Your business may actually just be growing on its own – great! But don’t think that you can just let this happen and handle the growth yourself. As little sleep as you now get trying to run the whole show, you will exhaust yourself, do nothing well, and your growth will simply collapse.
E-commerce can be one of the most difficult businesses to scale, especially when selling a product. That requires improved logistics, along with all of the other aspects of growth. And there are several.
Whether your business is “stuck” and you need to give it a jump-start, or your business is already growing and you need to manage it better, here are some tips that should help.
Focus on The Tech Side of Growth
Automation is the key to many of your growth problems, and technology lets you complete many tasks that you have been doing manually. Some of them have already been mentioned – fulfillment centers, social mention tools – but inventory control, payment systems, and sales records should all be within a couple of clicks.
The other aspect of growth is your website – both its look and its capacity. You may be outgrowing your current hosting capabilities. Finding a host that allows scaling as you grow and need more web space, perhaps more websites, greater traffic allowance, etc. will be pretty important.
Finding the right host for scaling is a good start. You also need the right e-commerce platform. You may have a basic website with an adequate program for now. But you now need to explore e-commerce site builders that will scale with you. And there are plenty out there to choose from – those that will provide great design templates, both physical and downloadable products, that will allow segmentation of email lists and even automatic email distribution, support your loyalty programs, have mobile compatibility built in, and provide a state-of-the-art shopping cart and checkout process.
Inject Your Marketing Campaign with Some New Life
Word of mouth advertising may have carried you for quite a while. It brought in new customers. Regularly. After a while, though, it can begin to fizzle out, and if you sell a product that is not consumable and/or frequently re-purchased, you will hit a sales plateau. You have to keep the momentum going by gaining new customers all the time, and this means stepping up your inbound marketing tactics.
- Focus on SEO strategies to drive more people to your website. If you are not adept at this, contract with an SEO strategist, at least on a trial basis. Don’t enter into any long-term contracts with anyone or firm until you see some results.
- Step up your social media campaigns, and add an additional platform or two, if you know that your target audience frequents them. There are so many great tools out there for re-purposing content, you can take the same topic ideas, create text, add photos, videos, and other visuals to accommodate a variety of platforms. And all of this can be done on a very small budget.
- Increase user-generated content for social media platforms. This is far more powerful than your own advertising (and it’s very cheap). Solicit photos and videos from your happy customers using your product(s); use their content on your site, your blog, and all over social media. This can be far more effective than trying to get “name-brand celebrities” as influencers.
- Another top method for digital marketing is still email. According to recent research, over 60% of consumers abandon their shopping carts. Email is a great way to remind them of their carts, as well as offer some extra incentives for them to complete those purchases – free shipping or 25% off if they purchase within the next 24 hours.
- Facebook ads have an average ROI of 152%. Begin a “pay per click” campaign but make it more cost effective by “qualifying” your leads. Try adding special pricing or offering free shipping “for a limited time.” And always test the ads by running the right analytics.
Start Using a Fulfillment Service
If you are still packing and shipping your own product and ignoring other aspects of your business to do so, then you need to “bit the bullet” and find a fulfillment service to use. The time you save can be spent on marketing, improving customer service, and nurturing relationships with existing and potential customers.
If you are not familiar with fulfillment centers, they are places that will store, package and ship your product for you. The process is quite automated. They receive notification directly from your site when a purchase has been made and take care of all the rest. Think of the time it will save.
You may actually save money using a fulfillment center – it gets packing materials at hugely discounted rates, and usually can get better shipping rates.
Beef Up Your Customer Service
One unkind comment about poor customer service, showing up on social media or a review site, can negate hundreds of good customer experiences. Why? Because customers who have good experiences don’t tend to broadcast them. As your business scales, if you have even 1% of your customers posting negative comments, you can be in trouble.
The more customers you have, the more customer service issues you will have – it’s just a natural part of growth. Get ahead of this game by putting the procedures in place to handle customer issues quickly and well. Jay Baer, an expert in sales and marketing, and author of the book Hug Your Haters insists that the reason companies get “bad raps” on social media is not because of their original complaint – it is all about how their complaint was handled.
You need to know whenever you are mentioned on social media or on review sites. There are excellent social mention tools that will do this automatically and alert you whenever your brand is mentions. Access those mentions, thank those who are complimentary, and address those with complaints. Do it publicly right there, so that other readers know you are taking care of the issue.
Consider, too, setting up a customer service center on your site, allowing customers to do a bit of “self-service” in getting their problems solved – far better than sitting on hold. You can respond through private messaging or texts too.
Some Final Thoughts
Certainly, there are lots of other things you need to do to scale your business – new products and services, for example. But the most important factor in any business growth is that the owner must continually find ways to free up his time to actually develop the growth plans and strategies he needs.
Think about what tasks you can delegate – either by employing additional staff, by contracting out services, and by using the latest technology to take over as much as possible. Anything you can delegate or automate takes one more thing off your plate.
And one of the most important tasks you need to keep control of? Taking care of new and loyal customers. Your customers are your business. You want to treat them well, or you can be certain that one of your competitors will.