You may have a great product, outstanding customer service and a steady flow of customers, but if each year the numbers look the same, your business has stalled. This sort of predicament can only sustain a flat line in growth for so long before it begins to die.
When this plateau occurs, a common knee-jerk reaction may be to get more aggressive with marketing or look for an infusion of capital to reinvest in your business. However, before you invest more in marketing or take on unnecessary debt, consider the following seven reasons why your business may not be growing.
Chasing whales. If we learned anything from Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, it was don’t let the pursuit of the whale drag you under.
While on paper a big contract looks very appealing, the energy and resources required to attract, win and keep those once-in-a-blue-moon opportunities could put your entire company at risk.
Instead of having your livelihood hinge on a few large pieces of business, why not focus on servicing a smaller, steady base of clients? With small businesses making up 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms according to the SBA, know that there’s plenty of opportunity to go around.
Tracking down overdue payments. Along with prompting awkward conversations with customers, chasing overdue payments costs valuable time you could be spending on more profitable tasks.
Two ways to improve the speed and efficiency of payments without causing a negative brand experience with your customers is to use automated reminders that gently nudge clients when they’re past due and enable them to pay online using technology such as Stripe, PayPal or Braintree.
Investing in more technology than you need. A lot of software that’s marketed to small businesses is overkill for today’s entrepreneur. Why pay for all that functionality that you won’t use?
Look for free or lower cost alternatives such as the newly released billing software from Hiveage. The company offers a free, unlimited invoicing package and allows you to add more features and functions at a reasonable price so you can scale the technology as your business grows.
Not asking for referrals. You already know that word-of-mouth is the best way to grow your business but fear of rejection holds a lot of entrepreneurs back from asking their best customers for referrals.
If the direct ask makes you uneasy, explore whether satisfied clients would like to be featured on your website or would be willing to post feedback on a social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn or review sites including Yelp or Google+ Local.
Reluctance to outsource tasks or partner with complementary businesses. If you’ve built your business around your own expertise and don’t have team members or partner companies you collaborate with, you’re limiting your growth and can find yourself on the fast track to burnout. Look to LinkedIn, Meetup, local chapters of national industry associations and online marketplaces such as eLance to source talent.
Not automating or integrating administrative functions. A lot of entrepreneurs get stalled when they don’t automate or integrate administrative functions such as time tracking, expense report creation, payments, calculating taxes and converting currencies for international billing. Many of these tasks are either done manually or are handled by a variety of applications when it would be simpler to integrate and automate all of these functions using technology like Hiveage.
There’s no obvious reason to choose you over the competition. It used to be that “location, location, location,” was the small business mantra, but now that everything you need is only a click away, entrepreneurs need to differentiate their business. (Think "branding, branding, branding!)
Define your differentiators by analyzing the competition, stating what makes your business a better alternative and sending a short survey to your best customers to learn why they prefer you. The information you uncover will help you more effectively market your business to the right audience. Additionally, inspire your best customers to serve as references and raving fans in your on-going marketing efforts.
While these stumbling blocks do limit growth, the upside is they can be fixed in relatively easy and expedient ways.