The top priority for any business owner is to grow your business — whether that’s with bigger sales, lower costs, new customers or better markets.

In order to help avert the risk of closure, your business needs to keep finding new sales opportunities. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, one in 12 businesses closes each year and 25 percent of business closings are caused by low sales or cash flow issues. But how can you grow your business effectively while still managing your everyday operations?

These strategies will help you focus your efforts on growing your business as efficiently as possible, while still maintaining your current obligations to customers.

Here are 10 top strategies to help grow your business:

1. Start With Your Existing Customers

Try to deepen relationships with your current customers, instead of just chasing new customers. It’s often easier to get people to buy from you who have already been buying from you — they know your business, they’re familiar with your products and they trust you to be reliable and keep your promises. People tend to enjoy having some consistency in their business relationships, instead of having to shop around for a new product or service every time. Sales is often thought of as an activity focused on finding new customers, when the truth is that repeat sales are just as valuable as new business — or sometimes even more valuable.

“Whenever most business owners talk about marketing, they tend to focus on new customer acquisition, but this is incomplete,” says Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation and founder of Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Ariz. “Marketing is also connecting with customers and asking them things like, ‘What are you missing to take your next step?’ Help your customers look to their next step and, if appropriate, offer to help.”

If you can find a way to sell more products and services to your existing customers, you can increase the lifetime value of your customers and create a stronger, long-term foundation for your business growth.

2. Get Referrals From Existing Customers

Your current customers are not just an ideal source of new revenue — they also can be a source of new business leads. If your customers are not already spreading the word about your business, you can encourage them to do so by openly asking for referrals. Your best customers also can be some of your best salespeople — if you extend the invitation in a natural, comfortable way.

“You can bake asking for referrals into your marketing operations,” Slim says. “As part of your project close process, include a step where you include language like, ‘I really loved working with you on this project. If you know anyone like you who might need some help, I would love a referral.’ But make sure you only ask for referrals from people you truly loved working with, as less than ideal customers tend to refer less than ideal new prospects.”

3. Work on Sales Every Day

Selling your business and closing new sales is part of your full-time job, not just serving existing customers or servicing current accounts.

“The key is to break your sales and marketing activities into tiny bites that are very easy to execute on a daily basis; I call them Tiny Marketing Actions, or TMAs,” says Slim. “One new connection a day, or email follow-up to a past client, will result, over time, in a full and active pipeline of prospects. Do not wait until the pipeline is dry to start your sales activities — it will be too late.”

One in 12 businesses closes each year and 25 percent of business closings are caused by low sales.

4. Boost Your Profit Margins

It’s basic math. Even if your business’s top line sales revenue numbers stay the same, you can improve your business profits by cutting costs or raising prices. Cutting costs can be complicated — you don’t want to cut back on essential elements of your customer experience or cut corners in a way that causes the quality of your product to suffer. Raising prices also can be difficult; some of your customers may be price-sensitive and you might lose some customers by raising your prices.

However, higher prices also can be a smart marketing strategy. Higher prices are a way of sending a signal to the market that your product or service is a higher quality premium option, not a low-cost commodity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what is within your control to change — lower costs or higher prices. Your customers might be more willing to pay a higher price than you had expected.

5. Refine Your Marketing Strategy

Take a high level look at who are truly the ideal customers for your business. Are you focusing your marketing efforts on finding the right customers? If you can spend less time chasing customers who aren’t the right fit — and spend more time finding the right prospects who will be eager to hear from you — your business might grow faster.

“Be clear about your business strategy and how you plan to differentiate yourself in the competitive landscape, and carve out your niche in a way that has value in the marketplace,” says Dr. Tareion Fluker, Owner of Raising Brand Marketing Managementin Atlanta. “For example, if you’re offering a new service or product, define whether you intend to compete based on price, customer relationships or improvements on what’s currently in the marketplace. And be clear about how you will differentiate yourself from your direct competitors.”

6. Clarify Your Brand

Having a brand is not just for big companies, and strong brands don’t just “happen” — building a brand is a strategic choice to figure out what your small business stands for, what promises you make (and keep) and why your business matters.

Take some time to reevaluate your overall business brand — not just your logo, but your strategic choices about how you describe your business, what image and personality your business presents to the world, what your core values are as a company, your sense of mission and purpose for why you do what you do — and why it matters to your customers.

Revisiting your brand is a worthwhile exercise, because it can help you customize your sales pitch and make your marketing messages more relevant to the real reasons your customers buy from you.

7. Know Your Customer’s Journey

Every business, no matter how small, has a sales funnel: the process by which you take prospective customers through each stage of deciding to buy from you, or what is more often called the customer’s journey. Along the way, certain prospects get filtered out or decide not to buy — each stage of your sales funnel has a certain average percentage of prospects who will convert to the next stage. Sales funnels look different, depending on the business or type of product or service. For example, the first outbound activity of your sales funnel might be: “Make sales calls to new prospects,” and the next stage could be, “Request a phone call or in-person meeting to discuss the product and do a product demo.”

Each stage of the sales funnel requires a careful approach and unique messaging in the way you talk with customers. “From a messaging perspective, nurture your sales and marketing funnel from the very beginning,” Fluker says. “Understand your customer’s journey. Distinguish the messages and calls to action that you use to build awareness for your business from those you use to convert leads into sales. Test your messaging. A/B tests [where you compare two versions of something] are very necessary to find out the best messaging for your audience at every phase of your funnel.”

8. Find Strategic Partnerships With Influential People

As a small business owner, you’re in business “for yourself,” but not “by yourself.” There are lots of ways to connect with other business owners, business organizations, industry associations and networking groups to get your name out there and connect with prospects who need (and want) what you sell. In fact, according to a study by corporate video company One Productions, 94% of marketers who use strategic partnerships with influencers to reach their customers find it an effective practice, and believe that it can generate up to 11X the ROI of traditional advertising.

“Your ideal customers are surrounded by an ecosystem of other companies and service providers who help them solve their business problems,” says Slim. “Ask them which companies or experts they love, and then work on building relationships with these people. This is a ‘one to many’ strategy, since key partners can have hundreds, or even thousands, of customers who may need your services.”

9. Make Smarter Use of Social Media

Small business owners can feel overwhelmed by social media, and recent algorithm changes on the various social platforms may make using social media seem more complicated than ever. But don’t give up.

You can get good results from social media by experimenting with targeted ads (social platforms typically offer excellent targeting tools to help you reach your ideal audience), testing different times of day or days of the week to reach your audience (you may be surprised at which times of day deliver the best results) and being more creative with your content (photos, audio and videos tend to get more engagement than just words).

10. Get Publicity for Your Business

You don’t have to promote your business all by yourself — you can use the media to help spread the word by generating media coverage for your business. Consider signing up for a free public relations service for reporters where professionals and experts (in all areas of expertise) can sign up to serve as expert media sources. Also look to build relationships with reporters and bloggers who cover your geographic area or your industry.

“Journalists have to feed a never-ending need for new stories and content; they are looking for new stories, experts and angles,” says Slim. “Introduce yourself to journalists who cover your business beat and offer to be a resource for their stories. If you are helpful and provide them useful information, even if they don’t feature you every time, they will remember you and feature you in the future.”

There’s no single “right way” to grow your business; different strategies will work better than others — depending on your company, your customers, your industry and your preferred ways of communicating. But if you choose a few strategies that work for you, and keep up a consistent process of reaching out to customers, building relationships and maintaining a reliable, trustworthy brand in your market, you can achieve a strong sales pipeline to grow your business for many years to come.

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