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10 tips to grow your business print Print

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Want to kick your business into gear? Here are some quick ways to position your business for growth without spending a fortune.

  • Refresh your marketing material

Is your website or printed material looking a bit stale? You should review your marketing material every 12 months (or sooner for retail-based businesses) and be prepared to be ruthless if it no longer reflects your business offering or current direction. You don't need a huge budget to create effective marketing material, but even basic material should be well-designed and functional.

If in doubt, get some advice from a professional - it could save you time and money in the long run.

  • Improve your web presence

Even if you don't do business online, you might be surprised to find out how many people search for you before picking up the telephone or walking through your door. An effective website doesn't need to win any art awards, but it needs to explain to customers what you offer and what your point of difference is, and provide your contact details.

Think of the web as your biggest and least expensive marketing tool. Consider using Facebook or Twitter to boost your profile - your competitors are most likely there already.

To get the most out of social media, you'll need to build a 'following' - a group of people who like what you offer. Consider running a Facebook competition where the winner is the person who attracts the most new people to your page, and offer a product or free use of your services as a prize.
If your target market isn't online, offer a competition in your store or through flyers, or offer small prizes for people who refer new customers. Ask any competition entrants to sign up for future offers or e-newsletters so you have a basis for future marketing efforts.

  • Improve your public relations

Public relations isn't just for big businesses. Think about how you could publically promote your business by getting behind a community event or being more visible in other ways. You could offer to be a guest speaker as part of a business course, or provide guidance to people wanting to learn about your industry - it all builds credibility and trust.

If you are a sporting goods retailer, offer some cricket bats to a local team, become a coach, or attend local games - you'll enjoy yourself and it's great for both your business and the wider community.

  • Improve your networking skills

Love it or hate it, networking is an important part of business. Next time you attend an industry conference or event, make an effort to get a little out of your comfort zone and talk to new people. You don't need to suddenly become the biggest extrovert in the room - effective networking is often more about your attitude and willingness to listen than being a salesman.

If networking events make you nervous, try memorising a 10-15 second mini-pitch for your business that confidently and concisely explains who you are and what you provide. This is absolutely invaluable for both networking and meeting potential customers for the first time. Remember to make it as interesting as possible and don't give everything away - answering questions enables you to build rapport.

  • Harness technology

Can you tell your iPad from your Android? Upgrading outdated technology can save you time and reduce your operational costs - just take the time to research what similar businesses are using before upgrading your systems. A simple smartphone puts all your business contacts at your fingertips, and lets you update your business Twitter and Facebook accounts, respond to emails, and schedule appointments from almost anywhere.

Some common cost savers include using Skype for calling or video conferencing and cloud-based services for document creation and sharing.

  • Foster innovation and creative thinking

When was the last time you brainstormed new ideas with staff or a business partner? It might seem obvious but once you're in business, you shouldn't stop learning about your industry and developing new products and services to meet current demand.

Brainstorm with your staff, research latest trends, connect with recent graduates, attend workshops, or look to other industries and see what you can adapt to your business.

  • Improve your customer service

If you want to build future sales through repeat customers, you need to make it clear that you stand behind your offerings 100%. A good start is to offer a money-back guarantee for any product sold, or to back up big sales with after-sales support. If you offer a service, this could mean personally calling the client after completing the work, or sending them a letter thanking them for their business.

  • Test new products

Even if you have multiple products selling well, keep on the lookout for opportunities to expand your product line and satisfy customer demand.
If you are unsure how well a product will sell, order a small amount first before placing larger orders - just remember to update your marketing material to let customers know about your new products.

  • Tidy up your business communications

Is your telephone demeanour professional? How about your emails and voicemail messages?

Always take a friendly but professional approach to any form of customer interaction including written emails, invoices and notices. If you haven't already, create an email signature with your full name, business name and contact details. This looks more professional and means customers have your contact details from the first message. If you have a pre-recorded voicemail, be as clear and professional as possible - even if this means following a script.

  • Listen to your customers

Every business thinks they are in tune with their customers, but is it time to listen to your regulars?

Take any feedback from customers seriously and make an effort to thank them for sharing their thoughts - even if they are raising concerns or making a complaint. If you have a regular customer who isn't happy with a new marketing strategy or product line, listen to what they have to say - there's a chance other customers might share their concerns.

If someone thanks you for good customer service or for a job well done, you could ask if they would provide a reference that you can use as part of your marketing material.

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