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Small business, BIG ambitions: 7 business growth strategies you should know

E-commerce · 5 min read

Small business, BIG ambitions: 7 business growth strategies you should know

LOOKING TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? READ ON FOR 7 SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH STRATEGY TIPS TO HELP YOU SPREAD YOUR WINGS.

So, you’ve taken the leap and turned your passion project into a fledgling business. Great! Every company starts small – even Apple was launched from a garage – but what helps them succeed is ambition and a carefully-planned business growth strategy.

Around 20% of new businesses go bust in the first year, whilst a staggering 50% don’t make it past the five-year mark1, so getting your business growth strategy correct is key. Here’s how to do just that.

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Key takeaways

The following strategies – which we will explore in more detail in this article – will help you grow your small business. Notepad at the ready! 

  1. Competitor Analysis
  2. Product Expansion
  3. Product Diversification
  4. Market Segmentation
  5. Alternative Channels
  6. Partnerships
  7. E-commerce Calendar

What is a business growth strategy?

It represents the actionable steps a business takes to progress from one stage to another. Each business’s growth strategy should be tailored depending on its specific goal(s) – whether that’s opening in a new market, improving its products, and/or increasing sales and revenue.

Stages of small business growth

On the journey to success and prosperity, most small businesses will go through five different stages of growth.

Seed and development

This is the very early stage of your business idea. You’re probably spending most of your time doing market research and exploring whether there’s enough demand for your product/service to make it a viable source of income.   

Start-up

The exciting part – your business is officially open and beginning to attract customers! You’re having to learn quickly to overcome challenges like cash flow or within day-to-day operations. Adaptability is the key to survival.

Growth

By now, you may be generating a steady income and a loyal customer base. Breaking even is the main focus; to do that may require strategic hires, investing in new technologies, or improving efficiencies.

You may also consider partnering with bigger brands during this phase, a strategy which will give you access to a larger pool of customers, as well as invaluable support and guidance from trusted advisors.

Expansion

At this point in your trajectory, your business is hopefully profitable. Hurrah! With this stability, it’s a good time to explore growth opportunities, such as developing new products or expanding into new markets. Tread carefully though – ensure goals are in line with your resources.

Maturity

With several successful years of the business behind you, you may be thinking about selling it. Or – if the entrepreneurial spirit in you is still thriving – introducing new expansion goals. Onwards and upwards!

7 business growth strategies for small businesses

1. Competitor Analysis

This business growth strategy involves looking at your main competitors’ offerings to see where you can fill a gap in the market. It might mean selling your products at a cheaper price point than them, or introducing new products and services that aren't already out there. You can also learn best practices to market and sell more effectively – crucial when you’re gearing up for growth. Our free competitor analysis template will help you get started.

2. Product Expansion

Before throwing lots of money at new product development, it’s worth reviewing your existing product portfolio to find where refreshes could be made instead.  

Look at your lowest-selling items and ask some key questions:

  • What market trends are happening that might be impacting sales?
  • Are you listening to customer feedback? What are they saying about your products on social media and review sites?
  • Are your products priced correctly? Look at your competitors’ price points – can you match or go lower?
  • Is your marketing strategy still on point? Perhaps your customers’ priorities have shifted, which in turn should impact how you position your brand.

Together these insights will help you determine what improvements can be made – or which products might need to be retired altogether.  

3. Product Diversification

This strategy involves entering a new market that your business doesn’t currently operate in, and creating a new product for that market.

For this, research is key!

  • Review your e-commerce website’s search data – what products are being searched for that you don’t offer?
  • Listen to customer feedback and suggestions – what are they asking for?
  • Watch market trends closely. What products within your sector are trending, and which are tipped to be The Next Big Thing?
  • Is your brand in line with current consumer trends? For example, sustainability is increasingly a priority for consumers – can you introduce an eco-friendly product line?

It’s all about finding the golden gap in the market!

4. Market Segmentation

As a small business, it can be hard to compete with the giants like Amazon and Etsy, but a market segmentation strategy can help you by filtering a broader audience group into smaller groups that you can target with personalized campaigns. 

You will have to invest some time to really understand which market segments are most likely to buy each of your products. Website analytics and purchase history will help here. You can then tailor your marketing per segment, for better conversion rates. It’s essentially a way of leveraging your customer data to expand your existing market penetration. 

5. Alternative Channels

These days, consumers’ online footprints are vast and varied. They might browse for products on social media, compare prices on marketplaces, and then finalize their purchase on a brand’s e-commerce website. All of these platforms present sales opportunities for your business. Some top tips:

  • Consider selling on an online marketplace. 60% of US consumers now start their product searches on Amazon2 (compared to 49% on a search engine), so it will pay to be there. Check out our guide to the leading online marketplaces to get started.
  • Research the different ways you can sell through social media. For example, Instagram has a dedicated e-commerce tool that allows followers browsing your page to purchase products without leaving the app. The ease of this is a big sales incentive for consumers and could bring in lots of extra revenue for your business.

6. Partnerships

A great way for a small business to expand its market penetration is to team up with another brand. Let’s say you run a candle business. You could, for example, partner with a local spa to offer their visitors a discount for your website with every treatment they buy.

The partner shouldn’t be a direct competitor (i.e., another candle brand); rather one that has an overlapping audience with yours. You’ll both benefit from exposure amongst the other’s existing customers, which can boost sales for everyone.

Think about what your customers would like and reach out to some exciting brands. You’ve got nothing to lose! 

7. Commerce Calendar

A key part of your business growth strategy should be a marketing calendar filled with important dates for you to cash in on throughout the year – like Black Friday and the Christmas holidays. Each of these events can introduce your business to a new customer base which you can then retarget in the future – key to growing your business.

Feeling inspired to take your business to the next level? Don’t forget to speak to DHL. As experts in international logistics, we can help your business find and sell to new markets seamlessly. Sign up for a DHL Express Business Account today – who knows where it will take you!

1 - Lending Tree, May 2022

2 - Insider Intelligence, August 2022

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson Discover content team

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