After more than 5 years of economic uncertainty, unrealized promises of business growth and motivated consumers, most business owners are more than just a little bit weary of all the “this is going to be the year of the turnaround” predictions. But given the sustained anemic economic business environment of the past, a well formed and realistic strategy for growth in 2014 is essential for business survival. A slow, no growth, bar the door, strategy may no longer be a sufficient to sustain an enterprise into the future. A recently released, 2014 Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project (PPCMP) Survey indicates that 87% of privately held companies with sales under $5 million have growth strategies planned for 2014. In addition to being optimistic about their own growth strategy, most business owners are optimistic about the economic outlook in general. Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that growth opportunities for business will increase over the next 12 months, and more than one-third (35%) think that general business conditions will improve over the next year.
Of course, there are still plenty of businesses not planning to expand, 51% say “economic uncertainty” is the number-one reason they’re holding back. In addition, while capital has become more available than in the recent past, most lenders are only supporting those expansion plans that meet their strict, “gold plated,” performance projections, forcing many to focus inward to the existing business model for growth in the coming year, a sort of “don’t forget what is working” strategy. Whatever the pathway, growth goals and objectives must reflect the real world projections and be flexible to accommodate expected and unexpected changes to performance assumptions.
It is important, especially when just starting out, for a business to find solid footing before moving on to new things. However, once a company is established and its core offerings are profitable, it makes sense to stretch a little. Diversifying business offerings, in the same way an investor diversifies a portfolio, helps increase reach and revenue potential, while decreasing the risk of a single revenue stream. Unfortunately, expansion comes with its own set of risks. Diversifying a company’s offerings across multiple services means that a bad month or two in one area won’t sink the business. It is important to not to neglect the cash cow! Paying too much attention to new areas at the expense of the core services that made the business successful can be a fatal mistake.
Venturing beyond the current core of business experience and expertise may be a lucrative option. The once iron rule of “don’t journey into unfamiliar territory or get into a business that you know little about” is still good advice, but companion business opportunities are a good way to grow a healthy, well performing entity particularly if that entity has a proven, efficient and lean model that can be applied to another parallel or perpendicular universe of products or services.
Regardless of the strategy for growth, digital marketing will need to be an integral part of a 2014 marketing campaign. Consumers have embraced all things digital and mobile and they will continue to seek out and use the new communication technologies when researching and initiating purchasing decisions. According to a recent report conducted by SinglePoint, 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of receipt permitting marketers to effectively reach 90% of their targeted readers, converting those readers into new business. The benefit to small businesses is connectivity with current customers and POTENTIAL customers. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to purchase based upon social media referrals. Building an effective digital marketing program, designed to enhance and grow the brand promise across all existing and future expanded business experiences should be at the center of any strategy for growth in 2014.
Staying lean in business means having everything you need and nothing you don’t. But lean should does not mean stagnant or no growth. Lean requires examination and retooling to find and wipe out inefficiencies and in this challenging business environment, lean has been a necessary element of survival, but even with the continued uncertainty, a measured and relative strategy of growth will ensure sustained business success for 2014 and beyond.