You started a small business, and things were going well. But over time, your growth “steadied” and slowed. Did you reach your max potential as a small business owner?

Not quite. Odds are, you’ve hit a plateau.

This is a normal occurrence and it is easy to spot if you know what to look for. Once identified, you can begin your next journey — overcoming the slump and blowing full-steam ahead toward growth and expansion.

But how do you do that?

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How to tell your business has plateaued
  • What other SMBs do when they get into a slump
  • How to get out of it using seven SMB strategy tips

When Do You Know Your Business Has Plateaued?

Sales halted. New customer acquisition rates are low. Your employees are working to the max. These are telltale signs your small business has hit a rut.

But there are more “strategic” ways to determine a slumping business — like using data and key performance indicators (KPIs) to signal a change in pace. Maybe monthly revenue isn’t increasing as quickly as before (or worse, it’s declining). Others may see unique indicators based on their industry.

“One major sign your business is plateauing is struggling to keep up with the demand for your goods or services. If you’re constantly turning away customers because you can’t handle the additional work, it shows you’re stretched to the limit.” — Lisa Richards, CEO and creator of The Candida Diet

This is common in the services industry, especially in agencies. Here’s an example:

I know a digital marketing agency that plateaued. They had several clients paying them fairly handsomely. However, they could only handle those clients and couldn’t expand. So, the owner looked into providing other services for clients, including front-end development. — Omer Reimer, president of FL Cash Home Buyers

Whatever signs you’re seeing, the question now is — how do you overcome your slump? One thing’s for certain, this isn’t the time to hang it up.

“When plateau’s hit, I’ve learned not to panic. Rather, this is a great time to stop, breathe and reassess all systems. Most of my best changes happened during a plateau. It’s a time to innovate and find better ways to serve clients.” — Jessica Tappana, owner of Simplified SEO Consulting

So, let’s review some techniques that you can use to rise out of your slump and grow your small business.

3 SMB Strategy Tips to Help Grow

small business owners

Being a small business owner is hard enough, without throwing stagnant growth on top. Thankfully, there are others before you with excellent tips to get out of this situation.

Let’s look at what they have to say.

1. Reassess Your Target Customers

When revenue growth is at a standstill, you can’t help but wonder whether it’s you or the customers. Perhaps your target market’s changed since you opened your doors. Maybe there’s a shift in the industry. Either way, it’s time for a reassessment of your customer base.

There are several ways to reconnect with your buyers.

“Devise strategies to learn your target clients. Distribute feedback surveys to ascertain their opinions. The most successful business owners pay close attention to what their consumers say.” — Shad Elia, founder and CEO of New England Home Buyers

Consider surveying current customers and prospects. You can also join communities and groups relevant to your industry. See what your audience discusses (their problems, desires, and needs). Using a mix of first, second, and third-party data to understand who your customers are is key.

So, don’t rely solely on either source. There’s a lot you can gather when you use them all. You may even learn your audience is of a different demographic, region, or firmographic than you originally thought.

“We defined our ideal customer, listed all of our favorite customers, and then looked for commonalities. Did they come from similar referral sources, have similar business models, etc.? This greatly informed our marketing, so we can increase the number of those ideal customers. — Jessica Tappana, owner of Simplified SEO Consulting

So how does this look in practice? According to Rafal Mlodski, CEO of Passport Photo Online, it helped them to find audience gaps. After reanalyzing their market, competitors, and audience, they saw an untapped source: young people.

They made up a small portion of their conversion rate, but enough to invest in targeting them. So they revamped their business strategy to include a LinkedIn profile photo tool as a service. After a few months, they saw growth.

Another brand also used its slump time to come up with new product ideas to attract customers.

“I worked with a local homebrew supply store that needed to drum up business during the pandemic. They did two things: started creating recipes for popular beer styles, packaging bundles to sell and working with local microbreweries to throw events (once it was safe). Huge success and revitalized a lot of dead clients and brought in new ones too! — Ronni Kenoian, owner of Coffee Hour Marketing

2. Analyze Your Customer Journey

Don’t stop with assessing your customers — look at their journey as well. There may be friction disrupting their purchases. For instance, additional steps that prolong the buyer’s journey or a design flaw that’s unpleasant and sends customers fleeing to a competitor’s site.

This is the time to learn how your leads and customers flow through your sales cycle. See if there are bottlenecks to eliminate.

The customer experience (CX) is everything, especially today. Most consumers are loyal to brands that offer great experiences. One report shows CX is more important than price and product offering. Without a grand experience, you can forget about gaining loyalty.

According to Daniel Foley, SEO specialist at UNAGI Scooters, you should spend time walking through your customer’s experience with your brand. Important questions to ask include:

“What are the stages in which they progress? Is your team’s and your own approach to interacting with clients well-defined and varied? Is their experience consistently of a high standard? Your company will lose money unless the route your clients travel is easy and efficient.”

So, consider using tools like Hotjar and Google Analytics to see your customer’s behaviors. Which pages do they gravitate towards? More importantly, which pages do they drop off at? Is there a pattern? If so, check out the pages to see how to improve them.

3. Embrace Technological Advances

Embrace Technological Advances

There’s only so much you can do as a small business. You have a limited number of employees working a limited number of hours per week. Unless you somehow expand with more locations, it’s difficult to grow.

Imagine reducing how long it takes to perform mundane tasks, so your team can focus on revenue-generating jobs. This opens the door to growth and expansion without hiring more employees.

This is possible when you adopt the right technologies. Unfortunately, some small businesses don’t keep up with technological advances. This removes their competitive edge.

“These cloud-based applications can simultaneously increase your productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Even if you don’t use them, your competitors will almost certainly do so. Do you want to give them a leg up on the competition? While it may be tempting to stick to the status quo, entrepreneurs cannot afford to be averse to change.” — Zaeem Chaudhary, architectural draftsman at AC Design Solutions.

With the right tools, you can automate processes and create systems to enhance productivity. There are plenty on the market today designed just for that. For example, project management tools and templates to speed up communications and task management or streamlining workflows using automation platforms you can customize to your needs.

That’s what Amy Suto, CEO of Kingdom of Ink did to improve efficiency.

“Everything comes down to automating systems (make robots do the work for you!) and improving your marketing and sales strategy. We took a hard look at our systems and realized we needed to use automations in Zapier to free a lot of our manual processes in our recruitment and onboarding. This freed over 60% of the routine tasks.”

Think of what you can do if your employees each had several hours of free time to do prospecting, marketing, and important tasks. It sets you up for more profits and growth — goodbye plateau.

Get Your SMB Over the Proverbial Hump

The key to removing your business from a slump is to first learn what’s causing it. Look at your data, analytics, and trends to see what’s bogging you down. Is it a niche and market issue? Or maybe your customers desire additional products or services you’re not yet offering.

After identifying what your customers want, analyze their customer journey to make it frictionless. Then look for tools to use to simplify your processes. Before you know it, you’ll have more time (and money) on your hands to propel your small business forward.

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