Are you ready to grow and scale your business?
A business that doesn’t examine itself won’t improve. Small businesses, especially those that have become somewhat successful in their industry, often reach a self-determined plateau where they feel comfortable with their level of growth and sales.
If you are satisfied with your current level of success, you won’t be able to see pitfalls and opportunity that appear in your path.
So, how can your small business drive higher sales and look out for snags before they cause stalled growth or failure?
Based on our experience with hundreds of small to mid-sized businesses, there are five things you can do to drive significant sales growth.
1. Write a Business Plan
Based on numerous studies, companies that write a business plan are 2 times more likely to be successful than those who don’t. – Smallbiztrends.com
Before you enter the next part of the year, carefully consider what key initiatives you hope to achieve.
Break down the initiatives both quarterly and yearly to stay on task.
- What are your top 5 business objectives?
- What strategies will you need to adopt to achieve these objectives?
- What changes will you make to your sales, marketing, operations and management structure to drive these strategies?
- Who is responsible for driving these changes?
- How will you measure success?
Don’t forget to include specific and clearly-defined tactics for achieving each goal. Determine the employee or team responsible for implementing those tactics to avoid confusion. As with many successful plans, your business strategies here will need realistic, but challenging, deadlines to push your team to greater heights and accomplish success.
Outline specific times in your plan for reevaluation – measuring the success of each initiative and objective you have determined a priority for your business. This means your plan will be under continual revision as you determine what is working, what needs adjustment and what should be dropped altogether.
Just like a professional athlete, you will be continually examining your tactics and skill sets to see where improvements can be made to rise above the competition.
In order for your team to be a part of active collaboration, create a document that can be an integral part of your ongoing operations and share it with the team. A tool like Google Drive can enable you to share your documents and the changes you or your team members make throughout the year.
The best business plans are dynamic and evolve over the course of a year as business conditions change.
2. Maintain a Marketing Management Calendar
Without a focused marketing plan, you and your employees will be like a ship floating out at sea.
Direction is vital to getting somewhere in your industry; allowing the waves of whim to take you wherever they please often means aimlessly getting by, but not really going anywhere.
Your company will grow the fastest when you (and your team) are crystal clear on your vision, your ideal client and your unique value proposition.
In order to narrow down a strong target market, build a consistent brand voice and measure your success, you will need to build a comprehensive marketing plan that is focused on your Ideal Customer Groups and your Unique Value Proposition.
Identify Your Ideal Customer Groups: Too many businesses want to be everything to everyone. While you might think that advertising your products to everyone will increase sales, it actually will lose them. The customer needs to be told why the product is designed specifically for them – not everyone in the world.
You may have one very specific target market, or you may have several. Determining who you strongest leads and most loyal customers are is the first step towards discovering your target market. The goal is to refine your marketing to attract more of these Ideal Customers.
Understand and Market Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP): After you have determined who your target market(s) are, you will next need to determine what information is important to them. Today’s customer is all about value and what they get out of the relationship.
How does your company uniquely serve your customers? What do you do that is different from your competition? One great way to uncover this information is to simply ask your current customers. “Why do you do business with us?” and “What do you like best about our products and/or services?”
Engage Your Audience: When you understand your Ideal Customer and Your Unique Value Proposition, you can craft marketing that will truly engage your target market.
With your Ideal Customer in mind, you can target social media networks, forums, attending physical events or prefers receiving physical publications. You will know what content form is best for your audience: long articles, short blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, videos, press releases, white papers, e-books or another form.
Plan Ahead: A sure-fire way to produce mediocre content is to try to churn out pieces under the pressure of a deadline. We highly recommend using our Marketing Management Calendar to help you organize your content marketing goals and stay ahead of your deadlines.
Include the deadlines, business goals, marketing metrics and company events in your calendar. Track upcoming events (grand openings, product launches, seminars, etc.) and holidays to help drive ideas for your content. Track goals, metrics and deadlines to push specific types of content, start dates and focused call to actions (CTAs).
Be Patient and Consistent: Companies tend to think of content marketing like a sprint when it is really a marathon. Don’t track your success too early or you won’t get accurate numbers.
Instead, post your content consistently for at least 6 months before evaluating your success and measuring your ROI. Consistency and value is the only way to build an audience that trusts your brand. Your most popular post is most likely to be from a previous month, so be patient and continue to chug away for a reasonable amount of time before expecting great results.
Remember to focus on the quality of content and leads, not just the quantity.
3. Improve the Middle: Manage Small Improvements with Average Employees
Your sales people can be classified as top, average or low performers. Most businesses easily have a top 20%, middle 60% and bottom 20% in their sales team. It is those 60% that make up the core group of your sales team and should be focused on to improve your overall sales:
In fact according to research from Maritz, since the 60 percent core group is so large, by increasing performance by 5 percent from the middle, an organization can yield more than 70 percent more revenue than they can through a 5 percent performance boost among top performers. A level performers are already exceeding your expectations. Recognize their performance to retain this top performing group. – Inc.
You can see how your workers could break down, based on their sales level, to imaginary grades. You will want to focus your management efforts on B/C (mid level) performers – or those that have the ability to become A-Level performers with coaching, clear goals and the proper incentive program to perform. These employees have the potential to become A-Level performers and achieving this creates a huge shift in your organization’s overall sales performance.
The time, energy and budget needed to focus on encouraging the B/C-Level performers should come directly from the D/F-Levels. Quickly identify and, when appropriate, dismiss D/F (low level) performers. This sales group does not have the ability or motivation to perform at high levels.
Many managers spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on underperforming employees and miss the opportunity to grow their average employees and improve sales.
4. Create Stretch Goals
Asking employees to change and improve their performances can be met with frustration, failure and sluggish change. In order to boost employee achievement, allow the teams to set their own performance expectations and stretch goals.
According to the Harvard Business review on setting excellent business goals:
Regardless of context, there are two keys to the effective use of short-term stretch goals.
The first is to make sure that the immediate goals are part of a larger, more ambitious effort so that whatever is achieved and learned is a building block, not an end-in-itself. In other words, extremely ambitious stretch goals need to be deconstructed into lots of short-term stretch goals, sometimes with multiple cycles.
Second, intentionally design the short-term stretch goals in ways that force innovation, collaboration, and learning — so it’s not just a matter of working harder for a short period of time. In this way, each short-term success builds capability and knowledge for the next and the next.
Challenge your team to create their own ideas for growth in order to generate incremental revenue. Allow your team to determine their own performance expectations, or the minimum requirements for a specified metric.
Goals should be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
5. Optimize Your Virtual Presence: Improving Traffic with a Website and Marketing Strategy
You’ve already focused on building a better marketing plan, focused on your Ideal Customer and your Unique Value Proposition. Here is where you focus on the platform for it. A great website will draw in the customer and clearly direct them towards an end goal. Poorly designed websites allow too many products and messages to scream at their customer, creating distraction and confusion.
Explore Your Options: Don’t just stick with one type of content, use a number of different methods to communicate your message – including videos, images, captivating copywriting and blogging. Different mediums will bring in different types of traffic and promote different kinds of sharing.
Focus on SEO: The new SEO doesn’t include keywords stuffing, but the tried and true method of consistently producing value. If you want to rank higher for a specific keyword, then you need to produce valuable articles on that subject. Consider what your customers are looking for and frequently asking your sales team and write on those topics. Just like with marketing, don’t try to focus on covering every possible keyword, but focus on select topic matters, products, areas and services that are specifically designed to attract your customer base.
Consider Format: Today’s audience is highly likely to visit your site from a mobile device and will not be likely to stick around if your website isn’t optimized accordingly. A responsive website adjusts to desktop, laptop, smartphones and tablets, seamlessly presenting your website in a cohesive format that fits the screen it is displayed on.
- 51% of internet users in 2015 were accessing the internet from their mobile devices
- 4 out of 5 consumers shop on mobile – Comscore
- 40% of people will use a different search result if the first one isn’t mobile friendly – Skillcush
Organized Information: Consider the ability you have to offer product reviews, testimonials, company updates, product tutorials and more with a well-organized blog. Create posts that clearly feature a valuable piece of information, include a CTA (call-to-action) and are clearly archived. Keep your blog simple and use captivating images to appeal to a highly-visual audience and make your posts more shareable.
Branch Out: As you develop your strategies, you will want to look into a blend of social media activity, blog posting, PPC (pay per click) ads, email newsletters and traditional marketing methods (TV, radio, mailers, etc.) to best reach your customers. Always set dates for reevaluating your progress and success in these areas, but remember to give them enough time to adequately measure their success with your brand and your target audience.
Focus on the methods that will drive in quality traffic that can be nurtured from leads to loyal customers.
Have a plan, but always be ready to adapt.
You can’t simply step back and watch your sales numbers grow – it takes dedication, planning and effort to improve what you’ve started. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in a rut. The best business managers are always adapting to the most current trends, technologies and industry climate.
Staying open to improvement means never holding tightly to a specific procedure, plan, method or way of thinking. Learn from what your competition does right and where they are weak. Examine what companies you want to emulate and recognize where your company differs in ability, size and skill.
Companies that keep their eyes open, test and adapt are the ones that thrive.