Start Small, Aim Big: 3 Ways to Grow a Small Business

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The $100 Startup" by Chris Guillebeau. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to grow your small business but not sure where to start? What are some viable growth options for a small business with a limited budget?

Growing your business usually isn’t as hard as starting it. Below we will share two ways you can grow your small business in an effective and manageable way.

Here are three ways you can grow your small business.

How to Grow Your Small Business

For the first one or two years, most small businesses are focused on surviving and making a profit. But once your business starts getting traction, the next logical step is to start thinking about how to grow it. The first thing you need to do is to determine your model of growth.

There are two ways that your business—whether it’s big or small—can grow:

  1. Horizontally: Widening your audience by providing different products and services for different kinds of customers.
  2. Vertically: Deepening your relationship with your current audience by providing more in-depth products or services.

1) Make Adjustments to Increase Income

One way to grow your small business is to make adjustments to the way you generate income. Here are some strategies that can help you amp up your income:

Strategy One: Generate traffic. The success of your company relies on regular traffic to either your storefront or your website. The more eyes you can get on your product or service, the more likely you are to make a sale.

(Shortform note: For more information on generating traffic to your website, check out this article from Forbes.)

Strategy Two: Generate conversions. Once you have a decent amount of traffic, focus on increasing your conversion rate, or the rate at which people make a purchase. For example, if you have 100 customers visit your website, and four make a purchase, your conversion rate is 4%. 

One way to create more conversions is to do A/B testing. A/B testing places two live offers, headlines, or webpages against one another and determines which is leading to more conversions. This allows you to constantly adapt your promotions and marketing based upon which efforts are working the best. There are many services you can use to help with this process, including Google Optimizer. 

Beyond A/B testing, you should look to the sources of your traffic, including Google searches, social media, and referrals, and determine which are creating the most conversions. This will give you a better sense of where you should focus your marketing attention.

Strategy Three: Raise the average price per sale. There are three ways you can increase the average price per sale of your product or service:

  1. Upsell: Offer an upgraded version or an additional item with the purchase. For example, if you edited written works, you could offer an upgrade that includes proofreading for “just $50 extra.”
  2. Cross-sell: Offer a product related to the customer’s purchase. For example, if your customer just bought a tent, you could show that other customers who bought the tent also bought a camping lantern.
  3. Make a sale after the sale: Offer a special product or discount immediately after a sale. For example, if your customer just signed up for a private consultation, you could make a special “clients-only” offer for your book.

Strategy Four: Give your existing customers more to buy. While bringing in new clients is important, your existing customers have already shown that they’re willing to spend money on your product or service. Capitalize on this by creating advanced or supplementary products or services that your current clientele can purchase. 

Strategy Five: Create a product from your service (and vice versa). If you currently offer a service, develop a product that relates to that service. For example, if you run a restaurant, you could sell a cookbook that includes some of your most iconic dishes. 

Alternatively, if you currently offer a product, develop a service based on that product. For example, if you wrote a self-improvement book, you could offer life coaching sessions based around the lessons discussed in the book.

Strategy Six: Build a “Hall of Fame.” Highlight your best or most successful customers and share their testimonials about your business. For example, if you’re a physical trainer, and one of your clients lost 100 lbs while training with you, ask them to provide a testimonial with before and after information.

If possible, provide a variety of stories from people with different backgrounds. This helps build your credibility by proving that your product or service works for a wide variety of people. For example, if you’re a physical trainer, sharing testimonials from both a world-class athlete and a person who hasn’t worked out a day in their life shows that your service can work for a wider audience.

Strategy Seven: Ask for referrals. Ask your customers to write a review, share your page on social media, and tell their friends about your product. If you can, offer a referral incentive such as a discount or special item for both the customer and the people they bring to your business.

2) Franchise Yourself

Franchising yourself is the process of splitting your time between multiple business ventures to gain one or more new streams of income. Your new ventures may be related to your original business idea. For instance, Brooke, the owner of a holistic health practice, franchised herself by founding a secondary business training other health practitioners.

Running multiple businesses or projects can be a lot of work for just one person. For this reason, you may choose to get outside help with either your original business or your new ventures. This allows you to build relationships with other business owners, explore new ideas, and target new audiences without having to take on all of the risk and effort yourself.

3) Partnerships

Partnerships (e.g. in the form of joint ventures or multi-team collaborations) are a great way to grow a small business in terms of both size and revenue. For example, if you run a small makeup company, you could partner with a beauty blogger to create a new line of lipsticks. 

Sometimes, partnerships create a completely new business that is collectively owned by the partners. For example, if you were a fitness instructor, you could partner with another fitness instructor to create a new private training gym. 

Regardless of the project or business, there are a few things you and your partner(s) must agree upon:

  • How are costs being divided?
  • How is income being divided?
  • What are the roles of each partner?
  • What information or products are being provided by each partner?
  • Will the project be jointly marketed? 
  • How long does the partnership exist?
  • How frequently will the partners discuss the project or business?
Start Small, Aim Big: 3 Ways to Grow a Small Business

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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