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Small Business Tips

How to Develop Small Business Growth Strategies in Canada

Rebecca Rustin
Getting a haircut

The world of marketing and advertising can be daunting, especially when you're just getting started. If you recently launched a small business, you may be wondering how to make it grow. Keep reading for ideas on how to develop small business growth strategies that will have clients knocking on your door in no time!  

How to improve market penetration

Most small businesses and start-ups don't have much of a budget for marketing and advertising in their first few months of business. However, there are a few key advertising channels you should consider investing in ahead of your first sale. These include:

  • Creating a website
  • Having business cards made
  • Ensuring that your storefront is visible (if you have one!)
  • Establishing a social media presence.

Hiring a web developer to create a beautiful user-friendly website can cost a few thousand dollars or more. If you don't have the budget for this, there are some low-cost options available, including Wix, Squarespace, and Wordpress.  That being said, people spend a lot of time online. Ensuring that your website is optimized for the web is a great way to guarantee customers will be able to find you when they need you.  Consider hiring a professional copywriter to help you achieve this. You can also research best SEO practices on sites like copyblogger or Moz.  

barber shop home page

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It involves a series of web writing standards that will help your site rank better on search engines like Bing and Google.  For example, search engines crawl the web looking for high-quality, original content that's easy to read. One mistake a lot of business owners make is stealing content from their competitors and transposing it onto their website.  Avoid doing this! Duplicate content can cause your website to rank lower in search engines. On the other hand, original content that is optimized for the web will cause you to rank higher.  If you're passionate about what you do, consider blogging about your industry. Adding just 500 words of content to your website per week will show search engines that you are active, and this will help you rank better as well.

What types of promotions can boost sales?

Once you've established that your business is active, you're going to want to work on increasing sales. There are a number of ways to do this. A few ideas include:

  • Lowering prices
  • Offering more than your competitors
  • Increasing your distribution channels
  • Improving your product or services
  • Giving your visibility a boost.

Ideas for alternative channels of distribution

According to Investopedia "a distribution channel is a chain of businesses or intermediaries through which a good or service passes until it reaches the end consumer." For example, by starting a drop shipping business, you become a distribution channel for your supplier.  Alternative distribution channels are a great business growth strategy. Think of it this way: the more people you have promoting your product, the more sales you'll make.

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Growth ideas

Here are a few ideas for alternative distribution channels you can use to boost sales.

  • Start or join a subscription service. For example, if you make wine, consider having your product featured as part of a monthly wine subscription box. This will allow new customers to discover your products. You might also consider creating your own subscription service that will ensure repeat business on a monthly basis.
  • Become a Groupon merchant. Taking part in a Groupon campaign is a great way to get new customers to try your product or service for the first time. To learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a Groupon merchant, check out our previous article on the topic.
  • Create or advertise on mobile applications. Developing a mobile application can help your customers access your services. If you create a free app, consider selling advertising to generate income. You can also charge a nominal fee or offer in-app purchases that will contribute to your annual revenues.
  • Paid advertising. Finally, if creating an app isn't in your budget or isn't a good fit for your business, consider advertising on third-party applications. paid advertising can include banner ads, rich media, and sponsorships. This strategy is most effective if you reach out to a company (with an app) that complements your products or services in some way. You might even be able to negotiate advertising rates by agreeing to some type of exchange. Get creative! Partnering with other companies is another great way to grow your client base.
  • Partner with an influencer on social media. If you sell a physical product like clothing, makeup, or household items, consider reaching out to an influencer on social media. An influencer is a person with a blog, Instagram account or YouTube channel with a large number of followers (usually 10,000 or more). These people essentially run small-scale marketing businesses. Finding the right influencer for your product can definitely help boost sales. In some cases, an influencer might be willing to promote your product in exchange for a gift of the product itself. Other influencers charge a fee that you can find out more about by contacting them for a media kit. When you work with an influencer, your ad will essentially be framed as a product review. Since influencers generally have audiences that trust their opinion, a positive review can give you a big boost. To increase your chances of a successful campaign, only work with influencers who are a good match for your niche.
Owner and happy customer at barber shop

How to improve your products or services

Start by ensuring you have a high-quality product. Reach out to your clients post-sale. Are they happy? How can you improve?  Take their feedback to heart. Consider consulting with an expert to help you enhance your product. If you offer a specialized service, register for a workshop or class that can help you hone your skills.  If you have the budget for it, you might also consider working with a market research company to learn more about what customers are looking for. Providing value is the best way to ensure repeat business - even if your prices are higher than those of your competitors.

What are the best growth strategies to expand your marketplace?

If you offer a product or service that already exists, your best business growth strategy will involve standing out to get noticed. Here are three strategies recommended by the Canada Business Network that can help.

1. Be different

There are a number of ways to ensure that your business will attract attention, and most of them revolve around being distinct. This can be as simple as putting a good deal of thought into your design. Being original and creating a product or service that resonates with your clients can give you an edge over the competition.  Another way you can differentiate yourself is to combine a product with service in an innovative way. For example, this might take the form of a subscription box, as mentioned above.  Consider offering services that aren't available from your competitors. This can include delivery, installation, or exceptional customer support.  Finally, if you sell a product that can be used in an unusual way, let your customers know about it! Take beautiful photos or make a how-to video and make this content available on your website. The more inventive you are, the more customers are likely to take notice.

2. Be affordable

Although this tip might seem to go against the idea that value generates money, we're not suggesting you cut corners to lower prices.  Instead, try to find ways to work smarter. Use technology to help you save time, and work with skilled experts.  Purchasing or shipping your products in bulk can also help you save money. If you can reduce your production costs and pass these savings on to your customers, you'll have a definite edge over your competitors.

3. Find your niche

If your business is still in the start-up phase, you might think that having a larger audience is the best way to generate more sales.  In theory, this makes sense. But, when it comes to marketing and building a larger customer base, you want to avoid coming off as a Jack of all trades, master of none. Finding your niche implies targeting a smaller audience that you understand well. Think of your ideal customer. What are their age, gender, and occupation? Identify what drives them? Think about what makes them tick?  Adjust your sales approach to their attitudes and how well they know your product. This will help you develop a targeted sales pitch that will be more effective.  Ultimately, your best marketing strategy is whatever works for you. In a perfect world, you'd be able to avoid trial and error and head straight for what is most effective. These suggestions should help set you on the right path!

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