Are you ready to make your small business a little larger? The first thing you’ll need is a plan. As the owner of a new business, you should be well acquainted with the virtues of business plans. You likely created a robust plan that helped take your idea from the drawing board to reality. Now, you’ll need to employ that same strategy and focus for your business’s growth aspirations. Using your original business plan as the jump-off point, identify specific goals for the next 6–12 months. Possible focuses include: Selecting new business locationsExpanding product or service linesDeveloping a broader customer baseBolstering your marketing strategyPurchasing new equipment These decisions should be guided by due diligence. It doesn’t matter whether your business has been around for decades or only recently took down its “Grand Opening” banners, it’s essential for you to have a plan. And every effective plan is fueled by research. “Before you even start growing your business, you need to do some research,” advises Forbes. “You need to know what your business is capable of doing with its money and other resources available. Assess your business. Look at all the analytics, stats, and accounting records that are available to you. Analyze how your business has done in the past. And when possible, make projections of how you think your business will do in the future, such as sales projections.” Guided by your intel, you’ll be able to outline a plan. In its simplest form, this growth plan will answer basic questions such as: Why do I want my business to grow?How can I make that growth happen?What is my timeline?How much money will my efforts require?How will I fund my efforts? Addressing these topics will guide you to the tactics needed to bring your goals to life. You’ll notice that the information you’re gathering is similar to what you used to formulate your initial business plan. In many ways, a growth plan is simply an evolution of the business plan you used to launch your business—it’s like a multistage rocket, where the initial plan gave you the propulsion needed to launch into the atmosphere. Now, that booster drops off and the next stage kicks in to guide you into a higher orbit. “We often make the mistake of thinking of a business plan as a single document that you just put together when you're first starting out and then set aside,” says a planning guide from The Balance Small Business. “Something to check off the to-do list and be done with. But in actuality, the business plan for any business will change over time as the business develops, and any particular business may have multiple business plans as its objectives change. In the growth phase, an updated business plan is useful for forecasting or raising additional capital for expansion.” By viewing your plan as an organic tool that guides you through each phase of your business’s journey, you’ll be able to stay organized, motivated, and successful. Funding Your Growth The details in your plan will help you to narrow the search for ideal funding sources. For example, if your timeline is tight, you’ll need to look at financing with fast approvals. If your efforts come with a hefty price tag, you should focus on financing that is designed for larger purchases. There’s typically a wide range of financing products available to small business owners. Each of these financing products has strengths and weaknesses, so it’s essential for you to review all the options carefully before signing on the dotted line. When done right, you’ll be able to navigate the loan process with confidence. Tactics for Your Business Growth You likely already have some ideas for how to spur your business’s growth—other ideas will only come through research and analysis. Remember that the most successful plans incorporate numerous tactics working simultaneously rather than homing in on just one. It’s best to use a tiered approach. “Growth strategies resemble a kind of ladder, where lower-level rungs present less risk but maybe less quick-growth impact,” says Inc. “The bottom line for small businesses, especially startups, is to focus on those strategies that are at the lowest rungs of the ladder and then gradually move your way up as needed. As you go about developing your growth strategy, you should first consider the lower rungs of what are known as Intensive Growth Strategies. Each new rung brings more opportunities for fast growth, but also more risk.” Here is a quick look at some possible tactics that could help you to reach your goals: 1. Build Your Email List Your business will need to expand its leads in order to thrive. Start growing your email list today by offering a lead magnet, like an exclusive discount or free sample, to your customers. Continue to cultivate your email list with ongoing offers that make them feel valued. 2. Pay Attention To Your Reviews A bad review posted by a good writer can quickly generate notoriety for your business. Always monitor what’s being said online about your business. Highlight the positive reviews to spur growth and respond quickly and fairly to any negative reviews to mitigate the damage and turn the bad press into a positive moment. Modern consumers rely on reviews for nearly every type of purchase. The number of reviews actually matters as much, or more, than the content of the review. So you should make it easy for your customers to leave feedback. 3. Focus On Your Customer Base It’ll be necessary to chase new customers during the growth phase, but never forget the people who keep you in business. Keep your base engaged with special promotions and value-adds. When done right, you can actually see business growth tied directly to your existing base. When issues arise, act fast to seek out resolutions. The longer you let complaints fester, the larger they become. You’ll be surprised how often you can diffuse anger with a sincere apology—and every time you bring peace to a tense situation is likely a scathing review dodged. 4. Leverage Social Media You should always communicate in the specific places where your customers are listening—and social media is a prime location. Use research to find the most impactful channels and then implement your findings to attract new customers and engage your base. 5. Partner Up You can strengthen your position in the industry and connect with new customers by collaborating with a non-competing company. Look for ways to form a partnership that adds value to the customer bases from both businesses. 6. Keep Track Of Everything Implementing your growth plan can take a lot of time and effort, but don’t forget to dedicate time to tracking its results. Data can become the fuel that drives most successful campaigns. For example, a simple tool such as Facebook’s Creative Compass allows you to identify effective ad headlines and imagery—so you can double down on your successes. 7. Make Your Offerings More Attractive Perhaps it’s not enough to do a better job of telling people about your products or services—maybe the most growth would come from improving them. Evaluate your offerings and look for ways to innovate on your ongoing successes, which will help you to rise above the competition and attract more conversions. 8. Get Everyone On Board When you think about growth, much of your energy extends outside the walls of your business. But don’t underestimate how important it is to get your employees involved. Ask them for growth ideas, thank them for their contributions, and implement their best suggestions. When your team feels like they have a stake in the plan, they’ll work harder to carry it out. 9. Identify Quick Wins Start with the low-hanging fruit. By choosing initiatives that don’t cost as much money and offer a bigger return, you can start building the momentum necessary to implement some of your more ambitious strategies. It’s ideal when multiple initiatives can coexist—just be careful not to overload yourself, which only dilutes your effectiveness. 10. Make Your Invoices Accurate and Clear Let’s start with one of the most direct ways to make more money: asking for it. Many small business owners undercharge on their bills, which leads to less money coming through the door and awkward conversations down the road. On the other end of the spectrum, it also does you no good to overbill. While you may get a quick jolt to your cash flow, there’s no lasting benefit. Take the time to bill as accurately as possible and you’ll streamline the process—and reduce the need for collections and drama on the back end. 11. Talk Like an Expert A good friend once said that any person can become a guru on any topic they desire. To prove his point, he shared numerous videos of himself being interviewed on national and international news programs during the Tour de France. “I really like cycling,” he said. “But it’s not like I know that much more about it than any other fan of the tour. I just put my name out there as someone worth talking to, and the interview requests started to trickle in. Now I get interviewed every year and am considered an expert on it.” How exactly do you go about establishing yourself as a subject matter expert? Start by creating an account with Help a Reporter Out. This platform connects reporters from top news agencies with people who know what they’re talking about. As a business owner, you obviously have experience and skills in your field—so don’t neglect this chance to showcase your talents and draw new customers to your business. Another way to reach new audiences with your expertise is through tutorials and other helpful digital content. For example, you could create YouTube videos that show how to use your products and offer insights into common questions related to your industry. 12. Seek Trusted Advice Be sure to lean on your colleagues, partners, and mentors during this time. The stronger your network, the higher your chances for success. “When you’re growing your business, you might become protective,” cautions Forbes. “You might want to do everything yourself to protect your business from outsiders and big changes. But, this protection could hurt your business. If you try to do everything yourself, you can become burnt out. And without outside input, you might not have the necessary creativity to grow your business. You have people you can rely on to help you get things done. Your employees can do many of the tasks in your business. You can hire independent contractors to help. You might also seek help from business experts and local business owners who already have experience with what you’re trying to do.” As you enlist your supporters and focus on high-impact strategies, you’ll be able to generate sustainable growth. By tracking results and identifying your winning ideas, you can hone your efforts and get the biggest bang for your buck. Most importantly, the data you compile through your tracking will ultimately create a playbook for future initiatives. Remember, your business plan should be an organic document that is continually updated and refined. Every win you experience today can lead to multiple wins in the future—producing the momentum needed to truly take your small business to the next level.