As a small business owner in a unique or highly specialized industry, you know the difficulties of how to grow a small business effectively and increase your customer base.
Whether you’re running a business that offers doggy clean-up services, selling products specifically for left-handed folks, or creating 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.
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.
So, here are a few strategies to help you grow your business in a niche space:
- Get to know your target audience.
- 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 of how to grow a small business in a niche industry is Revelation Pets. By using their experience in pet care, they were able to create a high-end doggy spa and even help start a specialty dog grooming business.
The good news is that the growth strategy Revelation Pets used can be easily used to help any small business, 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 their interest and support.
You want to 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 to the highest percentage of your revenue.
Let’s consider an example. 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 before, let alone one with a full 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 be able to figure out what matters most to them and adjust your marketing strategy.
For example, a few customer profiles for your doggy resort could be:
- Brenda, 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 allow her dogs to spend up to a week or more in your care if needed.
- Tom, a 25-year-old first-time pet owner with a younger dog. He doesn’t have a ton of dog-training experience, so he values the extra obedience services offered by your resort that give his pup structure and an outlet for his dog’s energy during swim time in the pool.
- Jessica, 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 the therapeutic swimming services it provides to her family’s beloved aging pet.
You want to create profiles that apply to your own business and account for the different products and services you have available. This exercise will help 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 businesses, customers can easily figure out what you’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 in this process.
One way you can do this is by sending out a survey to current customers asking a few questions, such as:
- How did you find our business?
- What influenced your decision to choose our business 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 can help 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 through understanding the unique value of your offerings.
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 business to send in a brief review with a few photos that show your business’s impact.
You can then share these reviews on your website and social media pages to show your business’s success to new prospects.
3. Utilize technology to its full potential
Knowing how to grow a small business in today’s world is almost impossible without the assistance of technology. Without a streamlined process for managing your business’s finances and databases, it’s easy to lose track of important files or documents.
Without a dedicated software system, you’re left having to upload data manually and waste valuable time that could be better spent on growing your small business.
Some features to look out for when choosing a software solution for your small business are:
- That all your job and customer data are at your fingertips in one place.
- Accounting integration tools like QuickBooks or Xero to handle finances.
- Digital communication platforms to stay in touch with your team as well as your customers.
- Strong marketing tools that help you convert leads into new clients.
- A customer relationship management (CRM) system to help manage leads and increase your customer retention rate.
Software integrations save you plenty of time and hassle as integrated software solutions increase sales productivity. Your business software should also be able to integrate with the tools you love for a seamless data connection.
4. Take a multichannel marketing approach
Your customers will probably already be familiar with the main idea of what your business is about. But they need more information on the unique offerings and aspects of your niche industry.
Understanding how to grow a small business through a multichannel marketing approach will expand your reach and turn more leads into paying customers.
For example, if your small business offers field service solutions such as lawn care and landscaping services, you have to consider how to position yourself in the lawn care market. And 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 yard.
This is where how to grow a small business through multichannel marketing comes in. According to AccuData’s digital marketing resource, 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 shown in the doggy resort example above.
A multichannel approach can help you reach audiences and tailor your messaging to different groups of your audience. 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. Include keywords that align with your products or services within 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 internal blog posts on your website.
This way, you can 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 within a specialized industry requires you to think outside of your business. Get involved in community events and programs that allow you to 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.
By participating in annual community events such as holiday markets or events like Small Business Saturday, you can introduce your niche products and services to the community and get more people interested in what you have to offer.
Corporate social responsibility
Additionally, learn how to grow a small business by creating a corporate social responsibility program. This develops a stronger relationship with your community and marks your business as a community supporter.
Through these activities, you’ll not only do some good in the community but also gain access to prospective new customers.
Both of these ideas introduce a larger community to the specialized offerings of your niche business, allowing you to foster stronger relationships and grow your customer base.
6. Focus on scalability
As you reach your goal 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 always want to think about hiring more staff, increasing your store size, and expanding your services or product line.
The best way to stay on track when it comes to scaling is to use a software solution to automate the majority of your manual admin tasks. This can include:
- Scheduling and dispatching jobs.
- 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.
Using business management software will give you time back into your workweek to focus on amping up your marketing efforts and 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 having a plan for emergencies, mistakes, or any other unforeseen 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 team members, make sure you have adequate coverage if members are sick or can’t work.
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 expand your 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, 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 scaling 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 will drive your success in gaining new customers and impressing your current ones.
This means that you want to become a memorable brand, and when people think of your niche industry, they think specifically of your brand.
The 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 your customers a reason to come back to your business repeatedly.
For loyal customers, you should offer private discounts or products and services and even a chance to win prizes.
Lastly, it’s always a great idea to remind your customers about your business expansion milestones. This can mean posting on social media about your business anniversaries as it shows gratitude for your customers.
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.
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. Ask for customer feedback to find out what your customers think of new products, changes in branding, and their overall customer experience.
- Have a source of cash to use in case of emergencies and have when growth opportunities arise.
- Consider working with other businesses and building partnerships. This can mean selling your products in other stores or working with another company to cross-sell your services or products.
Recap: How to grow a small business in a niche industry
It will take some time and a lot of elbow grease to learn how to grow a small business in a niche industry.
But to recap, here are some areas to focus on when growing your small business:
- Focus on getting to know your target audience and engaging them on a more personal level to grow your small business.
- Empower your team and workflows with technology that works the way you do.
- Multiple marketing touchpoints across channels will help you win more customers.
- Engage with your niche audience at community events and through charitable work.
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