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If you’re a small business owner looking to scale up, or a mid-size business looking to enter the big leagues, it all starts with a plan to grow your business

Successful businesses take the necessary steps to ensure that their growth is sustainable, profitable, and trackable. If you don’t know what makes your business a hit with customers, you can’t expect to grow. 

We’ll take you through 10 tried-and-true strategies to supercharge your business growth. 

The 10 Best Ways to Grow Your Business

1. Understand your business and your customers
2. Look into paid advertising
3. Grow your business with social
4. Nurture current customers while searching for opportunities
5. Network
6. Automate
7. Know your competition
8. Don’t neglect passive income
9. Offer free stuff
10. Give back

A woman talks on the phone with customers to grow your business

1. Understand your business and your customers

Know thyself is powerful advice–know thy customers is even better. But before you can start to understand how and why your customers come to your business, you need to understand what your business offers. Once you’ve done that, you can start mapping out your strategy. 

If you’ve been running your business for a while, you probably think you have a good understanding of your business, its strengths and weaknesses, and what it has to offer. You are likely right, but there is always a danger of what’s called “top-down” flow. 

If you’re the sole proprietor, you probably have direct interactions with all your customers so you’ve got a pretty good idea, but when you start to have employees or grow distant from customers, what you think your business offers and what it actually offers can be different. 

Regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in, running a customer survey that captures information about your business in a meaningful way can be one of the most important business decisions you make.

If surveys aren’t your bag, try sitting down with customers for a lunch meeting or video call to gauge their opinions about your business. That can be an extremely effective way to see what their perception of your business is. 

Build the customer journey

Once you have an idea of what your customers expect from your business coupled with a clear vision of what your business is, you can imagine the customer journey

Set your objectives

There are many areas your business can grow: customer retention, profit, customer acquisition, lower churn, etc. It’s important to clarify what your objective for this particular customer journey is–because you can have different journeys for different objectives. Decide on what, and that is a great place to start.

Create personas

Creating personas is actually a step you can do before setting your objectives, but creating pictures of your existing customers and turning them into idealized personas is essential to creating a robust customer journey. 

Narrow them down

Once you have created personas, you want to narrow them down to 1-2 good ones. That will make sure that you stay tightly focused on your customers and your objectives. 

Customer touchpoints like in person meetings are an important way to grow your business

Touchpoints

Make sure you have an itemized list of customer touchpoints and their order of priority within the customer journey. 

Examples of potential touchpoints include: 

Actions

As customers interact with your business objectives, there will be actions that they take to accomplish the objective. These might be Google searches, or browsing product pages. The point is to make sure that every facet of your journey has optimized these actions to make them as efficient and profitable as possible. 

Obstacles

When your customers are making their desired actions to interact with your brand, you want to make a running list of potential obstacles that get in the way of their desires and the actions they’re trying to take. You might have put these obstacles in place on purpose, so ask yourself–are they supporting your goals. 

Once you’ve done all of this, place the customer journey into a living document of some kind, whether it’s a document or a presentation. That way you can update it as your business goals change. 

Read more: Growing Business 101: Structure, Manage, Succeed

2. Look into paid advertising

Paid advertising is a fantastic way to spread awareness of your business, and it doesn’t always have to break the bank. There are several forms of paid advertising that are excellent for growing businesses, but PPC (pay-per-click) is one of the most common. 

PPC advertising is exactly what it sounds like: you pay for each click you get from a potential customer. PPC can be very effective, but it can also be used poorly if you’re not using the right keywords, because you’ll be paying for a bunch of customers who aren’t interested in your product. Make sure to read up on this one before trying it out. 

One of the most common methods for PPC is bidding on keywords for Google Ads. This is an automated auction system that Google provides for advertisements. When you want to get an ad up and running, you participate in an auction to determine whether your ad will appear on a particular keyword’s page. 

Google ads offers keyword insights and more to help grow your business

This method of paid advertising is very effective when done properly, and it can attract tons of customers. If it sounds a bit too overwhelming, we offer a Managed Advertising service that helps customers on our platform build powerful advertising campaigns. Our ecommerce experts will run your digital advertising campaigns for you, so you can focus on other areas of growth. 

3. Grow your business with social

Social media is your best friend when it comes to growing your business. Social media offers two excellent methods for growing, one organic and one paid. 

Organic opportunities on social media

Because creating and maintaining social media costs nothing outside of time and labor, you can create numerous opportunities for capturing leads and engaging customers without having to spend a dime. Unfortunately, because the platforms are often crowded with businesses it can be difficult to stand out. Regardless, if you don’t have a social media presence, start with some methods for organic growth

Paid opportunities on social media

Selz ecommerce and managed advertising is a Facebook agency partner

The good news is that social media offers many different cost tiers for advertising. Depending on the platform you’re listing on and the audience you’re trying to reach, you might end up being able to advertise for pennies, so this can be an affordable option for bringing in new leads. 

Read more: Creating Facebook Ads for Your Online Store: The Ultimate Guide

4. Nurture current customers while searching for opportunities

Creating customer journeys and more fully understanding new customers is only one part of the journey. You want to build brand loyalty and awareness by continuously engaging with customers so they’ll purchase again and again by becoming superfans. If you think of every interaction with a customer as an individual act of customer service, then you’ve got the right idea. Each positive or negative interaction with a customer is directly tied to growth in a way that few things are. 

Attend to them

Making sure that you’re staying focused on customer needs and desires when they interact with your brand is essential. Employ or create an automated customer service infrastructure so they’ll feel cared for and listened to. 

Reward them

If customers keep making purchases or engaging with you, give them rewards. Coupon codes, exclusive first looks, and other incentives will help customers feel special and valued. 

Nurturing customers is important and helps you grow your business whether you are selling online or in a brick and mortar store

Engage and take feedback

If a customer has a problem or issue with your business and wants to give feedback, listen, and try to make it right. It’s as simple as that. One unhappy customer can have a cascading effect of bad PR. 

Be positive and personal

Whenever you interact with a customer, you want to focus on positivity as much as you can. That means validating and listening to complaints when a customer has them, and then taking a solutions oriented approach. 

Many frustrated or confused customers just want to know that they’re not alone in their frustrations and experiences with other products as well as yours, so that can be a great place to start. Learning to actively listen is a powerful tool. 

Know your product inside and out

No matter what you’re selling, if you don’t know the ins and outs of your product, you won’t be able to provide the customer service or your employees with the tools that they need. There are some aspects of running a business that you don’t need to be an expert in, but knowing your product is not one of them. 

Read more: How-Tos for a Happy Customer: Great Customer Service 101

5. Network

A man and a woman networking in a sunlit office to decide on Selz Do It For Me

So much of business success revolves around referrals and word-of-mouth. Finding networking opportunities to participate in is a must. Here is a list of a number of different places to network creatively:

  • Trade shows and conventions
  • Specialized internet forums and sites (subreddits, product specific forums)
  • Slack channels
  • Events and tabling
  • Social media 
  • Referral programs for your employees

6. Automate

Selz apps include time-saving integrations and automation tools

Especially when you’re a small or medium-sized business, every second wasted is potential income wasted. You’re wearing a lot of different hats and managing a wide swath of different tasks, so automating where you can is essential. Everything from accounting to customer service can be automated, and it behoves any business owner to do so to grow. 

Read more: Automation Tools and Tips to Help Scale Your Business

7. Know your competition

Knowing your business inside and out is just one part of the growth puzzle. You also need to think about who your competitors are and what they offer to potential customers, and how you can compete with them. 

Start by making a list of 5-10 of your primary competitors, list out their product offerings, pricing structures, and what segment of the market it looks like they’re targeting. Once you’ve done this rudimentary market analysis, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you’re up against. 

Once you’ve made the list, compare your products. What makes yours different from theirs? Pricing? Feature set? If your product is similar to a competitor’s, really digging deep and emphasizing how yours is even slightly different can be a key way of differentiating. 

A pair of sunglasses on the beach shows the importance of marketing to create an image for your products

Take sunglasses for instance. There aren’t that many different ways to wear a pear of sun-protecting glasses on your head, but sunglasses manufacturers find a way to focus in and compete in the areas of lens construction, polarization, and a number of other factors. 

Finally, once you’ve charted out the differences, where are your competitors weak? Where can your product come in and offer an alternative to theirs? That might be an excellent direction to grow your business into. 

8. Don’t neglect passive income

What is passive income? Well, it’s income that doesn’t require too much material participation in order to earn. Note that this doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work. 

For instance, an eBook or a how-to manual might require quite a bit of upfront work and investment to create, but once it’s done, it’s evergreen, and you can start selling it, where it then becomes an income stream on the side of your main business. Here are a few examples of things you might try to create passive income:

Remember that these methods of income building are not a primary focus, but they can be a way to give small boosts to your regular business as you grow. 

9. Offer free stuff

Discount code illustration from Selz ecommerce for business growth

Free things get potential customers excited. If you’re selling a subscription, do a free trial. If you have a collection of products that you’re trying to movie, mail out free samples. While this won’t necessarily make a bunch of sales, you can create goodwill without making your customers spend a dime.

10. Give back

A woman holding a cutout heart showshow you can grow your business by giving back to your community

Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, and what they do has cascading effects in their communities and their industries. For that reason, giving back in some form is a good strategy for growth. It demonstrates to your customers and community that your success is tied to them, and creates a greater sense of buy-in and ownership. Here are a few ways that your business can give back.

Volunteer

If you’re a small business owner that doesn’t have a lot of money to give, donating time can be a great way to demonstrate your commitment to giving back. There are many organizations that always need help from volunteers. Not to be too cynical, but showing that you and your employees are committed to your community can give you a serious PR bump. 

Shop from other local businesses

If you’re creating goods and services that require materials, can you buy them locally? Doing so creates community goodwill while also (in many cases) increasing the quality of your products. 

Sponsorship

Sponsoring a local softball team or charity event can be a great way to get marketing materials out there while also helping a good cause. 

Monetary donations

Monetary donations are also a way of demonstrating a commitment to community. 

Read more: Social Entrepreneurship: 5 Ways Your Online Store Can Give Back

About the author

Thomas Wells

Thomas Wells is a Content Marketing Lead at Selz, an ecommerce platform for businesses of all sizes. You can learn more about ecommerce, as well as how to get started with your own ecommerce business at selz.com.