You're a small business owner. Things are going well, but you're ready to take the next step in growing your business. Easier said than done, right? Rest assured, there are active, tangible measures any business owner can take to diversify and strengthen their revenue streams, regardless of industry or scale.
I started Brooklyn Outdoor, Detroit's only national outdoor advertising company, in 2013 and grew initial revenue from $600K to $6M last year. It hasn't always been easy and there's still much more work to be done, but let's take a look at some of the ways you too can grow your business.
Assessing Your Business
From the start, it's important to continuously review and assess your strengths and weaknesses as a company. To do so, you'll want to keep a strong pulse on your profit and loss statements by quarter to see where costs can be tightened as your business and industry changes. Take the time at year-end to evaluate where you have financial gaps, and where your business needs to grow to serve your clients better.
Additionally, staying in tune with your team's morale will allow you to address in-office issues quickly, which will help foster an environment that creates happier, more empowered employees who have the confidence to produce better results. This can be difficult when you are “in the thick of it" as the CEO or founder, but well worth it in your bottom line and workplace culture. You'll also want to identify what brings you the highest percentage of business, whether that be a specific client-type or sector. Zeroing in on the right kind of client for your business helps you build a stronger, more targeted business plan, as opposed to going after everyone. You may be forced to walk away from some potential clients, but the motto “quality over quantity" will be your best friend in this case.
Inbound Marketing How-To's
According to Marketo, a marketing software developer, inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. Using these tools correctly can be critical to growing your business. Just as brands try to find customers, we live in an age where brands are “being found" by customers, making inbound marketing an important aspect in developing that relationship.
When you have owned channels like blogs and social media, or events that are tailored to your business, your reputation grows authentically and naturally as more people encounter you and your brand. This system of touchpoints helps your business connect with clients and prospective customers on an interpersonal level, and goes beyond the typical business transaction mindset, allowing you to establish a more valuable and memorable connection with people. As they continue to interact with your business and become more familiar what motivates you and what your brand represents, they may just be your next partner or loyal customer.
How We Did It: To illustrate who we are as a company, we've established an office space that emphasizes our focus on authenticity and Detroit roots. It maintains an industrial-chic style and features many unique art pieces from local artists, so when it is time for a potential client to visit, they understand our brand and perspective. As we have had more people from our community in our workspace, they have often inquired about if it was available for parties or meetings. That got us thinking, and we realized our office had untapped potential as a rentable venue. We have since begun renting the space to corporate and individual customers, helping us generate additional revenue and opportunities to connect with more potential clients. This was a great lesson in identifying what's unique about our business and how we can use it to boost our bottom line.
Your social presence is also helpful in providing a portfolio of information readily available for that right kind of client to find and get a glimpse of the real you. Social tools like boosting posts will also help reach your target audience quicker for a few dollars at a time. Also, using search engine optimization (SEO) keywords in your social posts are extremely helpful in boosting brand awareness, ranking higher in web searches, and leveraging your locality to attract customers in your area. Recognizing and understanding needs and niches in your market that have not been filled can be helpful when trying to broaden your business plan as well. This could mean creating an extension of your business that might not directly relate to your current industry, but adds another layer to your services, expand your network and expose you to additional resources that further your entrepreneurial goals.
How We Did It: Relying on our team's strengths and expertise, we have developed various business units that fit under the broader Brooklyn Outdoor umbrella: Experiential, Hand-Painted, Events, and more. Brooklyn Events – our most successful new division - started with our in-depth knowledge of Detroit's food, art, and entertainment scenes, and our Detroit-themed lifestyle blog – J'adore Detroit – focused on highlighting our great city and its revitalization. The blog has helped us boost our online presence, and because of its locally-sourced content, we have become more ingrained in our community. This has helped introduce us to the local businesses that are highlighted on the blog – who potentially need event space through our Events division – and locals who enjoy our content.
We also established Brooklyn Experiential, which stemmed from working on an outdoor project with the use of outdoor advertising on one of our buildings and led to a partnership where we now create large-scale experiential activations for our clients in Detroit and beyond. It's all about rolling with the punches and diversifying as you grow.
Also, as supporters of our local arts community, we know many artists throughout the city. This has helped us develop a division strictly revolving around art and murals, called Brooklyn Hand-Painted. It allows our clients to collaborate with local artists to tell their story in artful, unique ways in mural form.
To reiterate, in each example above, we leverage connections into more connections, which leads to more opportunity for us and our partners.
Keeping up with trends is essential in evolving your business as well. You should keep track of all the asks that clients make, even ones that you can't fulfill. This allows you to evaluate how you could accomplish these tasks in the future or look to see if other clients might benefit from similar types of services. This presents an opportunity to tap your network to see how they approach similar requests and compare how you can improve.
It is also important to track year-over-year data on businesses that relate to or impact your industry to see how things are changing in those sectors and have a better idea of how they might impact your business. This will allow you to make more informed decisions in the future when you start to see similar changes or effects. Tracking these types of industry trends are vital.
Many strategies can help strengthen and diversify your business. Just remember to stay true to who you are while remaining flexible to the changes in clients and industry.
As you continue trying to find new customers, remember that there are people out there trying to find you. Make it easier for them to connect.
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!