Many of us have made resolutions for 2018 – to break bad habits, to complete unfinished projects, or to attain worthy goals. If you own a business, perhaps those New Year resolutions include growing your company and making more money.
So exactly how can you increase sales and profits?
What’s “right” for you will depend on the products or services you offer as well as on the resources you are prepared to invest – in money, time, and energy. To get started, here are 10 tips to consider:
1. Expand online – consumers increasingly research and buy on the internet, so it’s essential for your company to have an effective online presence. This means having an attractive, interactive website that includes an e-commerce feature for easy, convenient online buying. Also consider opening an eBay store, especially for overstock items. And because expenses for internet sales are usually lower, you can benefit from higher profitability.
2. Diversify – expand your products or services in ways that complement and enhance your current offerings. For example, photographers and artists can provide a framing service to attractively display their finished work. A restaurant might start catering for corporate events and special occasions -- or it can sell selected menu items, such as special sauces and salad dressings, onsite or at local grocery stores.
3. Offer an integrated solution – make it easier for consumers to buy and to benefit. For example, if you sell a product that has specialized uses – such as for medical conditions or for home improvement – conduct training classes either in person or online to teach people how to better use your product. You can also expand your offerings with product monitoring or service plans so customers increase their interaction with you and your products.
4. Referrals – the best source for new customers is often existing customers. Establish a formal “referral program” that rewards clients with gift cards or with a substantial discount on their future orders when they recommend people who make purchases from you. Be sure to remind your customers occasionally that they can help themselves by helping you.
Another way to get referrals is by networking. Attend meetings of the Chamber of Commerce or become the sponsor of a high-visibility local fundraising event.
5. Adapt – tweak your product so it appeals to a new group of consumers. For example, if you sell a high-end item, develop a less expensive version. Similarly, if you now offer a low-cost product or service, add new features for buyers who want more and are willing to pay for it.
6. Add another location – if your current sites are performing well, think about adding additional locations. And if you now sell exclusively online, consider adding a bricks-and-mortar store.
7. Merge or form a strategic alliance -- two is bigger than one and it can also be better, especially if integrating operations enables you to reduce costs and improve quality. Compile a list of companies that are similar to yours or that have offerings complementary to yours, then contact the owner of each firm to explore a sales and marketing alliance or perhaps even for one company to acquire the other.
8. Expand internationally -- can you import any products that complement your offerings or can you export your product to foreign markets? To research these opportunities, including the various legal and governmental issues involved, contact the U.S. office of a company that has its headquarters in the country you have targeted. You can also reach out to an American company that is already doing business in your targeted country.
Still other resources are companies that specialize in overseas distribution or in being the U.S. representative for foreign-based companies. Finally, don’t forget there are many government programs that encourage export and may be available to help you, including the Export-Import Bank of the United States plus certain SBA loan guarantees.
9. Follow the growth – certain parts of the country may have demographics that are attractive for your product or may offer tax incentives to attract new companies. Consider one of these areas for opening a branch office or a distribution center.
10. Pursue government contracts -- local, state, and federal government agencies may have contract work available that’s appropriate for your company. Check with the local SBA office or with the Small Business Development Center for details. Be sure to ask about special quotas for minorities, women, and small businesses.
The start of a year is typically a time of optimism – and for business owners, the start of 2018 can also be a time of opportunity. All best wishes for turning your good plans into great results!
Navin Shah is Chairman of Royal Hotel Investments, which owns and operates two hotels in Covington and one in Conyers. He is also Vice Chairman of Embassy National Bank, a community bank in Lawrenceville that he helped establish in 2007 and has become one of the leading SBA lenders in the southeast.