Growing a small business can be tough, and there are times when we all need a bit of a helping hand.

Sometimes we’re so busy focused on just running our businesses that we simply don’t have time to try a new growth strategy or put the time into things we kind of already half-know we should be doing; like marketing.

Of course, marketing – when done right – is one of the biggest ways to grow your business; but a lot falls under that umbrella. So, how will you know which areas you should be focusing on when you do have the time?

I specialise in helping small businesses achieve the growth they need, and so often it helps to just take a step back to look at the bigger picture – as well as getting some expert advice.

That’s why I asked some of the most influential sales and business leaders about the essential things that YOU should be doing to help grow your small business. Here’s what they said!

1. Know your customer and the unique value you have to offer – Pam Moore, CEO of Marketing Nutz

“Before spending even one dollar on social media, content marketing, influencer marketing, digital marketing, or paid media you must know your customer and the unique value you have to offer them.

It is not enough to master the social networks or learn how to create content that converts. You must define what success looks like and build a strategy and plan that connects you with your audience and helps you achieve success.

When you inspire your audiences to connect with you with a goal of helping them achieve their goals, you achieve yours by default. Inspire – Connect – Achieve!”

(Visit Pam’s website: The Marketing Nutz)

This is absolutely essential for any business. However, you’d be surprised how many are still ready to start a marketing campaign without fully knowing who their customers are.

Getting your buyer personas right shows your customers that you understand them, and that what you’re selling is relevant to their needs.

And if you can address their problems, challenges and questions in a helpful way that shows them the impact your solution will have on their lives – be it through your website, blog, social media or in any other format – you won’t go far wrong.

2. Don’t just rely on inbound marketing straight away – Ian Cleary, Founder of RazorSocial

“My advice: Don’t listen to the advice which says that inbound is the only way to attract an audience. I love inbound marketing but you need to support this with outbound marketing. Especially at the early stages of the business where you need to build up the authority of your website to drive traffic.

Reach out using email to build links, relationships, generate PR, guest post on sites and more. Outbound marketing and Inbound marketing go hand in hand.”

(Check out Ian’s website Razor Social)

In my experience, this is absolutely spot on. Inbound marketing is incredibly effective, but it can also take months to have a proper impact on your business.

That’s why I now recommend to anyone that they should also be investing a budget towards things like Google Ads whilst they wait for inbound to have an effect.

Over time, they can gradually reduce their ads budget as inbound takes over. Unfortunately, everyone wants to see instant results, so if that’s all you’re looking for – rather than a long-term and cost-effective marketing strategy – then inbound probably isn’t for you.

TIP: Check out my blog: ‘How Long Does Inbound Marketing Take to Work?’ to find out more.

3. Plan your social media campaigns in advance – Neil Patel, Entrepreneur and Marketing Expert 

“If you’re running a social media marketing campaign on a budget, you need to reduce the time you’re spending keeping things online. Instead of wasting time publishing posts every few hours, you should schedule things beforehand.

This simple organization technique will save you countless hours and help you improve your efficiency and productivity. There’s also another technique that can take things to the next level. Instead of just writing out social media posts for the next few days, why not let the system publish them for you?

Meet Edgar is a great way to manage your content beforehand, allowing you to write social media updates once, and then have them sent out multiple times afterward. This is a great way to keep things organized, without repeating yourself by constantly updating your social feeds.”

(Visit Neil’s official website)

Neil is right in that social media can be a bit of a time sucker – if you let it.

Picking a set time of the day (say 10 or 20 minutes) to schedule out your posts and do a little interaction is really all you need to ensure you’re staying ahead of your social media campaign, but also that you don’t spend too much of your time publishing posts throughout the day.

Hootesuite and SocialPilot are two other great examples of social media schedulers that allow you to stay organised and plan out your posts ahead of time.

4. Take stock once in a while – Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker and Brand Evangelist

“You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Working IN your business rather than ON your business.” Many, many small business owners find themselves in that spot.

They’re so busy concentrating on the inner workings that they think there’s no time to work on the big picture. However, setting goals and knowing exactly where you are in terms of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is essential for making data-driven (instead of emotional) decisions.

You need to make the time to evaluate this on a regular basis to keep a healthy growth mindset. Another key ingredient to mindset is your attitude. Attitude impacts success in everything we do—work, play and especially relationships. You know that when your attitude or outlook is pessimistic, things don’t go very well.

But when your outlook is optimistic, it’s a different story. I like to think that business mindset is made up of an individual’s “collection” of attitudes.

And in addition to attitudes of confidence, gratitude and optimism, I think it’s also essential to add an attitude of learning to the mix. Always be asking yourself: “Why did this work when that didn’t? What can I learn from this?” Applying an attitude of learning to your approach to your business can set you up for seeing those “opportunities” that got lost in the weeds before. Attitude, Perspective… Mindset.”

(Check out Ted’s official website here)

This is definitely one of the biggest problems I hear from business owners – and I totally get it. You’re so busy making sure your business is running smoothly, your customers are happy and your bills are paid that it feels like you have no time to dedicate to a marketing or growth strategy.

There’s nothing stopping you from constantly trying to learn, and improve on what you have. But remember, there’s always going to be help out there if you’re struggling – or don’t have the time to grow your business as fast as you’d like.

Digital marketing agencies can help, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea (and they can be expensive to-boot). It all comes down to a personal choice.

5. Fail fast and often – Jeff Bullas, Digital Entrepreneur and Marketing Blogger

“The fast moving digital world almost taunts us to fail fast and often.  Because sometimes the cost is just time. Make a small typo in the blog post and it can be edited out in seconds. But I am not talking about aiming to make mistakes but be willing to commit to spending some of your resources on trialling and testing new tactics. 

We trialled one Flipboard magazine content tactic and on some days its organic traffic generation kicks sand in Facebook’s face. We also republished some of our best content on Medium as a trial and attracted a following of over 60,000 readers. You won’t find that in your average marketing 101 course handbook.

Trial and error and testing can reveal new sources of traffic and improved lead generation because you moved out of your comfort zone.”

Never be afraid to make mistakes. It’s how we all learn, after all! It’s better to take a chance and have it fail than never to take that chance and wonder what might have been. Just weigh up the risks and mitigate them where possible.

(Visit Jeff’s official website)

6. Find ways to become more efficient – Susan Solovic, Small Business Expert, Bestselling Author and Keynote Speaker

Look at repetitive tasks you and your team perform. Do they all have procedures written for them? See how they can be accomplished more quickly and be sure you have procedures that capture the most productive ways of accomplishing repetitive tasks.

Be sure that you allow these procedures to be improved on over time; don’t fall victim to the “We’ve never done it like that here” mentality.

(Check out Susan’s official website)

Looking over the way your business operates and agreeing that there’s always going to be room for improvement should never be seen as a weakness. Nobody can say they’re perfect, after all.

I say this to people I work with a lot, but if they can save 20 minutes from a task that’d usually take two hours, that’s great. I don’t care how long it takes someone to do something – as long as the quality of their work isn’t suffering, then I see that as a win. And you should, too.

7. Take the time to understand what your audience is searching for – Steve Slater, Senior SEO & Digital Advertising Manager at TopRank Marketing

“There are 3 main things that small businesses should focus on in order to grow their business:

1. Understand search. Not simply understanding SEO but understand what search can tell you about your audience. Understand what search can tell you what your audience wants, needs, and is looking for. You can glean a lot of that by reviewing SERPs for your keywords.

2. Leverage that knowledge when it comes to your search marketing strategy. Use the understanding of your audience to craft content and user experience. Use it to develop a PPC strategy.

3. Finally, get really comfortable with Analytics. You should have an objective for your digital marketing and that objective should be measurable. Measuring your marketing efforts is the only way of knowing whether or not those efforts are leading to growth.”

(Visit Steve’s website: TopRank)

This is a big one. Once you know your best customers and the questions they ask you on a daily basis (write them down!) then you’ll have a good idea of what they’re typing into Google.

You can also follow Steve’s advice above to learn even more about the specifics of what they’re searching for. Then, use those phrases to answer your customers’ biggest questions somewhere they’ll be able to find you when searching on Google.

Blogs are an idea place to keep helpful, valuable content and provide you with a platform to establish yourself as a trustworthy, knowledgeable source. Keep addressing the problems, concerns and challenges your customers have, and you’ll start to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

8. Build out your company story and team pages – Joanna Lord, Marketing Leader

“These days, consumers want to connect and support not just a product, but the company and mission behind it. Too often companies throw together ‘About Us’ sections that are sterile and less than compelling.

Businesses need to spend time and resources putting up pictures that reflect their team and culture, and shaping the “why” behind the company for everyone to consume in a beautiful way.”

Nowadays, people want to know more about your ethos and the experience they’re going to have as a customer, rather than just caring about the end result.

Customers are now doing their own research and you’ve probably noticed they’re not only more informed about your products and services, but also about you.

Taking the time to make your website more personal and displaying team or behind-the-scenes photos will help them connect with you and your business.

(Check out Joanna Lord’s official website)

9. Provide quality, helpful content – Matteo Gasparello, Marketing Strategist from Strategico

“Focus on content marketing – Showcase your expertise by creating long-form, in-depth articles that describe problems of your industry, and how to solve them.

Make sure to include a case study that explains how your product/service solved specific pains for your clients. Content marketing is the best way to build your reputation and position you as a leader in your market.

It can also directly generate sales: two years ago I was managing a startup that sold Spanish food online in the UK, and the biggest orders came thanks to a post on “Spanish Christmas food” that we released in November.

The post generated backlinks (great for SEO), shares and it was mentioned in online publications that were talking about Christmas gifts and traditions.

That was a great way to end the year! In general, I recommend to every small business to give content marketing a try: it’s definitely worth the investment of time and money.”

(Visit Matteo’s website Strategico)

Content marketing is a vital part of an inbound or digital marketing strategy. When done right, it CAN generate sales. However, as I mentioned above, it can take time (a few months) to build up enough to generate a steady stream of leads and sales.

This is why it’s more of a long-term strategy – so, if you’re looking for instant results, you may wish to supplement it with Google Ads in the meantime.

One final thought…

If you’re seriously considering growing your business – or you don’t have much choice in the matter and it’s make or break time – then you don’t have to go it alone.

There are lots of online resources to help small business achieve better growth, quicker. However, the best piece of advice I can give you is to consult a professional. Or even better – two or three!

They should listen to where you are now in your strategy, and what you’re looking to achieve, before giving you some free, impartial advice. If you do decide to invest in some professional help, always trust your gut and ensure they answer all your questions and tell you exactly how they’re going to help.

TIP: Here are 16 questions you should try and answer if you want to grow your business. Do you have any more specific questions about how to grow your small business – or any comments relating to the above advice? Just drop me a comment below – I promise to reply with something helpful!

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