When I set out to collect advice about growing a business from some of the most brilliant people I know, I expected the answers would be centered around marketing or sales as a growth tool - especially because many of them are really good at it.
I was surprised to see that most of the experts I interviewed hardly said anything directly about marketing as a vehicle for growth.
My direct question to these experts was:
What is your number one actionable tip for someone looking to grow their business in 2019?
I’ve been lucky to interact and learn from some very smart people and I consider everyone on this list to be several levels above me on the ‘smart scale’.
I hope you take some time for planning in your business next year and I’m confident some of the expert tips will definitely help you prioritize what you plan for.
Note: These are all friends in the small business marketing and automation space. It so happens that those on this list are all males, but there are many brilliant females in this space as well.
Focus on the ultimate experience you’re creating for people
If you're looking to grow your business in 2019 I think the single most important piece of advice I can give is to focus on the ultimate experience you're creating for people.
All the tools, tactics, and strategies in the world don't make a difference if the experience you're creating isn't one that makes people want to come back, or tell their friends.
Take the time to sit down and map out the ideal journey you want your customers to have, then work backwards from there to find the puzzle pieces required to deliver that experience over and over again.
Here are 8 important things I've learned in business
- Everything is easy until you have to actually do it.
- Always go as simple as possible and only as complex as necessary.
- Do the work.
- Business needs sales. Make something you love to sell.
- The business success formula is when BP=CX, where BP is "brand promise" and CX is "customer experience".
- Biggest growth lever is always existing clients. Keep them. Sell them more.
- If you could only do one single thing, ask past clients if they need more of what they bought before.
- Remember that it's never as good as it seems to be for others and it's never as bad as it seems to you.
Your core offer is everything
It should answer the big, hairy, "keep you up at night" question that's racing through your ideal client's mind. If you can position your offer to answer (or at least start to answer) that question, your sales booking rate will increase substantially. I like to use the example of an accountant. Which accountant would you hire? The one offering a "FREE Consultation"? Or the one offering a "FREE Tax Reduction Plan Meeting"?
It’s the failures that give you the lessons you must learn in order to succeed
To succeed in 2019, you must change your interpretation of failure from being a negative experience to being an ally and a mentor bestowing invaluable lessons that will be the catalyst for success.
Once that mindset has changed, a paradigm shift begins to happen. Sprinting to take a product to market no longer becomes an act of fear and pursuit of perfection. It becomes a race to intelligently launch, learn, and then, correct our course. No longer do peer opinions, competitor’s actions or short-term sales weigh you down. Everything becomes a drive to implement and execute based on passion and knowledge.
Here are some guidelines for businesses in different stages following Infusionsoft’s “Stages of Small Business”:
Stage 1: Solopreneur
Your singular focus right now should be all about generating leads and closing sales. If you can’t get enough leads to generate the sales you need, your hobby will never become a real business. Put branding, website details, and all that other stuff aside for now. You need leads and you need to sell. Grunt work. Go get it.
Stage 2: 2-3 employees, $100k - $300k
Once you get to the point that you’re 100% busy executing on selling and fulfilling, and you’re generating enough revenue (at least $10k per month), you need to split yourself in half. You ARE the bottleneck. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I better at sales or fulfillment? Do I ENJOY sales more or fulfillment more? Based on your answers to those questions, you need to delegate either sales or fulfillment to someone else. Keep what you’re best at and what you enjoy the most. If you don’t, you won’t grow. If you do, hang on for the growth ride.
Stage 3: 4-10 employees, 300k - $1M
At this point you should have sales under control and fulfillment is good. But two things will kill progress - lack of leads and poor fulfillment (mainly because of scalability issues or because you hire inexperienced people and don’t train them well enough). If you can’t feed your sales engine, you’ll go out of business fast because your expenses have increased. And, if your customers aren’t happy, you’ll be stuck with refund requests and bad online reviews. Focus on filling your funnel and dialing in your fulfillment.
Stages 4 & 5: 11-100 employees, $1-10M
Now that you’ve got a team in place, you need to step out of that team and develop solid leadership. Your leadership (or lack thereof) is what will hinder the growth of the company. As you get into Stage 5, you need to become a developer and leader of leaders.
Of course, these are generalities, but I’ve seen them prove to be true in the vast majority of the hundreds of businesses I’ve worked with personally and in our agency.
I see a lot of people take weeks a months to launch something perfect. Instead take half that time to launch anything at all. Then improve the weak spots as they show up.
2. Get off the keyboard
I love the online world and the opportunities it provides, but as everyone else goes online there is a lot of opportunity offline to build your business. Attend events in and outside of your state, make a point to meet people instead of meetings. A few of my best projects last year came from events and meeting new people.
3. Join/start a mastermind
Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely, especially for those who have remote teams. Join a mastermind (or start one) with peers. Make sure that it bring accountability and fresh ideas. In my opinion those are the 2 most important aspects.
Don’t just set goals. Make an honest, written, visible plan on papers that breaks it down all the way to weekly activities. Do not be the the only one who knows the plan. Get an accountability partner! Here is the real kicker…. follow the plan! If you really have to break from plan then you have to have a new plan to replace it.
Get really good at using two tools to help organize and automate your business
Learn how to properly use Calend.ly for your life and business. I wasted hundreds of hours messing around with negotiating appointments before I implemented this.
The other is to learn how to use Airtable. It’s the perfect solution for prototyping an idea and will help you create structure for a process, which can be used to the solve the problem today and be leveraged as a framework for later.
Start designing your business with sustainability in mind
If you want to grow your business it's about doing less. Have one solution that solves one problem, for one avatar and focus on doing that for one year. It isn’t about getting more things done; it’s about getting the right things done. That way you'll be making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy and operate at your highest point of contribution by focusing on what's essential.
Segment your email list
Segmenting your list can be a tedious process, and as a result, business owners often don't prioritize it or flat out ignore it. I can relate. It took me a long time to begin taking segmentation seriously... but once I did, the increase in revenue made me kick myself for waiting. So my business tip for 2019: Start segmenting. But start small.
You don't need to vary your messaging widely to your segments, but, in speaking to people based on the interaction with your company (via the segments you've built), you will increase repeat business, and engender brand loyalty.
Co-Founder, Prince & Hurst
You can’t afford B-players
The people in your organization will ultimately determine the success or failure of your business. Your people are your most important asset. Spend time with them, train them, coach them, invest in them. No tactic, hack or strategy can compensate for employees that perform poorly. The most important thing a CEO can do to ensure the success of his business is to surround himself with “A-Players”. Sure, they may cost more than “B-Players”, but a single “A-Player” is capable of driving 3X the results of two “B-Players”.
Serve those above you
Once you have brought the right people into your organization, and you have them located in the right roles, you’ll want to flip your org chart upside down so that the most important people are at the top of it - your customers. Below that are employees on the front lines who interface with customers. Below that are employees who work to support those who interface with customers, with each rung on the ladder serving and supporting the one above it. If you haven’t guessed already, yep, you’re on the bottom rung, serving and supporting all those above you.
Sales happen in conversations
If your sales are under 5 million annually, then sales needs to be a primary focus in your business. One of the best ways to have more sales conversations is to initiate those conversations with conversation starter emails or text messages.
If you’ve opened the door with your prospects to send them text messages, that’s the best way to do it, but if not, try this with your emails. Add conversation starting messages to your automation campaigns at a point where the contact has demonstrated through clicks or other activity that they should be ready to have a conversation.
Ask an open ended question that will allow them to openly express themselves, their concerns or questions related to your product or service. We’ve seen this one simple process double sales without spending an extra dime on advertising.
Putting together this article was a lot of fun and I’m excited to share it with you because it was written as much for you as it was for me.
Thanks to everyone who gave their awesome input. I know I'll be reviewing this article during my upcoming annual planning meeting for next year.
I'm interested in hearing from you. Who gave your favorite growth tip for growing a business? Let me know in the comments below.