It’s rare that a business reaches a certain size and its leaders simply decide to be content. Most companies will reach a point where growth is limited unless they make some serious moves. If that’s where your business is right now, you might be figuring out which direction to grow.
Hungry companies aren’t content with the status quo. Naturally, you can always make incremental changes, like placing paid ads on a new social media platform, hoping to connect with a new audience. You might even pick up enough of a new demographic to get a return on the investment.
But if you really want to build profit potential, you may need to think outside the box. Here are four ways you might be able to expand your business — if you’re willing to take a broader perspective, that is.
1. Get Out of the Country
When you’ve exhausted your domestic market growth potential, look beyond your borders. Technology makes it possible for even small companies to go global.
You don’t have to jump all in by opening a foreign location. Dip your toe in the water and hire contractors abroad to work remotely and independently. Doing so can expand your talent recruitment pool as well as your market.
Companies intrepid enough to consider contracting with international talent, however, should do so wisely. You should never assume that these contractual relationships work the same abroad as they do domestically. Countries have their own laws and compliance issues regarding the hiring of their citizens, even as independent contractors.
Determine which international markets may be a good fit for your products and services. Then, work with a global human resources company to find contractors and ensure compliance with local laws. If it works, you’ll have found a sustainable way to grow your business.
2. Explore Empty Niches
Too often, companies take the straight, worn, and narrow path in their strategic plans. It may seem safe to follow the success of competitors or larger companies in your industry. But your fixation on the orthodox may prevent you from seeing some lucrative opportunities.
Many businesses were conceived by the prospect of filling a niche market in a broader industry. Think of a niche as a small box contained in a larger one. If you reached into that large box before to find your niche, you may want to reach in again.
Increasingly sophisticated and exacting consumers are looking for companies willing to fill empty spaces. If you’re boxed in with your current niche, finding space in another, complementary niche will give you room to grow. For example, if you sell kitchen gadgets, consider a line of utensils designed for left-handed consumers.
If you’re wondering where to begin looking for a niche to fill, ask your existing customers. Also, contact those leads who didn’t end up purchasing to ask them why. You might be able to expand your business by filling the small empty box next door.
3. Form Unlikely Alliances
Partnerships between businesses have always been a smart way for both parties to grow. Case in point is Apple Pay and Mastercard. The former developed the contactless pay technology but needed a major credit card company to process payments.
Likely alliances may hold mutually beneficial growth potential, but they’re appealing to audiences with a great deal of overlap. For major growth, companies need to form more innovative alliances, like IKEA partnering with Sonos, Qi, and other tech companies. To expand into the smart home market, the massive furniture manufacturer needs their somewhat incongruent expertise.
The concept revolves around companies with shared goals figuring out how they can help each other achieve them. For example, two small businesses producing disparate products may both want to expand into a foreign market. Partnering to share a shipping container and a foreign distributor may make the strategy feasible.
You should begin by brainstorming ways you can expand your business, then inventory what resources it will take. When you hit an obstacle, like shipping and distribution, figure out what alliances could help you overcome it. You might find an unlikely solution, but a solution nonetheless.
4. Commit to a Cause
A growing number of consumers make buying decisions based on more than a company’s products or services. They’re looking for ways they can also make the world a better place. That means more and more people are tying purchases to causes they believe in.
Consumers are willing to spend more on products from companies with a cause as well. Take Bombas, where someone will spend $100 on eight pairs of socks because eight pairs also go to homeless shelters. Or there’s Ben & Jerry’s, which donates a percentage of profits to support grassroots social justice causes.
Small brick-and-mortar stores can use this concept to lure customers from big box stores and into their little box doors. They can do it even if they need to raise prices to maintain profit margins. In this example, supporting a local nonprofit may be the icing on the cake for cause-hungry consumers.
If you want to expand your base of customers and maintain their loyalty by appealing to their convictions, don’t be superficial. They’ll see right through it, and the fallout from their departure will be worse than never attracting them at all. But if you truly commit to a cause consumers believe in, you may be surprised how many will join you.
If you have pursued all the normal ways to expand your business, it’s time to think outside the box. Be open to anything and explore unconventional tactics that are still somehow congruent with your brand. There’s no way to expand your business if you allow yourself to be boxed in.