7 Proven Ways to Grow Your Small Business

May 08, 2012

Ensure your small business is positioned to thrive in this new economy

Running a small business isn’t easy. It requires long hours, dedication, creative solutions, and some of the hardest work you will ever do in your life. But entrepreneurship can also be incredibly rewarding, especially when all that sweat equity begins to pay off. Following are some effective strategies you can use to ensure your small business is positioned to thrive in this new economy.

1. Add a Blog to Your Website – These days every business needs a strong online presence—one that represents your brand and engages potential customers. Adding a blog to your website can help you connect with site visitors and attract more traffic to your site. Google gives higher priority to sites that add content frequently so the more often you add posts to your blog, the more traffic you can expect to generate. Your blog can also serve as the foundation of your social media strategy. Each new blog post can be shared across your social networks, increasing engagement and bringing traffic back to your site.

2. Embrace Social Media – Social media is not just a passing fad, it has become a legitimate and powerful way to reach new customers. Start by sharing posts from your blog, and then add links to industry news and other helpful content. Consider launching a video series on YouTube and share those across your social networks. The more you begin to engage with social media on a consistent basis, the more results you can expect to see.

3. Treat Your Business Like an Asset – Having been through the process of selling a business, I can tell you that it’s a complicated process. Potential buyers need to see several years of financial transactions, documented policies and procedures, an inventory of equipment, a copy of your lease, a list of employee responsibilities, and more. Whether or not you ever plan to sell your business, there is a lot you can learn from treating your small business like an asset instead of a hobby. If you’re the sole reason customers do business with you, you don’t have an asset. But if you can train others to do what you do, put systems in place, and take it seriously, you can build an asset that is positioned for growth.

4. Get Proper Protection – Many small businesses begin with a business card and a phone, but it’s important to put the right protections in place. Start by speaking to an attorney or accountant to get the right corporate structure for your business, which can help you save money in taxes and also prevent your personal assets—like your home—from being vulnerable to business-related problems. Small business insurance is also essential. Large companies won’t hire small firms without liability insurance, and operating without it is like leaving the doors and windows to your house wide open 24x7 when nobody is home. Business insurance just makes sense.

5. Update Your Business Plan – If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you probably don’t have a current small business plan —and perhaps you never had one to begin with. A business plan is more than just a tool to get a loan; it’s the roadmap for your business. As your business evolves, your plan should change to reflect new directions and opportunities for growth. You can find templates and resources at http://score.org/.

6. Create a Marketing Action Plan – In addition to a business plan, every business needs a marketing plan. What you may not realize is that it doesn't have to be a formal, 20-page report. Your marketing plan can be as simple as one to three pages detailing tactics that you intend to use, when you will use them, and how much budget will be allocated. Incidentally, large companies allocate 5% to 10% of annual revenues toward marketing and so should you if you want to stay on a path to growth.

7. Build a Support Network – Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. When you own your own business, it’s not easy to find people who can relate to what you do or who can offer you advice and support. I’m a big advocate of mastermind groups, where 8 to 10 people get together once a month to discuss their business issues and challenges .This can be a rewarding way to build a support system, brainstorm ideas, create accountability for your goals, and get feedback. Invite the smartest people you know to join you and soon you will all reap the rewards. Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business and most recently, Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business. Stephanie is also CEO and founder of http://BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine, and she is a blogger for Forbes.