The most common approach I see to achieving this is to do more of everything for everyone. Unfortunately, with limited resources, this isn't possible, and it frustrates customers and the team.
Based on my experience advising new entrepreneurs as well as more mature businesses, I recommend the following strategies for building business momentum, while still optimizing the limited resources of every small business:
1. Find more customers that like what you do best.
Fight the urge to do more things, to attract more customers in a broader market. In reality, too many choices actually dilutes customer interest in your existing market, and makes your job of production, marketing, and support much more complex. Focus first on finding more of the right customers.
2. Focus on the mainstream customer majority.
New entrepreneurs, especially technical ones, are excited by early adopters, and tend to focus on their feedback, which will always suggest more product features and options. Ongoing momentum requires a move to mainstream, or even late, adopters, who demand simplicity in your base function.
I'm sure it wasn't early adopters who suggested that Amazon implement a simple "big red button" for a "one-click-buy," but many experts now attribute huge online growth to this simplification for less tech-savvy customers. Most e-commerce sites highlight this feature.
3. Select a single dimension to measure momentum.
Your focus for momentum could be sales, profitability, or number of customers, but trying to keep all possible parameters growing is simply not practical. It's important to define your growth strategy, document it, communicate it to your team, and align metrics and employee rewards to target goals.
4. Build a strong employee culture focused on growth.
One person can build a product, but it takes a dedicated team, with strong leadership, to build a business. Momentum requires a team culture of high motivation and engagement. These attributes require an effective employee feedback and reward system, as well as fostering collaboration.
For example, Mark McClain, co-founder and CEO of SailPoint Technologies, created an employee growth culture resulting in growth of 40 percent a year, with more than $100 million in revenue. The company has since gone public, and is still a market leader.
5. Plan a long-term strategy, and avoid crisis moves.
In most companies, maintaining momentum requires the right strategic partners and acquisitions, in lieu of short-term price adjustments and special sales. That means you need to focus early on where you need to be in five years, and focus on strategic planning on a regular basis.
6. Maximize key customer transaction efficiency.
Momentum normally requires an ever-increasing volume of transactions, so you must make sure that key ones can be handled smoothly and quickly. Customers have no tolerance these days for multiple interactions, necessary support requests, poor customer service, or bureaucratic processes.
7. Utilize outside expertise and mentoring.
No matter how much energy, experience, and passion you have, there is always more you can learn from an advisory board of external experts or a mentor. Maintaining business momentum requires constant analysis and vigilance for market and technology changes, as well an internal focus on optimization.
8. Track competition to stay ahead of copycats.
Don't wait for negative momentum to alert you to new competition. Recovery is much more difficult than proactively making focused changes to retain customer loyalty and repeat business. Incremental changes are always easier to make and market to existing customers than disruptive products.
I'm sure that you have all seen how quickly business momentum can shift, as from MySpace to Facebook, or more recently in the explosive growth of Amazon and e-commerce compared with retail. Today's customers quickly sense the growing momentum of specific businesses, or lack of it, via social media, online reviews, and texting with friends, and change their habits accordingly.
So you should never be complacent in your business about the growth you have achieved, or your loyal customer base. I urge you to practice the strategies outlined here both to build that initial business momentum, as well as to sustain it.
Your long-term success and satisfaction depends on it.