Soon after starting a business you realise the contrast between the fantasy vs. reality. The reality is, starting a business is much like being on a rollercoaster ride – some of the turns are scary.

The more informed you are about the market, the easier it is to master your niche and grow the business. There are several online tools that make it easier to gather insights about the market to increase sales.

Know your customer to increase market share

To find new customers, entrepreneurs tend to create a new product or service. While this isn’t entirely the wrong approach, it can result in wasteful expenditure. Rather spend your efforts to increase sales for the current products/services, instead of creating new problems.

With a new product or service, you’re starting from scratch to find new customers. Spending a lot of time validating the idea to the market. Rather redirect your focus on finding customers that have the problem you’re already solving. Do the research to understand why the buy and why they don’t. If need be, you can modify your offering or know for sure you ought to pivot and create and entirely new offering.

It may take several iterations. Keep checking if your offering solves their problem. Only when you have got this part right, can you assess how to scale the business.

Understanding how else the product or service can be used is an opportunity to create multiple income streams from multiple markets. Take note of the operating costs and profits – you want to strike a balance between increasing market share and keeping operating costs as low as possible, without compromising quality.

The next step is to invest in creating structures, routines, legal protection and all the other stuff.

Tools like Hootsuite and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, provide insights on the demographics of people that respond or engage with your marketing efforts (click on analytics).

Hootsuite is also great because it saves you time and cuts operating costs. You can schedule your marketing posts up to 3 months in advance.

MailChimp makes it easier to build communities using newsletters to engage customers.

Learn what you don’t know

Key to growing a business is having competent people on your team. Not all entrepreneurs are fortunate to start with a full team. Skilled and experienced people are generally expensive to employ. We tend to use people that are available, often at the expense of having the right skills.

Udacity, Mindtools and Blinkist are growing in popularity. Teams can use these tools to learn skills that can improve their productivity and the business.

Put Money Aside

I can already hear you say, “What money?”. A portion of the money earned from sales, should be set-aside to reinvest in growing the business. We should be tracking money coming in and out of the business. If you haven’t started, track how much is wasted and saved.

An example of wasting money – using excel spreadsheets to compile quotes and invoices. On average people spend 3 mins generating a quote or an invoice using excel. On Waves, it takes all of 90seconds and it simultaneously creates a database of your customers. You can set reminders to remind customers of overdue payments.

One that is growing to be a favourite, particularly for customers that complain about high fees – Add-A-Bit. You can create savings pockets for customers or create one for the business for future investment.

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