I have learned from experience that scaling any business is difficult. You may feel good when that first burst of customers arrives, but don’t assume that “word of mouth” and those early adopters will grow your business to match your dreams of success.
In these days of global competition via multiple channels, you need continuous marketing to find more customers. They won’t find you.
I continue to be amazed that more than a quarter of new businesses don’t even have a website, and many more don’t pay attention to social media, or monitor feedback on sites like Yelp.
Even if your business is purely local, growth must always be a priority, and you need to utilize all these digital channels available to you today, as well as traditional media channels and industry forums:
1. Maintain an active current presence on the Internet.
More and more customers today do their initial shopping on the Internet, and they won’t even believe you exist if you have no presence, or the content is stale. At minimum, that requires a modern website, and visibility on relevant social media sites, likely including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
The businesses that are most successful at converting users into growth are those who interact with their followers the most and frequently post content related to their brand. A good rule of thumb is to post at least some responses daily to indicate your presence.
2. Acknowledge every customer feedback and review.
People today put great stock in the online feedback from other customers, and they note how and if you appear to be listening and responding. Don’t let the crush of daily crises, or personal emotions, lead you to ignore feedback. This could be the least expensive way to scale your business.
For those of you who are fearful of a spurious negative review, I recommend that you proactively ask every customer for a positive review, such that any negatives will be lost in a sea of positives. Don’t let that one negative stand out as the only review submitted.
3. Entice advocates and influencers to help you.
Advocates are your happiest existing customers, and you want them to use their social media and connections to attract more customers. Influencers are recognized experts and pseudo celebrities who can pick favorite products or start new trends. Be proactive is reaching out for support and help.
Due to the rapid growth of influencer marketing, influencer tracking systems, such as Traackr or Pixlee have emerged as reliable tools for brands that employ influencers to track conversions from their sponsorships. Use them to find your relevant influencers.
4. Produce marketing events to get visibility and attention.
These days, a popular approach is to create a “pop-up” store or “flash mob” event in the midst of another gathering, like a Super Bowl, to get attention and scaling for your brand. Obviously, you need to promote these events via multiple digital and traditional marketing channels.
In this context, connecting with other complementary brands will help you share costs, as well as audiences across your industry. Be prepared to give away to participants something memorable that they actually want. Make it a memorable experience for all.
5. Participate in trade shows and industry conferences.
Trade shows and conferences can produce hundreds of new qualified leads for your business, as well as build relationships with industry leaders, outsourcing vendors, and potential partners. These also will keep you better informed on new technologies, trends, and likely competitors.
6. Secure outside expansion funding through investors.
Effective scaling and growth often requires more investment than is available from early organic returns. You need to evaluate the tradeoffs of getting investment capital from angel investors and crowdsourcing. These are both a source of new marketing strategies and feedback.
7. Commit to and communicate a higher-level purpose.
Adopting a higher purpose, such as saving the environment or helping your community, and successfully communicating that to your team and customers is the way to make them all fans of your company and scaling the business. People respond to your purpose, not your profit.
Organic growth, without utilization of digital channels, is not enough today to stay competitive and achieve long-term success in today’s environment, especially against the large e-commerce players with a global reach. You need to use every digital channel available for marketing and visibility, no matter how dedicated you and your team are to customer service and satisfaction.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.