According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the vast majority of small businesses operating in the U.S. employ between 0 and 4 people — nearly 3.6 million in all.
Solopreneurs make up a big chunk of that group, but what about the rest? Those are the unfortunate entrepreneurs with a good idea that never gains traction.
It doesn’t have to be this way. These five ideas can help you to get beyond the majority and scale for growth.
1. Define a Brand Promise You’ll Keep
What makes your idea stand out? What do you want your customers to feel? The answers to these questions form the essence of your brand, and it’s what customers will expect when they shop with you. Say you’re a wine maker creating a particularly bold brand of Merlot. You’re marketing online in hopes of getting more global distribution. You would want to design your website, logo, and collateral with a bold look to reflect what customers will expect to taste with every bottle — because they will expect nothing less. This is called visual branding. The core components of your online visual identity include your logo, color scheme, and typography. You can easily update these features on your website to find what best suits your brand personality.
2. Market Narrowly
Smart entrepreneurs know exactly who they’re selling to and try to own as much of that addressable market as possible. If you’re an up-and-coming vintner, you’ll want to target distributors and e-commerce wine clubs that have a history of selling artisanal, new, or hard-to-procure brands, thereby reaching customers who are as interested in a find as they are a good flavor. Amplify your marketing to these buyers by adding an option for website visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. Weebly Promote makes it easy to build a newsletter that perfectly matches your brand’s look and feel and send to a list of thousands.
3. Forecast Demand, Often
Targeting narrowly means defining the boundaries of your market, which is also crucial for the art and science of forecasting. You want to match product inventory to demand as closely as possible in order to maximize profit. A simple way to do that is look at your existing sales. Take the newsletter idea. If you’re aware that one percent of your 10,000 newsletter subscribers tend to buy in a given month, then having 100 bottles ready to ship is a reasonable forecast.
4. Seek Adjacent Opportunities
Once your business has gained traction and captured a significant share of its addressable market, you’ll want to start looking at adjacent opportunities. These are low-risk but potentially lucrative ways to expand. Going back to our vintner example, she could add a white blend to pair with her Merlot, or try a different blend of red. Or maybe she’s invented a particularly compelling process for taking others’ grapes and fermenting them. Creating a “home brew” winemakers kit to sell directly online could be lucrative while attracting attention to her primary product. That’s adjacency at its best.
5. Streamline Shipping and Fulfillment
Finally, and most importantly — especially if your aim is to collect profits — keeping costs low is the key to smart growth. Shipping, in particular, can be a real problem for e-commerce small businesses. Spending at least $4,000 a year to move goods is common, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).
Imagine being that vintner and having to spend $10 on shipping for every $15 bottle of wine. How soon would customers tire of the expense? Fortunately, Weebly and Shippo have teamed for integrated shipping on premium e-commerce sites, saving owners as much as 40 percent on every shipment.
Putting these principles to work is easier than you might think. Define a brand promise you’ll keep. Market narrowly and forecast as often as it makes sense to do so. Grow adjacently and streamline your biggest costs — shipping, especially.
After all, every business on today’s Fortune 500 list of the largest businesses started small.
Author Bio: Alena Courtney is a Content Marketing and Organic Growth Manager at Weebly, a simple yet powerful e-commerce platform used by thousands of businesses around the world.
Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.