Hitting growth objectives is critical to SMEs‘ success. However, to survive a recession, let alone grow, small business owners need to examine their business development strategy and fix any bugs that could be hindering their growth.
It is possible for your small business to withstand an economic downturn and in fact, increase its market share. I have helped many companies, including my own, build watertight, recession-proof, growth-focused strategies, and advocate the following seven steps.
1. Set objectives
Strategy and tactics are very important, yet distinctly different things. Before you can start plotting either, you need to set your objectives. What is the big business goal you want to achieve? Here are some ideas:
- Attract more leads
- Convert leads to customers
- Improve customer retention
- Sell more services to your existing customer base
Once you have your business objectives nailed down, you need to …
Multitasking is part and parcel of running a small business. However, to achieve your goal, you need to focus. Don’t attempt all your objectives at once. Rather, prioritise your list and start with the one that holds the most potential.
Some objectives may naturally overlap. In this case it’s absolutely fine to have a couple on the go at the same time. The most important thing is that you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you have too many balls in the air, you’ll drop them all.
3. Define the strategy
A strategy is the route you choose to reach your objective.
If your business objective is to attract better leads, there are many routes you could take. Content marketing, PR, web optimization and inbound marketing are all potential strategies that could prove effective – but you need to commit to one. You might think you can do all of them simultaneously, but this will only dilute the results and ultimately, use up more valuable resources.
4. Develop tactics
Now it’s time to outline the actions you’ll take to put your strategy in motion. Your tactics are the individual actions that will make your strategy happen.
If your business strategy is inbound marketing, then you might choose to pursue tactics like link building and downloadable content. Each action needs to support your business development strategy and bring it to life.
To execute your strategy successfully requires discipline. Not just from you but your whole team. Commitment and focus will help you stay on course. The best way to achieve this is to give it priority status, involve the entire company and hold everyone accountable to its success.
6. Collect data
A good strategy these days has to be data-driven. If your business development strategy can’t be measured accurately, then it’s near useless. An instinctive feel for what works and what doesn’t is not going to cut it when the stakes are high and the economy is so unpredictable. Making business decisions based on your gut is a bit like using an octopus to predict the 2010 World Cup winners. Why take a 50/50 chance when you can use data to guide, measure and deliver real results?
When it comes to establishing a business, failure and success operate hand-in-hand. To turn the former into the latter, you need to consistently adapt your strategy and tactics. Don’t throw your hands up in despair when new customer leads don’t flood in immediately. Success takes time, data analysis and revision.
Use the numbers to see which areas of your business development strategy are floundering, and which are flourishing. Then you can optimise your activities to make sure your resources are all focused on work that will deliver the best returns. A good business development strategy that is executed smartly, will help small businesses weather the current downturn, and ready them for the upturn.
About the author: Heather Baker is the CEO and founder of TopLine Comms, an integrated digital marketing agency with offices in Cape Town and London.