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.
When I decided to pursue a career in whiskey, I knew it might be an uphill battle. The spirits industry has a competitive edge and being a female in a male dominated space, I knew I needed to be ready to take on the competition. I never set out to be the first female ambassador for The Macallan Single Malt Scotch, but as I pursued my career with unrelenting passion and knowledge, I was able to land my dream job in 2016.
Today, one of the biggest challenges I face in my role is changing the fundamental stereotypes in society that have developed overtime and are now ingrained in our culture. For many years, whiskey advertising was solely targeted towards a male audience and it was widely assumed that men were at the forefront of whiskey drinkers. However, throughout my career this has steadily changed as more women have expressed their curiosity and interest in whiskey.
Not only are more women entering the spirits industry professionally, but there is also a rise in female whiskey drinkers. This is supported by female led groups like 'Women Who Whisky' and 'Women of the Vine' that break down barriers within the male dominated alcohol industry.
As the number of female led whiskey brands grow, it gives women the chance to learn and develop their passion within a like-minded community which then paves the way for women to pursue a career within this category.
My own journey started in 2006, when I moved from London, England to Louisville, KY. As the birthplace of bourbon, it was hard not to embrace the Kentucky's indigenous brown spirit and the culture established around it. I learned to drink and appreciate whiskey in a society where it was almost rude not to. Thanks, Kentucky.
As my passion grew, I became fascinated with the history, heritage and tradition and was eager to learn more. Originally born in Scotland, my family has a deep-rooted love for Scotch so it wasn't long before I discovered and fell in love with the amber nectar of my homeland.
When entering the industry I was inspired to see so many strong, intelligent women leading the way. Today, I am proud to say I am part of this movement to revolutionize the industry, by making whiskey more accessible to women and by empowering them with the knowledge and confidence to push back on antiquated stereotypes. It's exciting to see the culture of whiskey changing before my eyes. Throughout my time in this business, I have continued to see more women who have never tried whisky before attending events as they are eager to learn more and experience whiskey in a new way.
The stereotype that women are less informed about whiskey than men is, surprisingly, still an obstacle that I continue to battle. When I first began working in the whiskey world, it was immediately apparent that I had to work harder to prove myself. I wanted to be an expert, which meant dedicating myself to absorbing every bit of information I could. I started with learning how to differentiate one whiskey expression from another using the color, tasting notes and smell. I researched what made each whiskey truly unique - where they matured their whiskey? How they matured it? What was the process? What was the difference between a whiskey that matured in sherry casks versus American bourbon casks? The more I learned, the more my confidence grew. The stories behind the whiskey and process of how the spirit is made is truly magical, but it wasn't until I started working in the industry that I could really see the craft, dedication and relentless obsession to quality that goes into creating the most admired Single Malt Scotch Whisky in the world.
Through my role I'm able to share a depth of knowledge that will help educate both men & women while dispelling the notion of whisky being 'a man's drink' and that is something I really enjoy.
Recruiting new consumers into the whiskey category, particularly women, comes with its own challenges, not because they're intimidated by whisky, but because they're also intimidated by men who tell them they don't know what they're doing.
One strategy I love that makes whiskey more approachable is to pair it with something familiar. Most people don't know this, but whiskey actually pairs better with cheese than wine does. This takes a well-known occasion - wine and cheese - and puts a whiskey spin on it.
Whiskey and cheese works so well because whiskey has a higher alcohol content than wine, which allows for the rich characteristics of the spirit to bring out the bold flavors of the cheese. Flavor profiles that often get overlooked when pairing with wine or beer, shine through when paired with whiskey. And it's simple! Anyone could set this up at home for a gathering. It's also subjective, so you don't have to be an expert to pick your favorite pairs.
Finding new avenues and experiences to introduce whiskey to any consumer that's standoffish is a struggle. But empowering people, especially women, to feel comfortable going up to a bar and ordering a whiskey is truly what makes me love the work I do. My job affords me the opportunity to share knowledge, despite being a female in a male-dominated space, and allows for me to champion other women, both in the industry and outside the industry looking to break in.
We need to be the change we want to see. We are continuing to see more and more women establish themselves as leaders within the category and if the advice I can share about my journey and the obstacles I've faced can help encourage other women to join in, than that's all I can ask for. I am truly proud of how far I've been able to come in the industry and will continue to push not only my fellow females to think bigger but will challenge society to as well.