Chapter 13 Time To Grow: The 5 Things To Consider When Scaling Your Online Business
As your business takes flight, you’ll begin growing quarter over quarter, year over year.
That is — until the day comes when you’ve either grown so fast you can’t keep up with customer demands and expectations or you’ve reached a growth plateau.
Planning for future growth is crucial to your ecommerce livelihood. Today’s business owners have to be prepared to face exponential growth head on if they want to be a leader in their niche.
Spoiler alert: preparing your online store for exponential growth takes a lot of time.
But — another spoiler alert: it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Making smart decisions from the start of your business — like choosing a scalable ecommerce platform — can make a big difference in the longevity of your online business.Who’s ready to grow? Let’s take your business to the next level.
Why Should I Scale My Online Business?
We all dream of owning a million dollar business, but we also know it doesn’t happen overnight.
Scaling your ecommerce business strategically is the best way to manage high growth and help prevent your business from dealing with a slew of unhappy customers.
In this guide, we’ve talked a lot about:
- Online marketing strategies — like social media, podcasts, blogging, and SEO — to drive growth and acquire new customers.
- Omnichannel strategies — like selling on Amazon, Etsy, or another online marketplace.
- Email marketing — to assist your sales funnel and enable potential customers to opt-in to your newsletter to grow your email list.
Chances are your business model includes at least one of these growth tactics, and you’ve started to see its effectiveness. In turn, you’re feeling both excitement and growing pains.
Small business owner life, am I right?
Taking a strategic approach to business growth enables you to always be ready for what’s next.
Maybe that’s introducing new products, managing additional social media accounts, growing your content marketing with the use of freelancers, bloggers, and influencers.
Either way, small business owners can follow our step-by-step guide to get ahead of the curve.
5 Key Tactics To Scale Your Small Business
Every business is different, but they can all benefit from these five tactics to scaling an online business.
1. Plan ahead.
As you’ve built your business, you’ve probably heard the word “plan” too many times to count.
There’s a reason for that — it’s vital to your business, no matter what stage you’re at.
To plan ahead, set realistic goals for growth. These can be quarterly or yearly goals.
This gives you time to prepare for upcoming growth. As you near these goals, research what resources or features you will need in your next stage.
Here are a few components to factor into your plan:
- Your ecommerce platform,
- Shipping and fulfillment,
- Human resources (e.g., in-house vs. agency/freelancers), and
- Your planned expansion to offline storefronts.
All of these components also affect your bottom line: budget.
Let’s talk about how to make sure you’re bringing in capital for future use.
2. Get Money In Your Wallet (+ Spend It Wisely)
While we’d all like to be featured on Shark Tank, you can’t bank on it when it comes to the approach you take to funding your business.
Small business owners are tasked with one large responsibility: securing funding and collateral to run their business.
My gut tells me you’ve already tried one tactic to fund your small business — bootstrapping.
Bootstrapping is the coined business term for relying on either your own personal funds (think your personal savings), a crowdfunding source (e.g., Kickstarter), or money pitched in or loaned from friends and family.
The next logical step for many is pitching to investors.
While investors can provide great value to your business — like expertise and funds to execute your business plan — they also take part ownership of the brand.
This option works for many small business owners, but if you’re wary to partner with an investor, there are still many other ways to secure funds.
Scholarships and grants. No, they are not only for college students.
Many larger companies or business organizations offer scholarships for small businesses and startups. We’re talking big money — anywhere from $5k+ to help you reach the next level.
Here are a few great scholarships:
- Create & Cultivate Chandon Scholarship.
- Fundbox Small Business Funding Scholarship.
- FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.
- U.S. Small Business Administration Grants.
Then, there are companies that specialize in helping fund small businesses.
Capital Factory — an Austin co-working space for the entrepreneurs of Texas — has a free program to help grow startups called the Accelerator program. With no cost to you*, your business can take advantage of:
- Education and mentorship,
- Investors and resources,
- Special events,
- And more than $250,000 in potential total hosting credits from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and others that last most companies 1-2 years.
*By participating in this program, Capital Factory receives stock worth 1% of the company and the rights to invest in your next big round of funding.
For additional options on how to manage your funding and spend, take a look at these companies:
- Fundbox. For B2B businesses, Fundbox offers a credit and payments network that unlocks growth for driven businesses by accelerating payments and credit.
- Brex. A BigCommerce Partner, Brex offers interest-free financing for your ecommerce business.
3. Monitor your analytics.
Monitoring your business’s performance gives you direct insight into the speed of your growth.
Sales performance is the first metric you’ll want to begin analyzing when looking to scale.
Look at the trends, is it healthy? How fast are your sales growing? What do you attribute that growth to?
Having a strong sales performance is a key indicator of your scalability because it reflects the health of your business. If the metrics are positive and growing, you can confirm growth is in your future.
Other important growth metrics are:
- Ecommerce conversion — Are most of your shoppers online or offline? Where are they spending their dollars?
- Product performance — Which products are your top sellers? Is there an opportunity to expand your product line?
- LTV:CAC (Lifetime Value:Cost per Acquisition) — Understand your marketing power. Is your cost of acquiring customers worth it?
Having direct insight into your analytics will provide a stronger pitch to investors and more confidence when spending money on updated technology.
4. Create a buzz.
As your business builds traffic, it’s important you stay engaged and create more buzz for your brand.
Building off of existing interest and traffic is a great way to optimize growth. For many, the first step to creating buzz is on social media. While this is a great avenue for building buzz, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket — especially considering how often the Instagram algorithm changes.
Depending on the nature of your business, you can look into:
- Hosting a webinar (e.g., how to decorate for the holidays with your product, sharing your expertise on a specific topic, etc.),
- Sharing your story on a landing page on your website,
- Executing an email marketing strategy and building your subscriber list,
- Pitching your brand to public relations firms, and
- Reaching out to influencers to partner with them and leverage their audience.
5. Determine your resources.
As you grow, you’ll need to add resources to your toolkit, as you won’t be able to manage a large business entirely on your own.
Resources for your business refer to both human resources and technical resources.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of when you might want to invest in human resources.
If you are looking to ramp up your content marketing with a blog on your website, you may want to consider hiring a content and/or SEO manager or freelancers who can scale your content and make sure you rank on leading search engines like Google.
Or perhaps you want to quickly build your community on social media. Consider hiring a social media manager who can curate posts, create captions, and drive engagement for your target audience across platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn.
For technical resources, let’s consider two examples.
While you could call on many different shipping companies to negotiate pricing, you could save time by utilizing a shipping software — that comes with pre-negotiated pricing.
Or, with more customers, your customer support line has been receiving an overwhelming amount of calls. Implementing a chatbot on your website, like Driftbot, can help you attend to customer needs on the go, 24/7.
Taking the time to see where you need help or where you can be more productive will help you prioritize what resources to invest in.
Once you do invest in these resources, be sure to evaluate their performance to ensure you are getting value for your spend.
6. Invest in technology.
As you grow, you’ll need technology that can support your business.
Some brands start out on an ecommerce platform that supplies the basics. Then, they reach a ceiling. This can often leave small business owners overwhelmed with what to do with their online platform.
Do they try to manage with limited support? Or do they switch to a platform that can better scale the business.
The latter of the two is the right choice. But, what if there was an ecommerce platform that could eliminate this issue from the beginning?
BigCommerce is a scalable ecommerce solution. We will support your store from when you’re managing from your bedroom to when you have a team of 100 and beyond. With easy-to-upgrade plans and advanced out-of-the-box features, BigCommerce can power your store while supporting your growth.
As you’ve learned in this guide, there’s much more technology than just your ecommerce solution. Here are a few other solutions you may want to look into upgrading as you scale:
- Content Management System (CMS) (e.g. WordPress),
- Automated Email Marketing Software,
- Shipping and Fulfillment Software,
- Payment solutions (e.g. credit cards, Apple Pay), and
- Google Suite.
Now, you’ve read through 14 chapters of how to sell online. Head on to our last chapter to hear from industry experts on how to implement the strategies you’ve learned.
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