Tips for positioning your company for successful expansion (part one)

There’s no doubt that UK small businesses are driving economic growth. Research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that although high-growth small businesses represent just 1% of UK businesses and only 3.4% of the total UK economy, they generated 36% of UK economic growth in 2014 and created two in three new jobs (68%) between 2012 and 2013.

The key, however, is in making sure your company’s growth is sustainable. It requires a proactive and strategic approach to expansion, so you outperform market trends and smash the competition, but without overextending your resources or reducing the service levels you provide.

There’s no point in your sales team winning lots of new business if you don’t have the infrastructure to service and retain it. Research by Mintel revealed businesses that approach marketing by building the proper foundation see a 42% increase in effectiveness and return on investment.

In this blog (part one) and the next (part two) we’ll be looking at 6 steps to ensure you have the infrastructure in place to expand effectively and sustainably. The first 3 steps are:

Articulate your brand and proposition

Does what you say about yourself reflect your future business? If your company has relied on organic growth, chances are your branding hasn’t evolved to keep pace with the change. It’s very common for high-growth small businesses to have a logo, visual identity and key messages that are out of date.

The problem with this scenario is that your first impression (such as your website, brochure, etc) doesn’t reflect who you actually are. You therefore find yourself in situations where prospects will say to your sales people, ‘I had no idea you did all that from looking at your website.’ And there will be prospects who you never meet, or never know anything about, because your brand and proposition doesn’t reflect how you help customers achieve their goals or overcome their challenges.

In many cases, there will be new players that look and sound better than you, even though you know they offer an inferior product or service.

Thus, when you’re preparing for expansion you need to make sure your brand communicates the story you want to tell, so that you resonate with a target audience that knows nothing about you and is going to be comparing you to an incumbent or other potential suppliers. (For tips on how to make an impact on customers and stand out from the competition, download Cognition’s guide, ‘Creating a Brand.’ )

Define your universe of new prospects

To expand successfully you need to fill in the detail between knowing there’s a big untapped market out there and knowing who the specific companies and decision makers are that will help make that expansion a reality.

Let’s take an example of a Midlands-based manufacturer. You have a solid book of repeat orders for your widget and you’re selling them into the key Midlands original equipment manufacturers, to the point where you’ve saturated the region. The next logical step is to expand beyond the Midlands, because you know there’s business to be had nationally. But who do you approach first?

This is where good market intelligence is worth its weight in gold. Rather than going for a scattergun approach, the right data enables you to target your sales and marketing resource to where the likeliest prospects are, so you can focus on those who will offer your business the greatest lifetime value. (For more information on defining your customers, read Cognition’s blog, ‘4 steps to ensure you have the right customers.’)

Taking our manufacturer example, an analysis of registered companies and their finances might show there is a high concentration of original equipment manufacturers taking on new projects in the North West, but that those projects are driven by public grants and have long procurement processes. As a result, you might be better off targeting smaller companies in Yorkshire that will be purchasing lower volumes, but will give you a lower cost of sale and more repeat business.

Get a customer database

Once you know your universe, you need to have the IT infrastructure in place to track your sales and marketing activity. That comes in the form of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. There are lots of systems out there with a range of functionality. The important thing is that you have a way of tracking the people you have contact with, and how they interact with your sales and marketing.

Think of your CRM system as a barrel. Once you’ve identified your universe, you get the contact details for the decision makers at all the prospect companies and put them in that barrel. You can target them with the right message at the right time, so that the greatest possible proportion of those contacts convert into customers.

What’s next?

We hope this has been helpful in understanding the first steps to positioning your company for successful expansion. Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll run through generating awareness of your business, putting cost-effective lead generation activity in place and loving your customers to death.

By Tim Witcherley, Cognition Agency

You read more marketing tips by downloading any of Cognition’s free eguides.

Cognition is a full-service marketing agency and a Funding Circle borrower. It’s known for its commercial approach, linking marketing activity to revenue and growth.

If you’re interested in taking out a Funding Circle business loan, you can apply online at anytime.

Rob McCorquodale