While 2020 has been a difficult year for most business owners, if you own an online-based business, you may have had your best year yet. With the multiple stay-at-home orders, nationwide shutdowns, and general uneasiness of gathering in public, more people than ever have taken to online shopping as their main method of shopping.
If you, like many online-based businesses, have had excellent profits during the latter half of 2020, you may be ready to take your business to the next level.
Expanding a business, no matter the size should be a task that is handled with the utmost caution. Growing too big, and too fast, is one of the easiest ways to sink a business that has potential.
Here are some tips and tricks that can help you safely scale your online-based business.
Conduct Extensive Research
Before you decide that your business is ready to grow, you need to make sure that there is a need for this growth. The only way to know that there is a need for your business to grow is by conducting thorough research about your business and the industry that it serves.
Market research is useful in many ways. It can help you visualize why your business is excelling, where your business may be lacking, and where the industry is headed in the future.
When you start to conduct your background research, we suggest that you investigate the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities (SWOT), for both your business and the industry in which your business operates.
A SWOT analysis should help you to identify the reasons for your company’s success, and outline any things that the competition may be doing better. The SWOT analysis will also provide valuable insight into the state of the industry that your business serves.
When conducting your research, be sure to address important questions, such as:
- Is there a market need that needs to be filled?
- Are there major things that your competitors are doing better than you?
- What are the differentiators that put your business above the competition?
- Are there any major threats to the industry in which your business operates?
Conducting thorough research will help you see where you should focus your efforts as you attempt to scale your business.
Gain Access to Capital
Now that you have identified that there is a market need for your business to grow, you need to figure out how you are going to fund your expansion plans. Even though your business has been turning a nice profit, you still will likely need some outside financial assistance to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
There are multiple ways that you can fund your business expansion. The right funding option will be dependent on the size of your business, the size of your planned expansion, and the industry you operate in. Here are some of the top ways to build up your business capital:
- Take out a small business loan: Business loans provide the money that is needed to purchase new equipment, hire new employees, buy new real estate, and cover new operating expenses. Applying for any type of financing solution is a serious investment. With a variety of business capital products out there, you will want to research the different types of business loans before settling on one.
- Ask your friends and family: Sometimes, taking a loan out from a legal entity is either not needed or not possible. Borrowing money from your family or friends to help fund your business expansion can be a good idea if done correctly. If you do decide to take a loan from a personal friend, make sure that you both have agreed upon all of the terms and conditions associated with the loan.
- Approach Venture Capitalists for cash: A Venture Capitalist (VC) is a private investor that provides up-front cash to growing businesses in exchange for a stake of equity within the company. Before you pitch to prospective investors, make sure that you have a deal in mind and stick to it. Remember, you will be given a stake of ownership to an investor.
As you look to scale your business, make sure that you have the financial infrastructure to do so.
Improve Your Website
Your company’s website should always be improving. There are always new advancements being made within the web-design industry. If you do not keep up with the latest trends, your business can quickly become obsolete.
Remember, by being an online-based business, your website is likely the only way your customers interact with your brand. Just like with a physical storefront, your digital shopping experience needs to be optimized if you want to keep your customers satisfied.
Improving things such as your website’s page speed and mobile usability will be extremely important. Consumers have become overly accustomed to instant gratification. Now, if your website takes too long to load, it could lead to them abandoning your site. In the same vein, mobile usability of websites has become increasingly important to consumers. With 94% of consumers using smartphones to search for information online, your website needs to be formatted to fit onto a mobile device.
Changing your website on the fly will not be a task that you should handle alone. Consult with your web-development team to see where you can improve your website. Pushing forward with a change that you are not sure about can do more harm than good with your website.
If you are interested in improving your website but do not have someone with web-design experience on staff, you may need to outsource this web-development project.
If your site is hosted on WordPress, we can help. We specialize in coding, and web-design and maintenance. Contact us today to receive a specialized estimate for your next web-development project.
Create a New Marketing Plan
As your business grows, so too should your marketing efforts. You will need to market your product or service to more people to help promote more sales.
Scaling a marketing plan can be just as difficult as scaling a business. If you put your resources in the wrong places, it can just be a waste of time and money.
Drafting a new marketing plan will be an exciting time. Your business is growing, and you will want to show consumers what makes your business better than the rest.
As you begin to draft a new marketing plan to show off your improved business, think about the “five Ws” of marketing.
- Who is the intended target audience? Your marketing plan must address a targeted group of people that you are wishing to reach. Your target audience will dictate the rest of your marketing efforts.
- What is the target audience looking for? Just because you know who your target audience is, does not mean that you know what they want. Do some research to see what resonates with your target group.
- Where is my target audience? The internet is a vast space where endless sub-communities exist that are ripe for specific marketing campaigns. Knowing where to focus your marketing efforts is an essential part of drafting an effective marketing plan.
- When should it be said? Marketing content needs to be timely if you want it to be effective.
- Why are you saying it? After focusing on what the content will be, you need to address why you are trying to say anything at all. Focusing on the why will allow you to more easily convey the value that your good or service provides to your audience.
Taking the time to draft a new marketing plan will help ensure that your business reaches a larger and more widespread audience.
If your business is ready to scale, congratulations! Only a small portion of businesses make it past the startup growth stage. You should take a second to relish in your successes, but also know that, the grind never stops. Just because your business has been successful to this point does not mean it will be successful moving forward.
It is too easy to think that your business is always going to be successful if you haven’t faced hardship yet. Remember that growing your business will come with a number of risks and issues. If you do not remain diligent with your business, deciding to scale could lead to its demise.
While hard work cannot deter every business problem, it can help minimize risk and give you the tools needed to navigate the complexities of growing your business.
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