As a small business owner in a unique or highly specialized industry, you know the difficulties of learning how to grow a small business and increase your customer base.
Whether you offer doggy cleaning services, sell products specifically for left-handed folks, or create sword and fencing classes for kids, you know you’ve got a great product or service that improves people’s lives.
The challenging part for small business owners is facing a disconnect when it comes to marketing their products and services to new customers.
So, let’s take a look at ten ways outlining how to grow a small business and improve your bottom line.
How to grow a small business in a niche industry
To grow a small business in a niche industry, you must:
- Understand your target market.
- Figure out how to communicate with them better.
- Go above and beyond to engage your business in the local community.
- Increase customer retention.
- Practice corporate social responsibility.
- Form strategic partnerships.
But the question remains — how? So, here are ten strategies to help you grow:
- Get to know your target audience.
- Create a product/service that is focused on customer needs.
- Highlight the value of your offer.
- Use technology to its full potential.
- Take a multichannel marketing approach.
- Get involved in community efforts.
- Focus on scalability.
- Always have a backup plan.
- Stay focused on your core strengths.
- Focus on your branding.
One example that highlights how to grow a small business in a niche industry is Revelation Pets. Using their experience in pet care, they created a high-end doggy spa and even helped start a specialty dog grooming business.
The good news is that any small business can use Revelation Pets’ growth strategy — not just those in the pet industry. The key to their successful marketing plan is to stay flexible and adapt each growth strategy tip to your specific situation.
Let’s get into the “how” of how to grow a small business!
1. Understand your target audience
The first step to growing your small business is to know who you’re selling to. From there, you can figure out how to gain and retain your audience’s interest and support.
Focus on getting long-term customers that will stick with your product or service year after year. Repeat customers spend 67% more than new ones and contribute the highest percentage of your revenue.
Sticking with our previous example, let’s say you own and operate a doggy resort and daycare business called the Pampered Pooch Emporium, and you have the only pet swimming pool in town.
You know your target market consists of dog owners, but plenty of people own dogs and have never used a doggy resort service — let alone one with a whole swimming pool.
You need to figure out which members of your overall target audience will be interested in your services and how you can help them understand the value of your small business. To start, you should create customer profiles to define your target audience.
By creating profiles based on your current customers and the leads you’re hoping to reach, you’ll develop a strategy that adapts to market changes and figure out what matters most to your target customer.
A successful business diversifies its product or service offerings when needed. For example, you might notice that your customers don’t have time to bathe their pets after picking them up from your resort. In this case, it might be worth it for you to diversify your services to also handle in-house grooming, as the service would be convenient for your customers and profitable for you.
Here are some customer profiles your doggy resort might have:
- Brenda is a 50-year-old lawyer with a demanding career. She’s often away on business throughout the week and needs a place for her two dogs to spend the day when she’s gone. She values your doggy resort for its convenient location and flexible packages that let her dogs spend up to a week or more in your care if needed.
- Tom is a 25-year-old first-time pet owner with a younger dog. He has little dog-training experience, so he values the extra obedience services offered by your resort that give his pup structure. He also appreciates that you provide an outlet for his dog’s energy during swim time in the pool.
- Jessica is a 30-year-old teacher with two kids and an older dog. Her dog has shown a few health problems, such as chronic arthritis. She values your business for its therapeutic swimming services to her family’s beloved, aging pet.
You want to create profiles that apply to your own business and account for your available products and services. This exercise helps you understand how to grow a small business by pinpointing your target market.
2. Highlight the value of your offer
Next, you must effectively communicate what your business offers to your target audience.
For some companies, customers can quickly figure out what they’re selling. For instance, if you run a store that sells only left-hand-oriented products, it’s clear your customer base is left-handed people.
However, it may not be so obvious for other niche businesses. For instance, sticking with the doggy resort example, many dog owners who use the services of pet resorts are unfamiliar with the benefits of a doggy swimming pool.
Along with analyzing your customer profiles, you can reach out to your current customer base for assistance. This helps you adjust your pricing strategy and develop sustainable practices to stay competitive.
One way you can do this is by sending out a survey to current customers asking questions such as:
- How did you find our business?
- What influenced your decision to choose our company over competitors?
- What aspects of our business do you value the most (convenience, affordability, the fact that we’re the only provider in town, etc.)?
- What platforms do you prefer to use to get updates from our business?
These questions help you identify what your customers appreciate most about your business. You can then incorporate this data into your marketing strategy and learn how to grow a small business in your industry by understanding the unique value of your offerings. Make sure to establish a comprehensive quality assurance process to prevent bad reviews.
To better market your business and illustrate your value to potential customers, you should also request testimonials from your current customers. Ask customers who’ve had a great experience with your company to send you a brief review with a few photos showing your business’ impact.
You can then share these reviews on your website and social media pages to show your business’ success to new prospects. A company that leverages social media effectively drives far more engagement.
3. Utilize technology to its full potential
Nowadays, knowing how to grow a small business is almost impossible without the assistance of technology. Without a simplified process for managing your business’ finances and databases, it’s easy to lose track of important files or documents.
This is why a dedicated software system is beneficial. Otherwise, you’re left having to upload data manually and waste valuable time that is better spent on growing your small business.
Some features to look out for when choosing a software solution are:
- Integrations to keep your job and customer data at your fingertips in one place.
- Accounting tools like QuickBooks or Xero to improve financial management.
- Digital communication platforms to stay in touch with your team and your customers.
- Strong marketing functionality that utilizes data analytics for informed decisions and helps you convert leads into new clients.
- A customer relationship management (CRM) system to help manage leads and increase your customer retention rate.
Technology saves you plenty of time and hassle as integrated solutions increase sales productivity. Your business software should also be able to integrate with existing tools you know and love for a seamless data ecosystem.
4. Take a multichannel marketing approach
Chances are, your customers are already familiar with what your business is generally about. However, they need more information on your unique offerings and the aspects of your niche industry.
Understanding how to grow a small business through a multichannel marketing approach expands your reach and turns more leads into paying customers.
On the other hand, if your niche is designing and planting tropical landscaping elements, you need to make it clear to your customers why palm trees or bird-of-paradise plants are best for their yards.
This is where knowing how to grow a small business through multichannel marketing comes in. Our research indicates that a multichannel marketing approach is most effective because you can increase the number of touchpoints you have with your audience and build awareness of your unique offerings.
As a niche business, you may have a wider range of customer demographics, as addressed in the doggy resort example above.
A multichannel approach helps you reach audiences and tailor your messaging to different groups. For example, younger members of your audience may be drawn to flashy social media videos, while older demographics might prefer simpler email communications.
To account for these varying preferences, market your services across digital platforms such as:
- Your social media pages. Share product information, customer testimonials, user-generated content, and any promotions you have going on.
- Your email newsletter. Since customers may not be as familiar with your niche industry, share information directly with them via your email newsletter.
- Your website. Design your website with search engine optimization (SEO) tactics in mind to push your content to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Include keywords that align with your products or services in your web pages to boost your pages’ rankings in search results.
Take a balanced approach by coupling paid marketing efforts, such as paid social media ads and Google Ads, with free marketing avenues like organic social media posts and blog posts on your website.
This way, you combine your organic marketing efforts with more targeted paid advertisements for a well-rounded digital marketing approach.
5. Get involved in community efforts
Figuring out how to grow a small business in a specialized industry requires you to think outside of your business. An entrepreneur who stays updated with industry trends is one who:
- Participates in trade shows and events.
- Engages with the local community.
- Collaborates with industry partners.
Hire a team that networks with other entrepreneurs and businesses well. Leadership that seeks mentorship and expert advice inspires their team and gathers more resources to scale their business. Some entrepreneurs offer business mentoring with valuable tips and insights.
Collaboration and partnerships get you involved in community events and programs that let you introduce your business to a wider audience and position yourself as a community supporter.
Two easy ways to get involved in your community are through annual events and corporate social responsibility programs. Promote your brand by sponsoring such events or partnering with the organizers to benefit a cause. You’ll be able to use that event’s attention to your advantage while painting a positive picture of your company that customers can relate to.
By participating in annual community events such as holiday markets or regular events like Small Business Saturday, you can introduce your niche products and services to the community and get more people interested in what you offer. A business that explores new market segments and expands to new locations or markets generates more leads and opportunities.
Employ a business strategy that invests in marketing and promotion to drive profitability and stay top of mind. And a company that establishes a unique brand identity accomplishes this best. You want to make an impact on prospective customers and partners by having a brand that differentiates from competitors.
Corporate social responsibility
Additionally, learn how to grow a small business by creating or joining a corporate social responsibility program. This is a networking opportunity that helps you develop a stronger relationship with your community and marks your business as a community supporter.
Through these activities, you’ll do some good in the community while you gain access to new prospective customers.
Both of these ideas introduce a larger community to the specialized offerings of your niche business so you can foster stronger relationships and grow your customer base.
6. Focus on scalability
As you implement new expansion strategies and reach your goals on how to grow a small business, you want to continue to focus on scaling even when you think you’ve got enough customers to keep you busy. You should invest in:
- Product/service diversification.
- Employee training and development.
- Innovation and adaptation.
- Sustainable practices.
The best way to stay on track when it comes to scaling is to employ workflow automation, which streamlines operations for efficiency. Use a software solution to automate the majority of your manual admin tasks, including:
- Scheduling and dispatching jobs.
- Ordering materials, equipment, parts, etc.
- Invoicing customers as well as invoice reminders.
- Connecting your CRM to your accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero.
- Having automated routes for onsite jobs to save gas, mileage, and time.
Manual tasks help you get by at the beginning of your journey. But once you start learning how to grow a small business and implementing effective strategies, ineffective processes become a roadblock very fast.
A company that optimizes its supply chain and automates its processes based on best industry practices develops a solid platform for growth.
Using business management software also gives you time back into your workweek to focus on things like:
- Amping up your marketing and branding efforts.
- Growing your digital presence.
- Finding new ways to attract customers to your niche industry.
7. Always have a backup plan
When learning how to grow a small business, consider the risks. You want to avoid making mistakes at all costs, but they will unavoidably happen. This is especially true as your business sees rapid growth and becomes more complex.
That is why strategizing for emergencies, mistakes, and any other issues will help you avoid these unavoidable problems.
Some ways to prepare a backup plan include:
- Having an emergency fund in case certain business decisions don’t go as planned.
- Have email templates and social media post templates ready for any issues your business faces that your customers on your email list need to know.
- If your business relies heavily on your employees, enact an onboarding plan that prioritizes employee training and development to invest in hiring the best talent. A happy and savvy team is a great safety net during uncertain times.
- Don’t be afraid to evolve and innovate if your original plan is going differently than expected.
8. Stay focused on your core strengths
You’re attracting a very specific audience to your niche business. This means that it is crucial to stay focused on your core strengths and remember what will drive the majority of your profits.
It might be enticing to venture into new industries or launch new products or services quickly, but you need to make sure you have adequate funds for your core products and services to retain your customers long-term.
Once you’ve got a strong customer base and can give your customers the product or service they need reliably, you can begin to venture into how to grow a small business with additional funds.
9. Focus on your branding
While you may have a niche business, you might not be the only one with your business idea as times change. This is especially true when your business starts to scale quickly. That’s when others see your niche’s success and start their own business in those industries.
Learning how to grow a small business by focusing on your branding drives your success in gaining new customers and impressing your current ones.
This means that you want to become a memorable brand. When people think of your niche industry, you want them to think specifically of your brand.
Your customer experience is a great way for you to remind your customers why they should choose your business every time.
You can further push your brand out to your customers and potential clients by creating a customer loyalty program. This gives people a reason to come back to your business repeatedly.
For loyal customers, you should offer private discounts such as free delivery or exclusive products and services — maybe even the opportunity to win prizes.
Lastly, it’s always a great idea to remind your customers about your business expansion milestones. For example, you can post on social media about your business anniversaries and look back at how you’ve grown. This shows your evolution and gratitude for your customers.
10. Use the #1 lead-to-cash automation tool for QuickBooks and Xero users
With Method:CRM, you can grow your small business by making the most of every opportunity. With its automation tools and seamless, two-way sync with your accounting software, you speed up your lead-to-cash process with Method. Try for free.
Bonus: Tips to keep in mind as you focus on business growth
Growth takes time, and while it won’t happen in a day, you can create a framework to learn how to grow a small business in your niche.
Some tips to keep in mind as you grow your idea into a profitable business are:
- Focus on finding out what your audience is looking for. A successful business owner seeks feedback and continuously improves with customer interactions. Find out what your customers think of new products, changes in branding, and their overall customer experience.
- Have a source of additional money to use in case of emergencies and when growth opportunities arise.
- Consider working with other businesses and building partnerships. This might mean selling your products in other stores or working with another company to cross-sell your services or products.
Growth for small businesses vs. big businesses—What’s the difference?
The primary distinctions between the growth strategies of small businesses and big businesses lie in their:
- Organizational structure.
Management structure and hierarchy
- Flexible and agile: Small businesses often have a flat organizational structure, allowing for quick decision-making and adaptability to changes.
- Direct communication: Communication lines are shorter, fostering direct interaction between team members and leadership.
- Hands-on approach: Owners and managers are frequently involved in day-to-day operations, even if they outsource a service. They wear multiple hats to address various business needs.
- Hierarchical structure: Large companies typically have a more complex organizational hierarchy with multiple layers of management.
- Specialized roles: Roles are often highly specialized, and decision-making is generally a more extended process involving multiple departments.
- Delegated responsibilities: Top-level executives focus on strategic planning and decision-making, while lower-level managers handle day-to-day operations.
- Niche focus: Small businesses often serve a specific niche or local market, allowing for personalized services and strong community connections.
- Customer relationships: Building personal relationships with customers is a key strategy, as customer loyalty plays a significant role in growth.
- Adaptability: Small businesses can quickly pivot their offerings based on the specific needs and preferences of their target audience.
- Mass appeal: Large corporations often target broad markets, aiming for a wide customer base.
- Brand recognition: Building a strong brand and maintaining a consistent image across diverse markets is crucial for large businesses.
- Market research: Extensive market research guides strategies, and bigger businesses have the resources to focus on and analyze trends and preferences across different demographics.
- Bootstrapping: Because of limited funds, bootstrapping is when a small business manages finances wisely and reinvests profits to fund initial operations and growth.
- Local financing: Local banks, credit unions, and small business loans are common sources of capital.
- Investment from owners: Owners often contribute their personal funds to support business expansion.
- Public funding: Large companies may access public financial markets through initial public offerings (IPOs) to raise substantial capital.
- Corporate bonds: Issuing corporate bonds is a common method for big businesses to secure long-term financing.
- Bank loans: Established relationships with major banks let large corporations secure hefty loans for various purposes.
How to measure business growth
Key metrics to measure business growth are:
- Revenue growth: Both small and big businesses track revenue growth as a fundamental indicator of success.
- Profit margins and sales volume: Evaluating profit margins and sales volume helps assess financial health and tells you whether you should focus on creating more efficient operations.
- Customer retention: Building and retaining a loyal customer base is a shared priority for businesses of all sizes.
- Market share: Big businesses often focus on conducting a competitive analysis to determine their market share, while small businesses may target a larger share within their specific niche.
Recap: How to grow a small business in a niche industry
It takes time and elbow grease to effectively learn how to grow a small business in a niche industry. Whether you’re in wholesale and distribution, manufacturing, retail, or any other type of business, you should identify the challenges that are unique to your niche.
But to recap, here are some areas to focus on when growing your small business:
- Get to know your target audience and engage them on a more personal level.
- Empower your team and workflows with technology that works the way you do.
- Employ multiple marketing touchpoints across channels to win more customers.
- Engage with your niche audience at community events and through charitable work.
How to grow a small business: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How can I grow my business with a low budget?
Growing your business on a tight budget is totally feasible! Start by diving into cost-effective ways to create and distribute your products or services, such as establishing partnerships with other small businesses.
Take advantage of networking opportunities within your community and group of friends, collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs, and attend local events to expand your connections.
Word of mouth is a game-changer, so make sure your team offers exceptional customer service and encourages satisfied customers to spread the good word through:
- Online and offline communities.
- Social media engagement.
- Customer feedback.
Thriving on a budget is all about smart strategies and making every dollar count.
Can your small business do well on Instagram?
Absolutely! Instagram can be a game-changer for your small business. One key is visual storytelling — show off your products or services in a way that captivates your audience. Whether it’s through vibrant images or creative videos, make it visually appealing to grab attention. There are loads of resources available online to learn about design and social media.
Don’t just post and run. Make sure you:
- Engage with your community.
- Respond to comments.
- Participate in conversations.
- Build a sense of community around your brand.
Use strategic hashtags to amplify your reach and connect with users interested in what you offer.
Also, consider collaborations with influencers or businesses that complement yours to broaden your audience and promote credibility. And don’t forget about Instagram ads — they let you target specific demographics and reach a wider audience effectively.
What makes a startup successful?
When it comes to startup success, it’s all about standing out: a successful startup fosters a culture of innovation.
Clearly define your unique value proposition (UVP) — what makes your startup unique? Dive deep into market research to understand your target audience’s:
- Pain points.
Stay agile and open to feedback, as the ability to adapt based on market responses and customer insights is crucial. A strong leader who inspires and navigates through challenges is a key ingredient.
And, of course, strategic planning is your backbone. Strategize a comprehensive business plan that sets clear and achievable goals, along with flexible tactics to reach them.
How do you increase sales?
Boosting sales involves a mix of strategies. Start by identifying specific customer segments and tailor your marketing messages and offerings to meet their needs.
Invest in sales training to ensure your team effectively communicates the value of your products or services and addresses customer concerns. Explore upselling and cross-selling opportunities to encourage customers to upgrade or add complementary products to their purchases.
Implementing customer loyalty programs is a powerful way to retain customers: you can offer rewards and incentives to keep them coming back.
Finally, a business that builds a strong online presence with a user-friendly website and active social media profiles drives more sales. A strong online presence helps attract and convert potential customers to boost sales.
Looking for more info on how to grow a small business? Check out this ebook for additional strategies!
Image credit: Lightfield Studios via Adobe Stock