Growing a business is challenging. In fact, most companies face various hurdles in trying to grow and scale. These hurdles include reaching new customers, finding investors, and effectively hiring, training and integrating new employees among others. But if you follow a streamlined and strategic approach to developing and growing your business, you are far more likely to see long term success.

1) Create a good business plan

A business plan is more than just a document that details market research on your niche. A well conceptualized and executed business plan should also be able to provide greater clarity on the milestones you expect to see, as well as enabling you to make forecasts on how your business will grow.

Without data, finding success for your business becomes a speculative affair. If you do not know what to expect, or what has worked for existing companies and what has not, you are likely to face similar hurdles yourself. A good business plan shows that you have not only gathered the data, but analyzed it so that you can maximize opportunities, and execute your business strategy in a way that allows you to retain more control over how your company grows.

The key data you need in developing a plan are industry, competitor and customer data. For your industry, you should identify the key trends affecting it. This will help you plan for market shifts, and ideally be in a better position to benefit from them than your competitors. The next area of research is with regards to your customers. As explained below, the more you know about your customers, the better you will be able to target and attract them. Pay special attention to the demographic and psychographic make-up of your customers. Finally, be sure to assess your competition. Are they doing anything better than you that you need to improve? Are they unable to offer products or services that you can and thus gain a competitive advantage? Understanding these things will help you grow faster in your industry.

Importantly, you don’t need to create your business plan from scratch as templates might exist. This is particularly true for different sectors. For example, if you’re a nonprofit, you can access a nonprofit business plan template. The same holds true for most sectors.

2) Retain consistency in branding

Your business’ branding is built to draw people in, and make your company instantly recognizable to customers. That is why you need to develop good branding early on. One of the hallmarks of quality branding is that a customer merely needs to look at your logo or overall color scheme to identify the business. Develop an association with your business so that your customers immediately recognize your logo, tagline, or other branding essentials. And once you’ve established the brand, you should not change it without good reason.

In the old days, it was very expensive to develop great logos and effectively brand your company. Today though, there are thousands of great freelancers who could help you develop a great logo and brand in a very cost-effective manner.

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3) Know Your Customer

If you know to whom you are selling your product or service, and what prompts them to buy in your niche, you will be more capable of presenting your business in a way that draws in more customers. For example, if your business sells clothes to young adults, then everything, from the tone of your advertisements to your approach towards expanding your consumer base, should reflect the language and culture of your target audience. On the other hand, a clothing line selling formal wear for working professionals will have a very different tone and approach to marketing than a brand that wants to target trendy youngsters.

Do in-depth research on your customers. What are their likes and dislikes? Who do they follow on social media? The more you know about them the better you will be able to target them with advertising. And when you do target them, when you’re speaking their language, they will be more likely to positively respond to your promotions.

4) Learn from your customers through social media

You can use social media not only to market your products to new audiences but also to directly engage and communicate with existing customers. Having active social media platforms is crucial to fostering engagement and maximizing the traction of your posts. The more traction you have, the more customers you will reach.

You can also use social media to present surveys to customers so you can better understand what they think of your business. Social media is a great tool when used properly, and one of the benefits it gives you is the ability to address customer questions and concerns directly. You should ensure that you are active on your social media pages and that you reply to all messages and questions within a reasonable time.

5) Develop the foundation of your business

While market strategy and data-driven research are essential for the long-term success of your business, the way your business is functioning on the inside is far more important. If your employees are working well, your internal management is smooth, and you maintain quality control over your products, you are more likely to be able to scale your business effectively as a team.

Growing a business requires teamwork as well as a loyal customer base. By developing a business plan, you provide yourself with the opportunity to approach sales and marketing from a data-driven, rather than speculative, perspective. This, in turn, helps you succeed as you can now base your business decisions on your existing knowledge and forecasting ability.

In most cases, it’s a good idea to have your key employees participate in developing your plan. That’s because they will be the ones primarily responsible for achieving the results you desire. Getting their input in the planning process helps them “buy-in” to the plan; that is, because they helped conceive the strategy and identify the goals, they will inevitably work harder in executing the strategy. So, get input from your team and don’t delay – start working on your business plan today and start growing as soon as tomorrow.