Famed American writer, William S. Burroughs, once observed that,
“When you stop growing, you start dying.”
And for businesses, it’s hard to think of a more apt description of their lifecycle. After all, in industries that have any competition whatsoever, businesses must be constantly growing to avoid being overtaken by others.
But achieving a state of continuous business growth isn’t easy. If it was, every business would be able to do it—and you wouldn’t be here reading this article.
The truth, however, is that there are a variety of time-tested and proven approaches that businesses can use to achieve a state of continuous growth. And by putting them together to form a single all-encompassing growth plan, any business can put itself on the path to long-term success and sustainability.
Strategies For Continuous Business Growth
Here are five of the best strategies you can use to grow your business continuously.
1. Invest in Talent Development
If you were to examine some of the world’s most successful businesses, you’ll notice that most of them have something in common. It’s that they go to great lengths to attract the best available talent and to help their employees continually enhance their skills.
The reason for that is simple: businesses will only go as far as their employees can carry them. In other words, better, more capable workers mean more productivity and more growth.
In fact, 72% of learning and development (L&D) leaders acknowledge that L&D has become more vital for their organizations. For that reason, one of the key strategies businesses can employ to achieve continuous growth is to invest heavily in a talent development program.
By doing so, they can achieve some very important objectives, including:
- Improving workforce performance – helping the business to drive productivity gains
- Aligning workforce skills with business needs – making sure that the business is paying for workers capable of performing business-critical tasks
- Improving engagement and retention metrics – keeping employees interested in their work and preventing departures and churn
- Creating pathways of advancement – giving employees additional career opportunities through internal promotions (based on new skill acquisition)
In total, a high-quality talent development program enhances almost every aspect of a business’s operations. And that is an excellent way to create sustainable long-term growth.
2. Create a Sales Funnel
Any way you look at it, businesses can’t grow unless they have the financial means to do it. And that means most strategies that improve a business’s bottom line are pro-growth strategies. But it doesn’t mean that every effort at improving bottom-line performance qualifies as a strategy to create the conditions for continuous growth. For example, it’s possible to improve the bottom line by cutting staff—but that’s contraction, not growth.
To encourage growth, it’s necessary to look for ways to increase cash inflows without substantially increasing overhead. And for most businesses, that means improving sales performance.
One way for a business to do that is to invest in growing its sales department, giving it the resources to identify and pursue new potential customers. That will create growth, but it can come at a significant cost.
Instead, that investment is better spent on building and maintaining a sales funnel. Doing so is an excellent way to sustainably improve sales without adding a significant amount of overhead. The reasons are manifold.
The first is that a sales funnel helps to improve the ROI of a business’s marketing efforts. It does so by channeling new leads into a clearly-defined process designed to lead to conversions.
Optimizing marketing spending in this way can allow a business to spend less on their marketing without compromising results. Or better still, it allows them to spend the same amount of money while getting better bottom-line results.
A sales funnel also helps to ensure that there are always leads moving through the sales process, increasing the odds of a steady stream of completed sales. It’s that kind of revenue consistency that makes it possible for businesses to grow. It creates a financial foundation that allows the business to branch out into new markets and lines of business and secure in the knowledge that its core operations will remain strong.
But that’s not all. Reorienting sales efforts to support a sales funnel will also improve efficiency in the whole sales department.
For example, it allows the business to devote its top sales talent—the closers, if you will—to prospects already primed to convert. That’s the best possible use of their time, and it invariably leads to more sales. And then, the rest of the sales support staff can focus on keeping prospects moving through the sales process so those closers never run out of deals to complete.
The bottom line is that investing in the creation of a sales funnel sets a business up for long-term revenue growth, which is a prerequisite for the business to achieve continuous overall growth.
3. Make Data-Driven Decisions
In the past, business leaders relied as much on intuition as they did on market research when making consequential business decisions. That was especially the case when evaluating new product ideas or market expansion opportunities. And those are the kinds of decisions that connect directly with a business’s growth prospects.
The trouble is, that making the wrong decisions in those areas can lead to significant financial losses, which in itself can sabotage growth. And when those missteps are exceedingly costly, it can even lead to the business needing to pull back its operations to survive. That means business leaders looking to create continuous growth can’t afford to be wrong very often, if at all.
The thing is though, business leaders don’t need to keep relying on instinct to inform their decision-making. These days, they can turn to vast troves of operational, sales, and third-party data to gain the insight they need to make the right calls. But to do it, businesses have to make some strategic investments into a data and analytics operation.
The first thing they need to explore is the creation of an in-house analytics team. That will ensure that the business has the right talent in place to put its data to work.
But that’s not all. It’s also necessary to invest in the training needed to make sure that key decision-makers have the analytical skills to put data-derived insights to use in their deliberative processes. In time, it’s an effort that should spread to all levels of the business’s operations.
Eventually, the goal should be to create and maintain a data-driven culture that informs everything the company does. That’s the best way to improve the odds that each expansionary step the business takes will be a successful one—creating the kind of stability that feeds a period of continuous expansion.
4. Create a Diversification Plan
No matter the industry, there are only two paths to continuous growth. The first is market dominance. In that scenario, the growth opportunity comes from out-competing every other business in the market and swallowing up their market share. But the truth is, there are natural limits to the growth that market dominance can generate.
For proof, look no further than the story of eCommerce giant Amazon. Back in 1994, it set out to corner the market for online book sales. And it eventually did that and then some, driving physical book stores to near-extinction. But by 1998, it was becoming obvious that book sales would only carry the company so far.
That’s what led Amazon to pursue the second potential path to continuous growth: diversification. They added music and computer games to their product catalog—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Amazon sells almost everything imaginable. They’ve also become the world’s biggest cloud services provider and built a logistics and shipping network that’s second to none.
Amazon’s story offers a powerful lesson about what it takes to create continuous growth. And that’s why any business looking for a long-term growth strategy should create a diversification plan as early in its life as possible. The point is to keep an eye on possible future areas of expansion that will provide the business with the room it will need to grow.
It’s not necessary, of course, to aim for diversification right out of the gate. In fact, experienced entrepreneurs often advise against that—instead advising that young firms focus on an incremental approach to diversification rather than drafting complex long-term plans.
But being always on the move into new products and new markets (when feasible) is an excellent way to continuously grow your company.
5. Explore New Distribution Channels
In many cases, businesses begin to invest in developing new products once they believe they’ve maxed out sales of their existing products. And that makes sense. New products offer a means of increasing sales and even widening your customer base. But they’re not without risk.
Developing new products means spending money. And if a new product isn’t successful, the initial investment is lost without creating any meaningful bottom-line benefits. That’s why it’s often a much better idea for businesses to instead look for new distribution channels for their existing proven products.
An excellent example of this in action is the recent expansion of Allbirds into the physical retail space. They began life as an online-only sustainable footwear brand—a market that they’ve dominated in recent years. But they soon realized that their surest path to growth was to offer their products in retail stores in addition to their online marketplace.
The move allows them to expand the sales of their core products by exposing more people to them than they otherwise could. And it also helped them to drive more sales among existing customers, with the brand reporting that shoppers who visited their online and physical retail outlets ended up spending 1.5 times more than shoppers that only visited one or the other.
Using a combination of channels is the best approach. By analyzing data on the business’s target market and their interaction with the product or service, an optimal distribution channel can be chosen before investing. One growing avenue is mobile, with 90% of internet users connecting via a mobile device, an accessible and responsive mobile website is key to expanding a company’s revenue as mobile usage continues to increase.
The bottom line here is that finding new ways to distribute already-popular—and therefore, proven—products is often a less risky way to create growth. And when executed well, it can become the cornerstone of a business’s continuous growth strategy.
At the end of the day, no business venture can survive for very long if it can’t find a growth path. But there’s a difference between achieving growth and achieving continuous growth.
It doesn’t take much to achieve the former and sometimes, it’ll even happen naturally. But achieving that latter takes careful planning and a whole lot of effort.
The five strategies detailed here all offer a path to continuous growth. But they’re best used together. That way, they make for a comprehensive plan to convert a business into a growth engine with limitless potential. And when executed to perfection, the sky’s the limit!
Featured photo credit: Adeolu Eletu via unsplash.com