Creating a business is one of the most exciting things you can do. It will also be one of the hardest, most stressful, testing ventures you go out on. And that’s what makes success so sweet.
Not every startup is going to be a hit. And even fantastic ideas can flounder with the wrong approach—just turn on Shark Tank one night and see what I mean. There are myriad ways of approaching the startup process, and there’s no one road to success. So when it comes to expansion, the doors are wide open for new ideas.
How Are The Pros Doing It?
For many, it’s easiest to think big picture—like Gleb Budman, CEO of Backblaze. “Early on we believed that because online backup is something everyone needs and we provide the service in 11 languages to anyone in the world, that everyone should use it.” This can be great for ideation, but it also may require a bit of refining later on. We’ll get to that in a minute.
For others, like Rich Thornett and Dan Cederholm, Co-founders of Dribbble, it was about capitalizing on something that was already working:
“Find a competitive advantage. At Dribbble, we stumbled into ours … it was a site for designers, and Dan is a designer with lots of recognition and credibility. As a result, we attracted a great set of initial users who posted incredible work. Things snowballed from there.”
Then there are entrepreneurs looking to break into an existing market. Levi Cooperman, Co-founder and VP of Operations of Freshbooks, had this to say about engaging with big competitors:
“Our strategy was to not even attempt to take them on head-to-head … instead, we sliced off a piece of the solution that we believed we could do better and that addressed a critical pain point for small businesses – invoicing.”
(H/T to Amber Leigh Turner of The Next Web for producing all of these outstanding quotes)
Your Turn: Actionable Tips You Can Use Today
Coming up with ways to expand your business is no different than any other ideation process—whether you’re writing a pitch or a tag line, or figuring out where your family wants to go for dinner.
Never believe that you’re stuck on your first hit. There are always new ways to expand, and uncharted avenues to explore. Sometimes it just takes a spark. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can find that spark right now (but you’re still on your own for dinner).
1. Know Your Users
Sure, on a general level it’s good to know your key demographics, etc. But really learn who your users are. If you’re a design company who has celebrities, producers, or influencers who love your business, capitalize! Their influence may be the perfect way to leverage a new service to a market you didn’t know you could reach!
Learn what your customers want you to know about them here.
2. Find The Holes
If you’re working in a market where you can identify a missing piece, fill it! If no one else is catering to a certain ethnic group trying to learn English, help them. If a city lacks a quality public transportation app, make it. Find the holes, and let the ideas start flowing. Like the guys at Dribbble said, you have to find that competitive advantage.
3. Piggyback Off Others
Sometimes good product placement can be the biggest difference maker of all for expansion. After M&Ms turned down an offer to be featured in the iconic film E.T., a struggling Hershey’s made a $1,000,000 endorsement gamble on the film that led to a tripling in their sales.
4. Ask About Changing Needs—and Adapt!
The beauty of our changing technological landscape is that people’s needs are constantly being updated with every change in OS. What do people need for their wearable tech? What’s missing from Smart Homes? Ask good questions of your customers with simple surveys—via email or onsite—and you’ll find a whole sea of new business possibilities.
5. Reevaluate Your Core Values
At the start of your business, you may have had certain goals and
dreams—just like the guys prix sildenafil mylan 50 mg at Backblaze. As you grow things are naturally going to change, and with that your team. Taking the time to reevaluate your core values as a team will naturally provide a filter for both personnel and ideation.
6. Plan for 10X
Plenty of companies over the years have produced amazing growth by imagining their company as “10X.” If your annual billings are at $400K, what would $4,000,000 look like? What would it take to
get there? What would you need to change about what you’re doing now? Instant answers mean you can create instant change.
7. Create Content
As a CEO, you’re also an influencer. If you’re not putting articles out, going for interviews, and contributing to the conversations of your industry, then you can’t grow. This simple, but often difficult, task is the difference-maker for most CEOs. It attracts talent, ideas, and ultimately the tone for your business.
Here is a link to my content marketing checklist.
8. Don’t Be Afraid of Cross-Brand Collaboration
Whether it’s a coffee shop partnering with a WiFi service, a brewery with a burger shop, or Virgin Atlantic with the makers of the original Onesie pajamas, cross brand collaboration is a fantastic marketing tool for growth. It promotes awareness, brings definition to your brand, and can provide amazing ideas for filling a new need.
9. Roll With What Works
While it wasn’t their original plan, the folks at Dribbble capitalized on their co-founder’s influence in the design world and just rolled with it. When you notice something catching on that isn’t a part of your strategy, don’t shove it aside. Dig in, and see where it takes you!
10. Ask About The Impossible
If you’re not the technical expert in your business, how can you expect to know your company’s limits? The team at Freshbooks wasn’t just trying to do what they’re competitors we’re doing, they wanted to do something differently—and better. Ask your tech team about seemingly “impossible” ideas. Test your true limits.
11. Shuffle Your Team
You may not know the full potential of your team members, or the workforce at large. Find a recruiter and begin exploring the ins and outs of your team. What new positions can you add to expand your strengths? How can you shuffle members around to bring out their full potential?
Here is a list of great team building exercises to maximize the potential out of every team member.
12. Read, Explore, and Ideate
There’s nothing holding you back from the wealth of resources online. From free classes, to countless articles and guides, all that you need to be a five-tool entrepreneur is right at your fingertips. Explore what other people are doing (like you are now in this article!) and put pen to paper.
Wherever your business is headed next, the most important thing is taking that step forward. Once you do, you’ll be amazed where your feet lead you.