Guest post by Cassy Hathaway.
In the digital economy, few things are as valued as quick and sustained business growth. Whether you sell products or services, your business needs to show continuous growth in order to attract investors, new customers and new employees.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Growing a business requires financial investments, hard work, business savvy, creativity, and a little luck.
An online business has lots of moving parts to manage. Keeping the website up and running, marketing to your target audience, maintaining a healthy level of customer satisfaction, making employees happy, complying with taxes and regulations—these are all part of day-to-day life as a digital entrepreneur.
As such, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important aspect of your role in the company: growing the enterprise.
As the business owner, you need to be focused on making decisions, building relationships, and executing strategies that will improve your company’s top and bottom lines. If you’re struggling to stay locked into this aspect of your business, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Most small to midsized businesses (SMBs) struggle with consistent performance. But there are ways to make your life easier. Here are six tactics to help grow your online business rapidly without losing your mind in the process.
1. Hire an Executive Assistant
Adding another person to your payroll (especially in the very early stages of your company) may seem like an unwarranted expense, but it’s a modest investment that goes a long way. First off, executive assistants usually don’t need to be paid premium wages as specialized skills aren’t required—which means you can offload many the simple-but-time-consuming tasks on your plate without breaking the bank.
Assistants are typically in charge of setting up meetings, preparing templated documents, answering calls, and running errands. As your assistant gains experience, he or she may be entrusted with running reports and making non-technical website updates. Many CEOs and VPs agree that you can free up at least 30% of your time if you just delegate more basic tasks to a reliable assistant.
If you calculate how much value 30% of your time can generate if it’s allocated solely to management, negotiations, lead generation, relationship building, and thought leadership, you’ll see how worthwhile an investment in assistant can be for your company.
2. Outsource Web Development
The technical process of building, maintaining, and updating a website continues as a business expands its online presence over time, constantly evolving in response to the needs of its users.
Maintaining an in-house web development team sounds good on the surface. You’ll have a dedicated group of programmers whose job is to ensure your website’s uptime and security.
However, when you consider the cost of programmer salaries and that you’ll have to pay your team even at times when you aren’t running essential projects, you’ll realize this might not be the best use of resources, especially for as SMB.
Many businesses today avoid this situation by outsourcing web development services. By hiring an agency, you’ll pay only for the work you really need, such as building a website, modifying theme files, or adding a new functionality.
Once the site is launched, you can generally opt to pay a web development service provider a small retainer to perform basic regular maintenance and to be there for you anytime you need additional help.
3. Outsource Marketing Operations
Having great products or services doesn’t mean much if you can’t get people to check them out and pay for them. To that end, digital marketing is a crucial aspect of running an online business because it’s the aspect responsible for driving traffic to your website’s pages.
More traffic means more opportunities to convert leads into paying customers. The more customers you obtain and retain, the better your cashflow gets.
It’s usually healthy to maintain an in-house marketing team that can formulate strategies and execute customer acquisition campaigns. However, there’s a broad array of potential traffic sources on the web and you often need a high level of expertise in each one to make sure you get a positive ROI.
If you’re running a digital SMB, it’s usually best to have a marketing leader, a coordinator, and one or two specialists (such as a writer and graphic designer) in the marketing department to strategize, analyze, and orchestrate campaigns.
4. Outsource Customer Support Services
Customer support is among the most stressful and resource-intensive parts of running a company. But it’s a vital component of your operations. Without a good customer support system, your hard-earned customers won’t have a channel to properly and promptly resolve issues, which will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, and eventually them leaving for your competitors.
You can prevent this by having a good customer support system in place. For smaller businesses, basic email and phone support will suffice. For larger operations, hiring an outsourced contact center may be the more appropriate solution.
We recommend going this route because setting up your own private call center requires heavy investments that even Fortune 500 corporations sometimes hesitate to make. Instead, risks can be minimized and costs can be reduced by hiring solution providers who use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and employees in lower-cost regions who can take customer calls and resolve complaints.
The good thing about outsourcing this type of work is that you can hire a few customer service reps at a time. You can then scale up incrementally based on the scale of your company’s needs.
5. Hire an Accountant
There are two basic things that every business owner needs from corporate finance. First, you need to maintain a healthy level of cash flow so you can continue investing in your growth. Second, you need to make sure you never displease the IRS. As long as you do both, you’ll be fine.
The first objective you can likely manage yourself. After all, keeping the company profitable is the end goal of all business activities.
The second one is a bit more technical and best left to the experts. You need a competent accountant to make sure that you’re filing all the right taxes without overpaying.
To that end, having one in-house finance person is always a good thing. This person will be in charge of collecting payments, paying bills. and keeping all your financial activities recorded and filed.
This person doesn’t need to be a CPA, but he or she needs to understand basic accounting concepts and use a small business accounting application. For everything else, hiring a qualified accounting firm is the most convenient way to go.
6. Hire a Compliance Consultant
If you’re based in the US or another country with strict regulations implemented to protect employees, customer data, the environment, and even national security, the last thing you’ll want is to be fined for non-compliance. This is particularly true for businesses in the finance or healthcare sectors.
With hundreds of regulations already in place and dozens more being written every year, it’s impossible to keep track of everything and completely avoid the risks of being tagged for unintentional “wrongdoing” or negligence.
You can avoid this by hiring a compliance consultant who can visit your facility and inspect it for possible violations before government personnel do. Depending upon your industry and specific requirements, this person may only have to visit once a year. You’ll need to pay a professional fee, but that’s a lot better than being fined and having the authorities monitoring you closely.
In a worst-case scenario, non-compliance which lead to workplace accidents can get your company sued. For a small business, a lawsuit is a potential deathblow.
These are just six of many ways that you can help your online business grow as fast as possible. Having a good business concept is great, but without professional and operational finesse to back it up, your enterprise might never go far.
Cassy Hathaway is a freelance writer and all-around beauty nut. She loves analyzing and exploring new things. She also spends her free time surfing, traveling to Asia and South America, and volunteering in community outreach programs.