How to Grow Your Online Business from Peanuts to Big Bucks

Starting a business isn’t easy, but neither is growing one you’ve already started. Now that you’ve established a customer base, trained any staff or contractors you have and perfected your distribution network, it may be time to think about phase two of your project. Let’s look at some tips for expanding your business.

Be Consistent In Your Branding

When looking at why your company isn’t getting as much attention as you’d like from a larger customer base, examine your branding. When small businesses start up, things like logos, letterheads and Web designs are often implemented at different phases of your business’ evolution. This leaves you with similar but non-matching design points and colors after a year or so of operations. Make a list of all of the points at which customers interact with you, including social media accounts and other online presences, your business cards, invoice statements and shipping labels. Be sure you’re presenting a unified image to the world.

Show Personality

If you’re redesigning your logo and website, now may be a good time to think about how you’re showing your company’s values and the operators’ personalities in your communications with customers. Sharing some of your personality with the public will help your company stick in the minds of potential customers and will help you stand out to potential customers as well. Insurance company Geico and cloud-storage program Dropbox are large companies with interesting personalities for their businesses that engage customers, and make their communications memorable and actionable.

Be Reliable

One of the best ways to grow your business is to give your existing customers reliable, quality service in your interactions with them. Once they know you offer services or products they can trust, they’ll help you expand by continuing to use your business.

Ask Your Customers

Once you have loyal customers, don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions and referrals. Make a list of some of your most approachable clients and prioritize contacting them. When you do, ask how you can improve your current selection of products and services. What do they need that you can provide? It’s possible you can do a great deal of expansion in your business by building up your catalog of products or services and selling them to your existing customers

Next, ask these customers for referrals. That may seem like a pushy thing to do, but it’s an important part of networking for a small business. If they are content with your products and services, they’ll be happy to spread the word to anyone in their networks who may need you. However, they’ll be even more content to give you a referral if you have some kind of referral promotion — discounts on their next order, cool swag with your updated logo or coupons to a partner business in your community.

Take Your Networking Afield

Once you’ve contacted your current and past clients to see what else you can offer them and for referrals, start casting your net wider. Find out about any affiliated trade shows or conferences in your area where you may meet representatives from other businesses that need your products or services. See if you can make meaningful contact on social media with some of the companies you meet at events or attend online webinars to see if you can get in on forum discussions or other interactions where you’ll be in contact with people who may need your products or services. When you do meet potential customers in person or online, don’t forget our earlier points in your rush to the sell: It’s more important to be personable, consistent and reliable when you’re talking to someone face to face.

Keep Costs Down

A final message of caution for small-business owners who wish to expand: Keep costs at the forefront of your expansion plan. You need to prepare a budget and you should be careful not to sacrifice the normal costs of running your business in the interest of pursuing more customers.

About the Author: A former computer programmer now interested in startup incubation, Katrina Welles has helped guide multiple businesses from ideas to fruition.

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