THE Small Business Expert’s 3-Minute Growth Strategy Primer

512px-No_name_sans_nom_baking_sodaThere was a time – believe it or not – when baking soda was used pretty much just for baking. But then the market for this simple product exploded. (And I’m not talking about fifth graders using it along with vinegar in their “volcano” science fair projects.)

In the 1960s and ’70s, Arm & Hammer developed a wide variety of applications for its baking soda that created several new markets. Sales erupted, much like the previously mentioned childhood volcanos.

Moms were tucking away a box in refrigerators to prevent odors, toothpaste makers developed formulas featuring baking soda, and aficionados of natural personal care and cleaning solutions started using it in dozens of different ways.

Let’s use this as inspiration to do a quick fly-over of five solid growth strategies that you can apply to your small business.

  • New uses for an existing product or service. This is the Arm & Hammer formula for baking soda (no pun intended). If ideas don’t come immediately, do some intelligence gathering. Talk to existing customers, you might find some that are using your product in ways you hadn’t intended. Check out product literature from competitors and see if there onto anything that hadn’t occurred to you.
  • Find new markets. Is there potential demand for your product in an industry sector that you haven’t yet developed? How about overseas? How about the nonprofit sector? Explore cost-effective modifications you can make to your product or service that would open up new markets.
  • Create new markets. This is closely related to finding new markets, but to do this, tweaking your product or service will probably prove more important. Ditto for your marketing materials. You might need to learn the argot of a new industry. Research groups like Gigaom work hard to predict where emerging technologies are headed. You might want to invest in industry insights.
  • Forge a new partnership. Is there a great peanut butter out there that will go perfectly with your chocolate? Lately I’ve been following the drama of Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to buy Time Warner. Gaining the Warner Brothers catalog of movies and TV shows would set up Murdoch’s Fox network quite nicely. Who would complement your business?
  • Identify ancillary products/services for your catalog. What do your customers and clients buy from someone else? Be careful as you evaluate possible additions. You want to make sure that you can maintain your margins and not dilute your brand. Look how Amazon has ventured into a wide range of products and services. Perhaps setting up a separate, related brand would be the way to go. See if it can stand on its own merits.

The point of this list is to stress the importance of not standing still. If your business is growing by leaps and bounds today, that will keep you moving forward. If, however, your growth curve is tapering off, it’s time for some creative thinking.

Sponsored by AT&T

Image: By Michael Francis McCarthy ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons