In last week’s column, we spoke about the signs you’ll identify when it’s the right time to expand your business: when there is a noticeable skills gap, when your industry is growing and when you or your team have become complacent.
If growth and expansion are part of your long-term strategy as a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner, then knowing when to expand relies on a combination of informed outside opinion, gut instinct, and simply being in the right place at the right time.
How to expand, however, is another topic altogether, one we’ll explore in more detail with this list of tips:
Implement a customer loyalty programme
Loyalty programmes are a tried-and-tested way to boost your bottom line.
Acquiring new customers should be an ongoing business objective and are worthy of significant investment in terms of time and resources. However, the cost of customer acquisition is considerably more expensive than retaining and growing existing customers – in fact, it can cost up to five times more.
As a small business on the brink of expansion, retaining customers is of paramount importance. A loyal customer base is what’s going to keep your business afloat when times get tough – if anything Covid-19 has shown us, it’s that customer loyalty goes a long way.
Expand your product/service offering
One of the most encouraging things we saw small businesses do to survive the effects of the pandemic was expanding their product or service offering according to the changing needs and wants of their customers. Flower delivery services adapted by including the delivery of fresh fruit and veg. Fashion designers expanded their seasonal ranges to include face masks. Some fine dining establishments launched a takeaway offering to keep sales going.
With new products and services, you can expand your customer base and increase demand. Here, the power of thorough market research should not be underestimated. Use surveys, questionnaires and follow-up correspondence to ask your customers what they would like to see on your shelves and then make a plan to expand into those product or service lines.
Target new customer markets
Before launching a start-up, it is imperative to know which audience you are targeting, their demographics, their lifestyle choices and their spending habits. But at the expansion stage, you can grow your target audience by looking at how you can attract customers in other age groups, professional circles or geographic territories.
Once you know more about who you would like to target, you need to do research on how to reach that new audience so that you can streamline your marketing activities and reach the right people using the right mediums at the right time.
Invest in new customer touchpoints
One of the most effective ways to reach new customers and expand your customer base is to increase your brand’s visibility. For some SMEs, this may involve investing in digital marketing to reach the customers who shop or make buying decisions online. For others, it may mean launching an above-the-line advertising campaign or handing out flyers.
Still, others might want to pitch their product to popular supermarkets and focus on becoming a supplier rather than just a standalone product or service provider. As a small business owner, you will need to find out how you can reach more of the right people.
Hire new specialists
There comes a time in the lifespan of a small business where the people who have needed to wear multiple hats and become the ultimate multi-taskers need to hone in on their strengths and their specific areas of expertise. When it comes time to expand, you may find it necessary to fill a skills gap and get more hands-on deck to take your business to new heights and expand in ways that only specialists can provide guidance on.
Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited (www.businesspartners.co.za).
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE