By their very definition, SMEs have the scope to grow. So want to go large? Here are some top ways to grow your SME.
Widen Your Horizons
Spread your wings, cast your net further and widen your horizons. Whichever idiom you prefer, increasing your reach is a sure way to grow your business.
If your business is product rather than service-based, you can grow by diversifying. For example, if you sell shoes you could extend into handbags and belts. An obvious example perhaps, but nonetheless a solid one as it shows the advantages of expanding into related products. Not only are you likely to be able to utilise existing materials or suppliers, but your existing customers should be interested in these items too. So with minimal upheaval you can send your business into new fields, paving the way for further product diversification.
Branching out into new locations can widen your horizons too. If you currently operate from a single office, store or factory, consider the benefits of taking on another premises. You’ll extend your reach, brand awareness and talent pool, as well as your capacity and potential turnover. If your first reaction is that such an undertaking is too much, it’s still worth doing your sums and looking at the projected ROI. It may be that any loan or initial investment can be outweighed by increased yield and opportunity.
Dedicated sites aren’t only for retailers, all sorts of businesses can benefit from creating an online, global presence. After all, there are almost endless possibilities online.
Whatever your business, the minimum you should have is a dedicated page outlining what you do and your contact details. While you may not think of yourself as a global company, a professional site makes your brand visible to anyone and you may be surprised who’s looking for you.
While social media is no new concept, it’s still worth reiterating that even just creating a Facebook page for your business can attract a new audience. Shares and likes can be seen in seconds by a whole host of international connections. Even if you think your business doesn’t lend itself to the sort of fun, shareable content usually seen on Facebook, a Facebook page can still create new business leads as your brand will be visible on such a huge platform.
Another top online opportunity is white papers – detailed explanations of a particular topic or process. They can easily be hosted and circulated online and are a great way to show your expertise in a field. This is especially important for SMEs as white papers help increase your authority even before you’ve fully extended your reach and capacity.
So you’re already all over going online, but how about mobile? Having a dedicated mobile presence is increasingly important due to the year-on-year uptake of mobile devices. If more and more people go online on their mobiles then you can grow by engaging this audience.
You may think you’ve got mobile covered with a responsive site, but do all of your interactions work on mobile? Is your site full of fiddly dropdowns, close together buttons or long forms that become unwieldy on a mobile device? Look at your current site and think, “does this work on mobile?” If not, change it. Don’t be afraid of simplifying your desktop site so that it works on mobile too. User Experience (UX) and interface design is moving increasingly towards simple, minimalist interactions, so a site optimised for both desktop and mobile users will follow this trend.
Think of the platforms that work well on mobiles and build up your profile there too. For example, the Twitter mobile app makes it easy to post and scroll through tweets, so increase your Twitter presence to engage mobile users. Likewise Pinterest has a brilliant mobile interface, so showcase your products on this mobile-optimised platform.
Engage Your Customers
You may feel that you’re already doing all you can: you’ve got a great product or service, a slick, mobile-optimised site and shareable social content. If you’re doing all the right things but not seeing your SME grow as you’d hoped, it’s time to ask your audience.
Audience research and insight is a key way to identify barriers or opportunities that you may be repeatedly missing internally. It could be a relatively small thing that’s putting off prospective customers, which, once identified, can be quick and easy to change. For example, if you’re selling electrical goods but don’t host any reviews on your site, customers may not trust that your products are as good as you say they are. Platforms like Magento provide free extensions for hosting reviews, so in a matter of moments you can make this hugely beneficial change.
There are lots of platforms and tools out there to help you ask your customers. Surveys, through services such as SurveyMonkey, can help you ask specific questions about particular products, interfaces, issues, or even shopping habits. There are also sites where you can test ideas on your prospective audience, such as WhatUsersDo, which enables you to get direct user feedback on your site.
Reporting is another key way to gather user insight. What products are your customers buying, which stores or parts of your site are they visiting? Use reporting to see what’s popular and what’s not to better know and serve your customers.
Build Your Team
One-man bands can only go so far, so to truly grow your SME you need to recruit. The wrong candidate in the wrong role can waste time and money, and can even be hard to dismiss. It’s therefore important to get your hire right first time by attracting strong, suitable candidates.
You may well have your own personal LinkedIn page, but have you created one for your company? They’re quick to set up and will help you connect with prospective candidates while simultaneously showcasing your business on this widely-used network. When you reach out to a candidate, point them towards your company LinkedIn page too to quickly introduce them to your business. They can then see what you do, your sector and aims to quickly ascertain if they might be interested in working for you.
While you’re at the SME stage, funds may be limited, so you may want to consider hiring at a lower, cheaper level and then training candidates. Universities, such as Imperial College London, have integrated internship schemes, so you can target candidates early on in their career when they’re affordable, yet nonetheless capable.
Engaged, motivated individuals can be rapid learners keen to progress within your company, so don’t necessarily write off a candidate because they don’t have enough experience. Instead, ask them to demonstrate when they have mastered new skills, or thrived in challenging situations, even if this is currently at a school rather than professional level. Candidates fresh to professional work can be completely transformed within 6 months, while less motivated, experienced professionals can tread water for that time.
So whether it’s building your team, extending your reach online, or diversifying your product, there are plenty of quick, cost-effective ways to grow your SME.