provide you instant, one-to-many access to large pools of customers.

Think about a chain of fast-food restaurants; you can either acquire individual stores one by one, or go straight to corporate or the franchisor and close multiple locations at once. At Uber, we partnered with hotels, which see lots of people traveling out of town without their car and in need of a ride. We also targeted commercial fleet owners who gave us access to hundreds of cars and drivers.

Since these Abundance Groups already have access to your target customers, acquisition costs approach zero at scale for the targets under their umbrella, which can make this a very sustainable growth channel.

Jake Huber, Founder and Chief Scale Officer, Venture Scaler

Reduce Costs with Programmatic SEO

Programmatic SEO can become a hefty expense, especially when content creation becomes the primary cost driver. That’s where programmatic SEO comes into play.

Traditional SEO strategies might require significant investments in writers and content optimization. In contrast, with Steambase, I tapped into the power of ASP.NET Web API, PostgreSQL, and Google Cloud to programmatically generate pages for over 55,000 Steam games.

Not one of those pages was manually created by me. This shift in approach drastically reduced costs—transitioning from thousands spent on content to mere hundreds on server maintenance. This sustainable strategy accelerates Steambase’s growth and helps me save my budget on link-building.

Lucas Wyland, Founder, Steambase

Utilize Product-Review Platforms for Success

We’ve had brilliant success with product-review platforms. Our biggest push in this arena has been on G2, which is a review platform for business-software buyers. We made a decision last year to focus aggressively on this channel because buyers utilizing review sites tend to close faster, as they are in a more advanced stage of product education on average.

Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench

Maximize Resources Through Efficiency and Partnerships

Sustainable growth means never losing sight of your most valuable resources: time, treasure, and talent. If one of your “3 T’s” is in short supply, use the other two to accomplish your objectives. Two other areas that are often neglected when scaling up a growing business, and can have the most impact, are operational efficiency and strategic partnerships.

Streamline internal processes to reduce costs and improve productivity. Many times, operations and procedures are born out of necessity in the early stages, but what worked then may not always be the most efficient or cost-effective ways to work.

Collaboration with other businesses or organizations can help you access new markets, technologies, or resources. Partnerships can accelerate growth without substantial investments of “treasure,” and they can be mutually beneficial to both organizations.

Keeping a focus on your 3 T’s will ensure you’re maximizing your limited resources, so they’re not squandered in the service of growth.

Erin Dyer, Manager – Marketing, Solectrac

Implement a Customer-Centric Approach

When scaling, implementing a customer-centric approach has been pivotal for sustainable growth. For instance, we introduced a membership program offering clients early access to new releases, exclusive author interactions, and premium content. This initiative not only generated a steady revenue stream but also deepened customer loyalty and engagement.

This strategy is effective because it prioritizes long-term customer value over short-term sales, fostering a community of brand advocates who organically amplify your presence and contribute to sustainable growth. Consistently delivering value, listening to feedback, and continuously improving the customer experience will transform one-time buyers into lifelong supporters.

When customers feel valued and engaged, they not only stick around but also become your most powerful marketers, recommending your services to others and fueling your sustainable growth journey.

Vikrant Shaurya, CEO, Authors On Mission

Expand Products for a Wider Customer Base

One of the best sustainable-growth strategies to scale your business is to expand your products or services. This allows you to cater to a wider customer base and ensure you retain your current customers. The trick is to make sure your new offerings still align with your values, mission, and beliefs.

For instance, our energy robo-adviser is only the first product for us. We plan to develop more tools around energy and data to ensure consumers are saving money on their electric bills each month, while becoming more sustainable at the same time.

Andrew Meyer, CEO, Arbor

Hire a Mix of Young Talent and Experienced Experts

Hire young and bright individuals initially, then shift to hiring more experienced ones once you hit a certain growth milestone. This is what we’ve done in our current venture, as we knew we wanted to build and train a core of young talent that would grow into our future leaders. 

However, we also knew that to maintain our current growth trajectory, we would eventually need to hire some older and more experienced experts to fill in gaps that would take too long to train up. This mix has led to sustainable growth and long-term planning for future success, so I recommend the approach.

Onno Halsema, CEO, Contentoo

Understand Clients’ Needs and Innovate Continuously

From my experience at the helm of a software technology company, sustainable growth fundamentally hinges on two elements: a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and a laser focus on continuous innovation. You see, in an industry dominated by choices, our primary mission is to guide software buyers seamlessly.

But how do we achieve that consistently? Around 87% of our strategies involve utilizing real-time analytics to gauge market trends. This approach allows us to pivot when necessary. Remember, it’s like sailing: you adjust your sails according to the wind, not against it.

A prime example? Recently, we noted a 15% uptick in inquiries about workflow-automation tools. Instead of indiscriminately adding every tool to our roster, we meticulously selected the top three, backed by rigorous testing and client feedback. The result? A staggering 40% growth in successful software matches in just two quarters.

Ankit Prakash, Founder, Sprout24

Gain Recognition Through a Wikipedia Page

Creating a Wikipedia page is one of the most effective and sustainable ways of getting consistent recognition for any business, startup, or thought leader. Think of it as an online resume or feature, except permanent, assuming your page is developed professionally.

While having a presence on a community-edited website might concern some public relations professionals from a brand safety perspective, for most businesses, the visibility benefits far outweigh any potential harm. By working with professional Wikipedia editing services to influence a live page, most of the downside can be mitigated.

I’ve worked confidentially with dozens of startups (including one that became a unicorn) to build their initial Wikipedia pages. The visibility and credibility it brings is invaluable, both in gaining clients and winning over potential investors for future rounds.

Ellery Takamoto, Wikipedia Editor, Wiki Verification

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