It’s never a bad time to create growth plan
Marc L. Goldberg SCORE certified mentor
Question: What steps do I need to take to put my small business on a growth path?
Answer: Growth during a time of pandemic seems illogical, but it is possible if you re-imagine your enterprise, understand the needs, wants and desires of your customers and reposition yourself to meet those customer requirements. Growth is one stage of the life cycle of a business, and just as it took a plan to launch (stage one), it takes a plan to take you to the next level of performance. For growth to take place, you first have to undertake a situation analysis.
Situation analysis: Where are you today? How did you get there? What are your best-sellers? Who are your customers, and do they frequent you regularly with re-orders, or are you having to continually find new buyers? Do your product/service offerings meet current needs, or do you need to evaluate what customer needs are in today’s environment to adjust your product/service offerings? What is the economic, geopolitical and legislative environmental factors that affect your business?
Opportunity definition: What are the problems that the business addresses? Have they changed? Or are they the same? Can or should they be addressed differently? What opportunities are there for the business to address current or new opportunities? When these situational questions are addressed, what are the objectives that will form the basis of growth? As described in previous columns, objectives need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
What might be lost in these chaotic times? Business decisions need to be fact-based. The growth objectives need to be based on the realities of the business, competition, the environment and current results.
Review the factors of growth: Take a long, hard look at the market. How has the market changed over the past 12 months that has affected the enterprise's ability to grow? Have changes in buying behavior benefited the business or deterred it from growing? If it has limited access or participation by historical buyers, are there new buyers accessible, or innovative ways to address new purchasing patterns? Has the customer relationship changed? Or the way in which buyers interact with the business? What can be done to connect with existing and new buyers to accelerate the revenue streams?
BOPU – buy online, pick up – a new and more active approach to buying: Can it be applied to the business model, or can the model be changed to accommodate pandemic restrictions? Has your brand value changed? Do customers see your brand differently than they did prepandemic? When the model moved to more of a carry-out vs eat-in model, was the brand enhanced because the pivot demonstrated creativity and innovation?
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The growth plan: All plans start with goals (long term) and objectives (specific, short term). What can a small business owner expect to accomplish in the next 12 month as the pandemic wears on? Objectives are supported by strategies and tactics. Strategies are “what” the business is going to do to achieve the objectives. If increasing revenue from new customers is the objective, then one strategy might be to increase buyer awareness of the business’s offerings.
To achieve increased market share, positioning the business’s brand in the mind of buyers is the task – positioning it so they consider the brand their No. 1 choice and see no suitable substitute. In order to accomplish this, it takes communicating the “big idea” that will create a hook in the mind of buyers.
Implementation: Tactics are what support the strategies. Tactics are “how” the strategies are going to be achieved. Tactics are what most marketers and business owners focus on when planning growth. Why? It is the easiest. Advertising, sales promotion, adding sales reps, Facebook posts – all tactics. If the strategy is to increase awareness, the tactics can be SEO optimization so buyers can find the seller online.
What is important is the content – what is being said that will resonate with sources of additional revenue. It needs to be creative, out-of-the-box, to capture buyer attention. That is the great challenge today – to capture and maintain buyers' attention so they take the desired call to action. Since businesses have both traditional and digital communication channels, it is important in creating a growth plan to ascertain where the targets of that growth receive their information so the messages that must resonate with them actually appear where they are. Being on top of technological changes is mandatory in reaching customers.
Review and improve: It is one thing to plan and execute, but another to assess whether the plans that were created with the best knowledge available actually worked. Did the messages posted on LinkedIn actually cause the reader/ user to take action? If so, what was the action, and did it add to the business's revenue stream?
Creating KPIs (key performance indicators) for all tactics is one way to assess whether they worked. If they didn’t, be prepared to adjust, modify and potentially improve the results. If you don't, the entire plan was a waste of time and resources. Many times plans are generated based on assumptions and guestimates of what will occur in the future. Nobody has a crystal ball, so measuring, analyzing, adjusting and trying it again is the only way a business can land on adequate strategies and tactics to grow the enterprise.
One more thought: Say thank you any way you can to every customer, whether they buy or not. Fein Things Cards & Gifts, at Patriot Square in Dennis, gives every customer at checkout a small bag of Life Savers with a tag that reads, “You have been a life saver. Thanks for shopping with us through the pandemic.” That's out-of-the-box thinking that shows gratitude, but has legs because customers will tell others about this unique tactic.
What will work for you to get buyers to return and buy again?
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Source: First 10 & Smart Insights, www.smartinsights.com. For FREE and confidential mentoring assistance in growing your business, reach out to SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands for a mentor or creation of an advisory team, www.capecod.score.org, 508-775-4884 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Download your copy of 'Tips from SCORE, Vol, II' at www.amazon.com/ dp/B08QPR7G35. It’s free and packed with hints, tips and techniques.