To help small businesses thrive, we asked ten CEOs, Founders, and other leaders for their best business planning tips. From setting SMART goals to learning from the competition, these insights are sure to guide your small business toward success.
Set SMART Goals
One business-planning tip that has helped our small business grow is setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). By clearly defining our objectives and breaking them down into actionable steps, we have been able to stay focused, track progress, and make strategic decisions to drive growth effectively.
Leverage Data Analytics
Data analytics can be a real game-changer when you run an online business. It’s all about keeping a keen eye on the traffic and how users interact with the content. By understanding what resonates with them, it becomes possible to tailor the content, keeping their preferences at the forefront.
For instance, in a content-based business, analyzing the data to see what topics are hitting the mark or which type of content is pulling in the views has been instrumental. It’s not always what you’d expect! But adapting the content strategy based on this info has really helped drive engagement, leading to a real boost in traffic and growth.
Adopt a Launch and Iterate Strategy
The most important growth strategy that worked for my company is “launch and iterate.” Detailed and meticulous planning can only get you so far. You have to actually take action, make those decisions, and be okay with a little bit of risk in order to grow your company.
Launching and iterating products and services allows you to test what works and what doesn’t, and immediately address them, saving time and resources in the long run.
Craft a Robust, Adaptable Business Plan
One business-planning tip that has helped me drive the growth of my small business is creating a well-defined and adaptable business plan, tailored to my unique vision and goals. By conducting thorough market research and staying attuned to industry trends, I have been able to identify specific opportunities for my business.
Developing a strategic approach, effectively allocating resources, and regularly reviewing and adjusting my plan have allowed me to navigate market changes and achieve sustainable growth. By utilizing this personalized and robust business plan, I have confidently steered my small business toward success.
Practice Regular Goal Planning and Alignment
We conduct team and community goal planning every 90 days. This deliberate approach to goal setting and planning allows us to adapt, explore new solutions, and pivot when necessary. The dedicated time to work “on” the business each quarter provides clarity to our focus on tangible business results. This practice promotes continuous improvement, team building, and strategic alignment.
Prioritize Low Overhead
A company that prioritizes low overhead has more financial flexibility. For example, as a fully remote company, we’re saving on all in-office costs – like rent, office equipment, commuting reimbursement, and more. This financial wiggle room allows our leadership to expand the team when necessary and ride out months with slower revenue on larger margins than businesses with excessive overhead.
Sell to Customers’ Pain Points
As a SaaS provider, I’ve always found it important to sell to your customers’ pain points rather than to the exact specifications of the technology. The vast majority of the time, your customers will be willing to work with you if you provide them with a roadmap and project plan to address their needs, even if your product isn’t quite where it needs to be. This locks in some much-needed revenue and gives you time to work with them to deliver the deal.
Outsourcing SEO growth helped dramatically grow my brand awareness and online traffic. Include SEO planning in your medium- and long-term business plans if you want to scale your brand up within a few years of launch.
Particularly for businesses shipping worldwide or prepared to serve a larger audience, SEO visibility leverages the searches of online users who may already be looking for products or product solutions like yours. By tracking relevant keywords—we might be tracking searches like “painless tattoos”—brands can attract and capture customers and leads whose search intent correlates highly with them or their products.
We significantly grew our domain authority and targeted traffic over the past two years through guest blogging, on-page optimization, and reporter outreach. Many businesses aren’t considering these tactics from day one. Still, without the planning and infrastructure to empower these strategies early on, you may also have to outsource to scale up your business.
Build Strategic Professional Partnerships
We have built many professional partnerships that have really helped our business grow. We were getting inquiries for services that were connected with our niche but required specialized accreditation. So, we sought out other companies that provided these services but were not direct competitors to us.
We then built professional relationships with them and now refer leads back and forth. It’s mutually beneficial. We’ve also collaborated with these partners on projects that required a mixture of our services. For example, we wanted to break into the water utility industry, so we built a partnership with a company called WRc Infrastructure, providing non-destructive testing for their projects in this industry.
Learn from the Competition
Reflecting on my journey as an owner of a marketing agency, understanding and studying competition has been instrumental.
I remember one instance when we were strategizing our email campaigns. We noticed a competing agency excelling in a similar space, and their engagement rate was remarkable. Intrigued, we delved into their strategy, dissecting the anatomy of their successful emails.
We recognized a pattern—a distinctive way of personalizing messages, which was quite engaging. We incorporated similar elements into our campaigns but tailored them to reflect our brand’s voice. Soon, we saw our engagement rates rise. Studying our competition essentially served as a catalyst, accelerating our growth and molding us into a stronger contender in the marketing field.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Featured, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.