Congratulations, you have an online business, and you’ve got some momentum going. You’ve got a decent list of clients, steady sales are coming in, and your team is growing.
You don’t want to just settle there. Very few business owners find success and think “Okay, that’s it, we’ve peaked and I’m good with that.” They want to continue building on that momentum. This is, of course, often easier said than done, but these seven simple entrepreneur tips offer strategic steps to maintaining that upward trajectory.
1. Leverage Your Network to Grow Your Client Base
If you’ve already got happy clients, the very best way to scale is the leverage the network that you’ve already got.
Set up an official referral marketing program that gives your clients an incentive to put their friends, peers, and colleagues in touch with you. They refer someone who becomes a client, and both the referrer and the referee get a month’s subscription free, a $25 credit, or 15% off.
No one will be able to market your business as effectively as satisfied customers who are all too happy to spread the word. And since friends 1) know their own network well enough to make smart recommendations and 2) are trusted by their network, it’s no surprise that referral marketing programs can bring in high-value clients. Customers who come to you from referral marketing will spend more, have higher retention rates, and are more likely to refer others your way.
This is the definition of growing success, taking advantage of building momentum.
2. Invest More into Great Customer Service
Strong customer service is a powerful differentiator right now, and it’s a must if you want to keep your customers happy (which you need to do if you want to keep them as customers).
We know that customer service is the #1 reason why clients will jump ship to another brand if they’re unhappy (they’re 4x more likely to switch brands if the problem is service-related than other issues), and that consumers are willing to spend an average of 17% more with brands that have great service.
Make sure that you’re able to connect with your customers via phone, email, and ideally live chat across different social media platforms. Your team should be trained to offer personalized customer service, and it should be easy to reach specific team members if needed.
Setting up a virtual business phone system with features like extensions, auto attendants, and even texting functionality can help with that. You can also consider outsourcing to a high-quality answering service to pick up any calls that you’re too busy to handle.
3. Set Up Multiple Touch Points for Customers
You want to be where your people are. That means you want to set up multiple core touch points that will help you better connect to your target audience, both for brand discovery and relationship building.
Plenty of people may look up your site once they’re already familiar with you, for example, but you need to get them to find out about you first.
Using a combination of different marketing tactics like search engine optimization and PPC campaigns and creating different profiles on platforms like Google My Business, LinkedIn, and other social media sites can be a game-changer. You can also guest post on blogs, write press releases, and try to get your products featured by affiliates.
You never want to wait for customers to come to you. If someone is asking for a referral from friends on Facebook, you want to have a Page that can be tagged as a recommendation, and if they go looking on Google, you want to have your listing pop up. If you don’t, a direct competitor will likely land that customer instead, because you didn’t show up where they were looking.
4. Prepare Your Business for Scalability Before It’s Needed
A key component to growing your online business is one of the core entrepreneur tips that many overlook: Preparing in advance for changes that need to be made so your business can scale.
Here’s an example: You start out as a two-person team offering interior design services. You manage the customer part, and your partner does the paperwork and administrative tasks. Because of this, you just give out your personal phone number to clients.
But then you get busy enough that you want to bring on an assistant to help schedule appointments and follow up with vendors. And another designer to help you pick up the slack. Suddenly you have everyone calling your phone number, even though you don’t want to be the first line of defense anymore.
At this point, you can absolutely set up a virtual phone system for your business and configure the phone number to forward to the receptionist, but it’s a much bigger hassle to do it now than it would have been upfront. At that point you need to reprint business cards, update dozens of profiles and listings online, and get the new phone number to all your existing clients and vendors.
Take some time to think now what would need to change when you get to the next level. Would you need to hire a cleaning service, for example, if you moved to a larger building, or set up automated invoicing systems with payment policies instead of sending clients PayPal links? If you’re able to make these changes in advance, scaling will be a much smoother process.
5. Be Mindful of Cash Flow Management
Cash flow management can keep your business thriving. Poor cash flow management can put you out of business.
Understanding how much working capital you have on hand and how to leverage it properly is crucial to your long-term success. If you find yourself strapped for funding because all of your clients are on net-60 payment terms, for example, you’re losing the opportunity to invest in training for your staff, new technology, and marketing campaigns that could help you grow.
Learn about cash flow management for your business, and if you frequently find a large portion of your working capital tied up in inventory, slow accounts receivable payments, or anything else, look into financing options that could help. Many businesses find it advantageous to pay a small fee to receive upfront payment from an invoice from a third-party company (known as “invoice factoring”) if it means getting the funding faster.
There are plenty of cash flow management solutions out there, so consider what issues you’re having and talk to an accountant or qualified financial advisor about what can help your business moving forward.
6. Put Effort Into Increasing Retention Rates
It costs roughly 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. It also costs a business about 16% of an employee’s annual salary when they need to replace a team member for any reason.
Putting a great deal of effort into increasing both client and employee retention rates, therefore, can be key to your business’ continued growth and success.
When your employees are experienced, confident in what they’re doing and in your brand policies, and well-trained, they perform well. You’re also not needing to invest money into the job listing, hiring, and training process.
Treat both your employees and customers well to boost retention rates. And remember that when your employees feel satisfied with their jobs, that’s directly passed on to create an improved customer experience, too. When you start making positive changes internally, that makes a huge impact.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider making any of the following changes to improve employee satisfaction:
- Being flexible with difficult scheduling or the need to work remotely if possible
- Offer competitive pay and solid benefits
- Encourage your team members to take vacation and sick time instead of pushing them to minimize it
- Have employee incentive and recognition programs
- Train your management to provide regular compliments, feedback, and mentoring to their team members
7. Listen to What Your Customers Are Saying
This is a pretty simple entrepreneur tip, but it’s one that many forget to pay attention to. Your customers are the ones who will keep you in business. If you aren’t listening to what they’re saying and what they’re asking for, your success may not continue or grow as you’d hoped.
If provided with a platform, most of your customers will be upfront with what they need from you. This includes customers who are leaving for another brand. You can easily implement an exit survey to find out why customers left. If they’re unhappy with your customer service or return policies, see what you can do to adjust that. If they want to see another feature on your SaaS software, let them know you’ll talk to the team.
Your customers are more than happy to tell you exactly what will make them happy. Listen, and act on it whenever possible.
While there are a ton of blog posts sharing entrepreneur tips online, most of them focus on high-level strategies that might only work for some businesses or be difficult to implement. They overlook the fact that many businesses succeed long-term by focusing on the basics: After establishing a great product, they focus on strong business management strategies like offering great service, preparing for scalability in advance, and learning to maximize cash flow.
If you can take advantage of these very simple but extremely important entrepreneur tips, there’s nothing stopping you from elevating even moderate success to outstanding success.