If you were to spend too long reading the news, you might be forgiven for feeling less than optimistic about business growth. But after 11 years running my own business, I’m very much of the belief that – to a large extent – we make our own luck.
Yes, what’s going on outside the doors of our business affects us – no-one could be in any doubt of that after the last two years. But there is much we can do to keep our businesses on a path of steady growth over time.
Today I want to share with you seven strategic ways I keep my business heading in the right direction, whatever the economic conditions. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. It’s more of a quick guide so you can easily pinpoint changes you can make that will have an impact.
These seven pointers fall loosely into the categories of attracting clients, sticking to a process and knowing your numbers. Feel free to skip forward to the section that appeals to you most.
1. Get your website working for you
Does your website help to channel enquiries into your business, or is it more of a “brochure website” that confirms your business exists but doesn’t do much to convince people to work with you?
Your website needs to explain what you do, tell the story behind your business and showcase your work. It needs to get across your expertise and professionalism.
Make sure you have a responsive design – meaning it renders correctly on mobiles, tablets and desktop computers. And it needs to load quickly. People won’t wait around for a slow website.
Give people enough to read so that they can get a sense that they can trust you. And make it easy for them to contact you through the website – don’t make them hunt around for your contact details.
2. Use social media to promote your business
If you’re not already using social media, pick one platform and start there. You don’t want to spread your resources out too thinly – it’s always better to do one thing well, rather than lots of things badly. Choose the platform where your ideal clients are most likely to spend time.
Share posts about the work you’re doing, share testimonials, show the “behind the scenes” of your work and your business, and share award nominations, wins and other successes. You might also want to talk about some of the pitfalls your potential clients might encounter, so you can demonstrate the benefits of working with you.
Making a success of social media isn’t only about posting. You need to make connections and comment on other people’s posts, especially ones where you can demonstrate your expertise.
3. In person networking still works!
I know it’s been difficult to network “in person” over the last two years, but this is still an important part of growing your business, especially when you provide a location-based service.
Get to know the people in your local area and your industry who can refer and recommend you. Stay in touch with people and meet them for coffee. Introduce the people you meet to each other. All of these things help to build a business with staying power.
Following a process
4. Stay in touch with your clients
It’s much easier to get work via people who already know, like and trust you, than it is to win new clients. And yet we often don’t have a system in place to keep in touch with our clients after the project is finished.
Whether you have a spreadsheet of clients and send them occasional emails or flyers at key points, or have a full customer relationship management system (CRM) or database that reminds you when to get in touch with people, you need to create a system that works for you.
Always ask good clients if they know anyone like them who might need your services. The best time to send this is during a project that’s going well, or just after a project has finished. Most people will be happy to recommend you to a friend or colleague.
5. The follow up
It often happens that people get in touch with an enquiry, or to get a quote, and then disappear into thin air. Therefore, you need a process for following up. If you don’t stay in touch with a potential customer, the likelihood is that they may end up going with a supplier who has followed up with them.
If following up isn’t your strong suit, make someone else in your team responsible for this or, if you’re a solo business, consider hiring someone for an hour or so a week to carry out follow ups and other admin tasks. We’ve recently automated our follow-up, so people automatically get emails via our CRM and email marketing system, Keap. But a manual system can work perfectly well too.
6. Asking for reviews
Create a system so that at the end of each project, you automatically ask your happy clients to provide a review or testimonial. One of the best places to encourage them to leave a review is on Google, as having plenty of five-star reviews will help bring people to your website and drive more enquiries.
At Super Structures Associates we now have 34 five-star reviews, and this helps us to attract new clients. I recommend asking for testimonials for the kinds of projects you’d like to do more of, as you’ll attract more of the work showcased in your reviews.
Knowing your numbers
7. Watch your expenses
It goes without saying that you need to know what’s happening on the financial side of your business, but one area where we often lose track is the expenses and outgoings.
When did you last look at every single direct debit going out of your business and check it’s something you still need? You may have payments going out for software you’re no longer using, and it’s quite easy to save hundreds of pounds a year (or more) by combing through your bank statements.
There are always so many ways you could be improving your business, but the only thing that works is to take action. You can’t change everything overnight, so why not pick one of the above suggestions and start there? Then make a note in your diary to change something else next month (or next week if you’re keen).
In the meantime, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch. Likewise, if you have any questions for me about the above, do let me know. I’m always happy to help a fellow business owner.