It’s go time. You’ve built a solid product, have demonstrable traction in the market and you’re ready for the hockey-stick growth. As you move forward, take a moment and assess whether or not your business is truly ready to undergo such rapid growth. You should be ready and willing to lead your business through unknown and highly volatile territory. However, there is a difference between being reckless and taking a calculated risk, and that difference is planning. With adequate planning, your business will be better prepared to endure the stress that comes with scaling. Here are four tips to help you scale your B2B business.
4 Strategies to Scale Your B2B Business
1) Know Your Customer by Name
Sure, you’ve managed to garner your early sales, but does that mean that you truly understand your customers’ motivations and drivers? Before you can successfully market to potential clients and get to 3x, 6x or 10x growth, you need to know these people well. There are two exercises that can help you achieve this goal.
- First, take the time to talk to the customers you do have so you fully understand why and how they found you. Consider sending out a survey to get to know them better. Pay specific attention to their word choices so you can start speaking to your customers using their own language. If you have bandwidth, call your customers and personally talk through your survey questions for better qualitative results. Find out what they would do if your product or service didn’t exist and how they would then solve the problem your product is designed to solve. You may learn things that prompt you to shift your sales or product strategy.
- Use what you learned from your survey research to map out client personas or rehash the personas you may have in place already. These customer archetypes will help you intimately understand what your target customers do on a day-to-day basis and how – precisely – to reach them. Know their age, tax bracket, where they live online, what their hobbies are, and most importantly, what motivates them to ultimately choose your product. HubSpot has a great resource to help you get started. After you’ve built personas, outline a few simple tests to check your assumptions and continually iterate with feedback from your sales and marketing teams. Personas are key to both digital and traditional efforts in most markets.
2) Delegate and Automate
As the CEO, founder or similar leader in your company, your job is to think strategically about the company’s direction and execute on those decisions – and nothing else! Activities that take away from your ability to do the above need to be delegated or automated before you try to scale your business. Find the right people to help you grow your company, and then leave them to keep the wheels turning. Make sure you’ve also given them the tools (and often, budget) to help automate what can be. There are so many resources out there from sales CRMs to email marketing tools, and if you’re not providing them to your team, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach a wider audience.
3) Test Your Foundation
Thus far, you’ve managed to operate and grow your business without having the walls crumble down around you. When you scale, you need to think critically about your weak spots. What is most likely to crack under the strain of acceleration? Will your operations team become completely overwhelmed once you start adding customers? Think about interviewing candidates to have a few people on the back burner who you can hire and onboard quickly when the time comes. If you’re a consumer product entrepreneur, does your production facility have the capacity to fill an influx of new orders? If not, maybe now is the right time to explore partners who can meet your increase in demand. Conduct a thorough assessment of your weakest links and start to formulate a plan.
4) Evaluate Your Growth Capital Options
In order to hire new employees, create a recognizable brand, develop and execute on a killer strategic marketing plan or ramp up production, you’re going to need a reliable source of capital along the way. Few businesses are able to cover the costs associated with scaling a company based on existing revenue alone. So when it’s time to flip the switch and work toward a hockey-stick growth curve, what will you use as fuel? Will you give up your equity and take on more investment capital (FYI, it’s more expensive than you think)? Will you use debt to finance growth and new opportunities? Will you turn down opportunities and become more of a lifecycle company? Consider your desires to grow or sustain or chug along and then think about financing options appropriate for each path carefully. Evaluate debt and/or equity providers who have the ability to scale with you. Kabbage is a great partner to help fund early-stage growth. From there, P2Binvestor can provide capital that scales from $250,000 up to $10 million.
Remember, scaling a company is a long road and it rarely follows a linear path. Even Steve Jobs, who created one of the most recognizable brands in the world said, “I’m always amazed at how overnight success can take a hell of a long time.” Growing a business requires a lot of hustle and a bit of patience. Use these four tips to help prepare your business to scale, and then employ a bit of patience and a lot of perseverance until you do.
P2Binvestor (P2Bi) is a marketplace lender that provides crowdsourced, asset-secured working capital to growth companies. P2Bi’s revolving lines of credit are secured by accounts receivable, inventory, or monthly recurring revenue (designed especially for SaaS companies). With an average line of credit size of $1 million, P2Bi is one of the few tech-enabled commercial lenders that can underwrite and fund million-dollar lines of credit in a few days.