Once you’ve launched a small or medium-sized business, attracted a healthy roster of customers and established a certain level of brand awareness, it might feel like it’s time to simply sit back and watch your firm grow. In some cases, though, you might start to feel the same entrepreneurial itch all over again -- only this time you’re ready to build a side business off of the one you already operate.
The concept of a “side hustle” has been talked about for years now, but that term is usually focusing on individual employees in an organization who moonlight doing something almost entirely different from their day-to-day jobs. A side venture is something different, in that it tends to complement or at least develops something that’s already core to the existing organization. Think of a gutter cleaning company, for instance, that also puts up holiday lights in December, or a farm that offers classes for people who want to learn about when foods are in season and how to choose properly ripened fruits and vegetables. A popular mom-and-pop restaurant, meanwhile, might sell cookbooks full of some of their most popular recipes.
Of course, no one’s suggesting you have to start a side business, particularly if you’re already spread too thin with your existing duties. For some entrepreneurs, though, the skills they’ve developed using technology to market, sell and service their products make launching a side business more feasible than might otherwise be the case. Beyond the opportunity for additional growth, a side business can also provide additional value to customers that deepens their relationship with you, or it can offer a secondary revenue stream when your main business is affected by fluctuations in the economy or other challenges.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about brainstorming, budgeting and running a side business that becomes as successful as the one you already own.
1. Develop Side Businesses Based on a Holistic View of Customers
Lots of businesses focus on the customer experience -- what someone goes through before, during and after they make a purchase -- but that still only covers a portion of what customers want and need overall. Brainstorming a side business can begin by thinking of other interests and pain points that your customers encounter on a day-to-day basis, some of which might be fairly aligned with things you already offer.
If you start off by building a successful apparel business selling dresses, t-shirts and other clothing, it’s not hard to imagine that customers could be interested in jewelry or other accessories. In other kinds of businesses the ideas might be less obvious until you put more thought into it. Ask yourself the following:
Could there be a service you add alongside the products you sell? Examples could include assistance with helping them make things, repair things or just be more successful with your products.
Are there ways to save customers’ time when they buy your existing products? Guides to related businesses or an app that connects them to other customers might prove viable as a side venture.
Can you take what you’ve learned from customers, aggregate it and offer the data in some way? Lots of products in the tech space are essentially benchmarking information from an installed base or offering some kind of analysis that is resold to others who need it.
2. Budget Smarter by Aligning Side Businesses with Existing Sales and Marketing Processes
Let’s say you’ve managed to grow your business by making the most of a CRM like Sales Cloud, or helped ensure the maximum number of prospects and customers know about your brand via marketing automation tools such as Marketing Cloud. That means you’ll have built up a lot of information about customers, their preferences and the kind of content that resonates with them. Keep that in mind as you start writing your new business plan.
While you may have to spend money developing the products and services associated with a side business, marketing and selling them doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. Look within CRM to introduce your side business to your most valued customers, for instance. Add a few lines about your side business to an email newsletter you send to your customers, or spread the word using your existing social media channels.
3. Automate as Much of a Side Venture as Possible
Although setting up and running a side business might take a certain degree of time and effort, it shouldn’t automatically double your workload. If you have products and services that meet a genuine market need, it’s best to look for ways to streamline the way customers can get them and use them as much as possible.
Examples include using e-commerce tools to collect payments online, especially if the products and services in question don’t require the same kind of consultative selling process as those in your main business. Also think about how the use of chatbots or other tools such as Service Cloud could ease any additional support your side businesses’ new customers might need.
In some cases, side businesses will always remain somewhat separate from the main activities of your firm. In others, you’ll want to bring both operations much closer together. Figuring this out can seem tricky at first, but you don’t have to rely on gut instinct alone. The rise of artificial intelligence in things like Salesforce Einstein, for instance, will allow you to look at trends and patterns based on information you collect on both businesses. That means you’ll be able to take a more predictive approach in determining whether to continue to keep your secondary business on the side or not.
Whether or not your side venture takes off, you’ll still have your existing business to fall back on. And in the process of experimenting, you’ll learn a lot -- in fact, it may become the place where your most innovative ideas emerge.