The Future Is Bright – How to Grow Your Business This Year
With economic indicators strong and confidence rising, 2014 looks set to be a great year to grow your business. A survey of the UK’s nearly 5m SMEs by Clydesdale Bank showed improved confidence would result in a 2.9% rise in staff levels this year, equivalent to 417,000 jobs across the UK. On top of this, bank lending and other forms of investment are rising, while inflation and unemployment are down, creating ideal conditions for business growth. So how should you go about taking your small business to the next level? Here are a few pro tips.
1. Quality, not quantity. It’s not easy for small businesses to compete with large chains and corporations when it comes to pricing but they can compete handsomely in terms of quality and service. From craft beers and gourmet cheese to high-end accessories and luxury spas, some of the fastest-growing UK SMEs are those offering top-quality products with personalized service and attention to detail. Find a niche and make your product or service the best it can be – consumers are willing to pay more if you’re worth it.
2. Diversify. Expanding your range of products and services is another tried-and-tested method for achieving growth. Diversification might involve adding new goods or services that complement your current brand image, seeking new markets overseas or trading under a different name altogether. If you’re already trading successfully, adding new products and services within a proven market is the safest method for achieving growth without risking too much.
3. Get online. With nearly 4 in 10 UK consumers buying products and services online, using web-based and mobile platforms to sell your goods and promote your services should be a no-brainer these days. However, less than one-third of the UK’s small businesses sell their products and services online, while over 1 in 7 have no online presence at all. With technology and security issues improving all the time, the digital market is certain to keep growing so you should be making the most of the opportunities available for your business.
4. Build customer loyalty. It’s easier – and cheaper – to keep your existing customers happy than to find new ones to replace them with. Adopt an integrated marketing strategy using social media, direct mail marketing and print advertising to build a word-of-mouth campaign and create a buzz around your business. Customer loyalty is established by creating a genuine connection between your business and your customer’s personal life so remember that the ‘why’ of your business is just as important as the ‘what’. Companies that listen and adapt to what their customers want will be best placed to retain them. A happy customer is the best form of advertising as they will promote your business to friends and family too.
5. Invest in your staff. Like happy customers, a well trained and highly motivated workforce will give your business back far more than it costs in initial outlay. The UK businesses currently growing fastest are those employing skilled workers to take advantage of the new knowledge economy. Problem-solving skills, independent thinking and collaborative working practices are all valuable assets to cultivate in your workforce so recruit the best you can afford, pay well enough to retain them and up-skill existing workers to make them as valuable as possible to your business.
6. Get extra financing. One of the best ways to grow your business is to scale up and maximize returns on your investment. As well as traditional bank loans, there are a number of alternative lenders offering attractive short and mid-term deals that can help grow your business by investing in new equipment, technology or staff. However, always do your sums carefully before taking out any form of loan. You’ve got to make sure you can generate more from the investment than the cost of repaying the loan with interest. Combining additional financing with a program to cut unnecessary costs will help keep your enterprise lean and your growth plans as focused as possible.
Growing your business requires not only thinking big but thinking smart. Before you seek to expand your operations, know your chosen market inside out and differentiate your product from that of your competitors. Businesses that can offer consistent quality of product and service while keeping costs down will have the best chance for successful business growth in 2014.