Small business owners, rarely satisfied with just getting by, typically begin thinking about growth almost as soon as their business is up and running. Unfortunately, many quickly realize "growth" is a lot more complicated than expected. Though daunting, it's crucial for small business owners to think about what growth means to them and what it would look like for their business.
My company Manta helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and one of the most natural paths to growth that we see is to expand into a different market. This gives you a chance to gain new customers and revenue streams, while also offering the opportunity to hire talented new employees and fill a void in your community with new products and services.
However, you shouldn't jump into a new market without preparing in advance. Last month, I explained three factors small business owners should consider before expanding into a new market, which included looking into your internal resources, conducting thorough external research, and identifying your local community's needs.
While it's essential to take a hard look at these elements, all three are preliminary steps that occur before actually taking the leap. Now that you've done the leg-work, it's time to execute on your plans to expand.
That being said, here are three tips for business owners looking to make their expansion dreams a reality.
1. Devise an expansion plan.
You know that old saying, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail"? Well, that couldn't be more accurate in this situation. When gearing up to expand into a new market, it's crucial to prepare a detailed growth plan, so you can anticipate and solve problems before they even materialize.
When creating your formal plan, include an executive summary that outlines the business' history, including any major milestones and accomplishments. This section should provide an overview of your company's overarching goals and background information on the additional resources you'll need for the expansion, such as a larger office or new equipment.
In the plan, describe your target market by demographics, such as age, gender and socioeconomic status. Outline how the expansion will impact your current marketing plan, such as increasing social media use to drum up awareness and leveraging paid search advertising to target certain audiences or locations. Don't forget to include specific details like costs related to expansion and break down the day-to-day tasks that might change as the business grows.
2. Be selective when making new hires.
Bringing on additional talent is inevitable with growth. It's simple, really: The more business you bring in, the more employees you likely need to keep up with the work. But the key difference between successful small businesses and those that flame out is that effective entrepreneurs don't hire just anyone -- they hire smart and are very selective in who joins their team.
Let's say that after your internal review, you determine that your company needs a department or employee with certain areas of expertise to help meet a need that's new for your company. To succeed, prioritize finding someone with that specific skillset during the hiring process.
It's one thing to have a great expansion plan in place, but actually executing on your vision requires that you put the right people in the driver's seat. While you might not have the perfect driver now, hiring smart and making strategic decisions around HR is the quickest way on the road to success.
3. Ask your current customers for advice.
When diving into a new market, current customers will serve as some of your best resources. They know your current products or services, your strengths, and hopefully already have a strong positive relationship with you. So don't be afraid to ask them questions or solicit feedback on your expansion plan. Chances are, they'll be able to give you some constructive advice that can benefit your growth.
One effective option for engaging current customers is to offer them the opportunity to test your new product or service before you make the expansion official. As loyal customers, they are your best source of feedback and will provide insight into what potential customers in your new market will like -- and won't like -- about your products or services. Plus, providing your existing customers early access to new offerings will strengthen those relationships, giving you a solid starting point for what could be an uncertain launch into a new market.
Armed with these three strategies, and the extensive research you conducted before beginning your expansion planning, your small business will be better prepared to take the next step in your business growth -- and make the leap into a new market.