Without fail, it happens to every small business at some point: you become stagnant. You’ve done everything right so far – you wrote a great business plan, you built your business from the ground up, you established a social media presence, and you’ve grown a following of loyal customers. Yet, despite your relative success and stable business, your bottom line hasn’t significantly moved up in months (or quite possibly, years). You’ve hit the dreaded small business plateau and you are unsure or unaware how to nudge your numbers up.
The immediate answer of what to do is twofold – you need to ramp up your efforts with the same enthusiasm you had when you first started; as well as, break new ground by trying newer (and bolder) marketing and media strategies to appeal to a wider and more diverse audience. Here are five strategies you can employ to “step up your game” and take your small business to the next level.
Diversify your “menu.”
While your current customers are likely to love your existing products or services, it’s always smart to add to your current offerings (even if it is something small, it can help you grow significantly). This is especially true in service-based businesses where customers are more likely to purchase additional services – especially as a follow-up when they’ve been happy with your small business thus far.
A great example of this strategy would be a company that writes business plans. Sure, you’ve provided your customers with an excellent business plan, but what will they need next? A standard operating procedure manual? Marketing materials? Social media management? A good way to know what to add is to ask your customers what their next plans are and determine if you can fit into those plans and if you can afford to address those new opportunities (and not just financially, but with time and personal resources). For a product-based business, it is perfectly acceptable to poll your customers and ask what other offerings they would like to see in your current catalogue.
Expand your reach.
Surely you’ve thought about your target audience. You likely have an ideal customer demographic profile all written out and complete with numbers, figures, and statistics. Now think about who they might influence. Do you have a small business that sells women’s clothing? Your primary audience is likely women of a certain age, but what about their husbands who buy gifts? Is the clothing sold appealing to average size clients? Consider selling to plus-size patrons. Any time you can appeal to a secondary audience is a chance for additional revenue for your small business.
Start looking elsewhere.
Maybe you’ve had a lot of success through your Instagram ad campaigns or maybe you have won over customers through your YouTube channel. While you should applaud your success, you should also start thinking about where else potential customers might be waiting for your message. Some great options for expanding your pool of potential customers include industry conventions and networking events, speaking engagements, seminars, training, pop-up shops, and even through other media channels (i.e. podcast, radio, and Snapchat or other live/video streaming type of services).
Employ multiple “touches”.
A recent marketing study found that prospects receive an average of 10 touches (or engagements) from the time they enter the top of the sales funnel until they’re a closed-won customer. The process of engagements is referred to as lead nurturing and is vital to the marketing and sales process. One way to achieve this is through digital marketing. Some ways that you can use multi-channel digital marketing is through the combination of indirect and direct communication approaches and channels: email newsletters and campaigns, social media engagements, quality content on your website, text blasts, follow up phone calls, and even PPC ads in some cases.
Cross-promotion is one of the most underrated (and cost-effective) methods of obtaining new customers. By partnering with a business whose target demographic or buyer persona is similar to yours, you can immediately double (or even triple) your potential customer base. An example of cross-promoting with a similar business would be a small business that offers healthy meal preparation that partners with a gym or boutique fitness studio. Both companies target health-conscious individuals with expendable income, but they are not competitors. Share social media posts, set up a booth at the other’s location for special events, or offer a raffle drawing at their location. There is no limit to how creative you can be when building and cross-promoting with another small business.
Most importantly, you need to choreograph all of your small business building efforts. All of your existing marketing campaigns and sales processes must be in line with your overall brand message and selling points. Your brand voice needs to be consistent and clear and it is crucial that your message remains the same across the board and in all of your channels.
It is also crucial that you regularly evaluate your efforts. You should keep a note of how customers have heard about you. This provides quantifiable feedback about where your customers are coming from and which efforts, best practices, and/or techniques are working the best. It is likely that your customers would have heard about you from more than one channel which is why diversifying your efforts is crucial in gaining the traction that your business needs to skyrocket off the plateau.