They seem like nice problems to have, until they happen to you.
A huge influx of calls from potential customers. Clicks on an e-mail newsletter or website that need to be studied. Service-related social media posts that need some kind of response.
These are a few of the signs that a small and medium-sized-business (SMB) isn’t so small anymore. They don’t necessarily all happen at once, but as they do, SMB owners may start to wonder if the price of success is feeling ever more ragged as they and their team struggle to keep up with it all.
Even if SMBs have a business plan that projects their growth over a particular period of time, they likely didn’t go into a lot of detail describing what kind of changes to their day-to-day operations will have to be made as they scale up. At a certain point, though, it’s worth carving out enough time to begin thinking about what kind of tools and techniques could provide the kind of foundation that supports their growth over the longer term.
Just as a business might plot out a strategy to get more customers, for instance, one way to stay ahead of growth-oriented pitfalls is by setting some goals around other areas where the company needs to advance itself. ‘Less is more’ might have worked in terms of keeping costs low in the early days, but now it’s a matter of applying some ‘more is more’ thinking to critical areas. These include becoming:
In the early days of a business, there can be long periods of doubt and uncertainty as you wait for a deal to close or to bring on a new customer. As you scale up, the customers might seem to be coming fast and furious, but there are still several areas of uncertainty.
For example, what sectors will the largest proportion of your new customers come from? How long will their purchase process take? How many are likely to offer repeat business vs. a one-off transaction? What will the influx of new opportunities mean in the way you need to invest in marketing to nurture demand, or sales teams to help manage the relationships and close the deals?
Artificial intelligence tools like Salesforce Einstein are assisting in this area because they can study the trends while they’re happening -- and while SMB owners may be too busy in the weeds of a company to do their own manual analysis. Just as a bank wants to safely predict that a company’s revenue will be predictable before they provide a loan, SMB owners want to achieve greater predictability in all the behind-the-scenes details around that revenue growth.
Scaling a business doesn’t happen by being chained to your desk. Besides meeting customers, SMB owners are often busy forging partnerships, attending industry events, travelling to suppliers and myriad other tasks. You can delegate some of the leadership responsibilities if you’ve hired great people, but there will inevitably be times that require direct feedback and guidance.
Take customer service as an example. As businesses grow they need to retain more of their customers so they’re not constantly searching for new ones. A misstep early in a customer relationship could jeopardize your chances with many other prospects. Mobile apps can play a huge role in running a business remotely, of course, including areas like service. Plus, the same tools SMB owners use can be provided to the rest of the team, because as the business grows, they’re likely going to be out of the office a fair bit too.
Startups and emerging firms are known for experimenting a lot, especially at the beginning. Maybe they started marketing with ads on social media, for instance, then switched to nurturing demand primarily through e-mail. Then they ran a webinar. Then they tried a mix of all three, along with other tactics.
It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it works -- and as long as you meet the expectations you’re setting among customers. As you grow, customers want to be able to reach an organization in whatever way works best for them, not the company. Promising a response on social media in under an hour isn’t going to cut it if they prefer to talk on the phone. Marketing automation platforms such as Marketing Cloud fill in the gap here by making sure the company is speaking to its target audience in the same way regardless of the channel.
The bonus? Even as more ways to engage or interact with customers emerge -- and they will -- automating these processes can be extended accordingly.
Becoming a bigger and more successful business doesn’t just cause SMBs owners more stress. It can also pose a risk to some of those early customers who don’t feel that same level of attention they received from the firm at the beginning of the relationship. New customers, meanwhile, might see a company that looks really busy and wonder if they’re going to get lost in the shuffle.
The only way to overcome those concerns is by demonstrating you care by approaching each customer with an informed sense of their needs and wants. CRM technology like Sales Cloud was deliberately designed to make collecting and managing this kind of information much easier for teams where everyone is juggling several tasks at once. Marketing and service will need to be personalized too, however, or there will be a disconnect between the various parts of your operation.
Entrepreneurs are ambitious by nature and tend to think big. As their vision is realized, however, they may need to add on a few of these other “more is more” concepts in order to make the SMB they launched sustainable.