by Liz Ernst

Entrepreneurs from all walks of life usually start out with a high level of ambition and idealism regarding their pursuit of success. They go after their venture with enthusiasm and determination, only to discover that the enchantment of start-up ownership can be fleeting, the early flood of creative vigor slows to a trickle, and maintaining consistency regarding growth and profitability is trickier than they had expected as the minutia of day-to-day business activities crimp progress. Start-up growth

If you’re a start-up founder experiencing some or all of these challenges, try taking these six steps to break the cycle and get your company on a growth track.

1. Make start-up growth a priority

Unless you make growth a priority, your business is not going to grow. It’s easy to neglect growth when you’re caught up in the daily responsibilities of running a business. Start focusing on strategic and intelligent choices you can make that will contribute to your company’s ability to develop and thrive.

For starters, effectively research, identify and define your target customers. What is the market size? What tools and platforms do they use? Getting the answers to these questions will help you determine what marketing channels you need to employ to effectively reach them.  start-up growth

2. Put a concrete system in place  start-up growth

Putting the appropriate system in place is critical to ensuring that your business can not only grow but also keep pace. A flawed system will have you struggling with growth and even challenge your ability to maintain your current level of success.

Establish a diversified sales and marketing strategy, one that allows you to test a variety of channels and tactics in which you can learn as much as possible. Make sure to spread risk in case one strategy fails (the “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” train of thought).

Think across platforms and create plans that leverage an assortment of outreach channels including advertising, seminars or conferences, direct outreach (email campaigns, social media outreach, blogging) and more.

3. Identify and understand your goals    start-up growth

Just as essential as defining your target customer, defining the ideal results of your sales and marketing plan begins with identifying your company goals according to distinct stages.  For example, a strategy that focuses on pure growth or customer procurement is going to provide distinctly different results from one focused on testing acquisition costs across channels. Identifying goals can fluctuate across organizational and company stages, and lead you to clear marketing strategies.

4. Establish triggers

Apart from your initial goals, it’s important to set clear data-driven targets for each segment or channel in your sales and marketing plan.

Targets or assessments need to incorporate both costs and outputs. For example, if you’re establishing an AdWords strategy, get granular when estimating your budget and expected conversion cost per new customer. This approach will help you plan ahead and discern whether or not your strategy was successful.

5. Set financial triggers

In addition to targets, you can also set financial triggers that alert you when you may need to scale a channel. For example, if you’re testing a wide variety of advertising channels, you might discover that once your AdWords acquisition cost falls below a certain amount, adding more money to that channel may be warranted.  start-up growth

In order to measure your company’s growth, always keep your eye on the numbers. Constant number crunching is necessary to measure profit margins, keep track of where you’re spending and areas you might be overspending. Keep track of your employee payroll by calculating hours worked and additional critical facts to maintain a solid understanding of your business metrics. Do what you need to in order to become and stay operationally efficient—this will allow you to grow and expand in increments as you head into the future.

6. Continue evaluating

Once you’ve identified your customers and incorporated the five steps outlined above, you have to make sure you avoid complacency. Like everything in life, customers and markets change which means your sales and marketing plans will need to adapt to those changes, often at a moment’s notice.

Keep doing whatever it takes to know your company—where it’s been, where you envision it going. In order to implement an effective growth plan, you must be able to look at your business objectively, determine your strengths and weaknesses, and determine where improvements should be made on an ongoing basis. Don’t forget to pay close attention to your competition. Once you know your organization from top to bottom, you’ll be able to put a plan in place that will allow you to grow and prosper.

Growing a start-up and increasing its profitability can overwhelm an entrepreneur once the “honeymoon” period moves into the day-to-day of business responsibilities. Follow these six steps and you’ll have a much better chance at success.

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