Last year’s brighter economic picture for SMEs looks set to continue during 2014, with a record number of new start-ups and improving consumer confidence among other positive trends witnessed. As a result of this upturn, many businesses are reshaping their plans as they seek to expand their operations over the coming twelve months and beyond. Let’s examine some of the top priorities for businesses aiming to capitalize on revitalized markets, and look at how important it is to secure the right kind of financing to realize those plans.
1. The need to diversify products and services
A recent survey of nearly one thousand SMEs by affiliate network company paidonresults.com revealed that seeking to widen the scope of their products and services was the number one priority of SMEs in seeking to achieve growth. Diversification might include adding complementary goods or services, extending the company brand or even trading under different names. Ideally, businesses should already be trading successfully prior to diversification but the risks of diversifying within a proven market are considerably less than seeking a brand new market altogether.
2. Expanding overseas
As well as diversifying, businesses are keen to find new foreign markets for their products and services. While the potential rewards of finding large, new markets overseas is obvious enough, companies seeking to do so need to look before they leap. It’s very important to research new markets carefully before investing and having country-specific expertise is crucial, as financial and business systems are likely to work differently to those in other countries. As well as working out what kind of expansion – such as natural growth, joint ventures or acquisition – is appropriate for your business, companies looking overseas will have many different business concerns to address, such as foreign exchange risks, VAT and customs duties, tax laws and legal rights issues.
3. Increasing marketing and advertising selectively
The wide reach of the internet, together with valuable new forms of hard data that can be mined using online technology, means today’s successful businesses have to market themselves widely but smartly. Using affiliate marketing, SEO and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are all increasingly popular ways for companies to market themselves online. However, old models such as measuring the success of an online advertising campaign using click-through rates are giving way to new and more sophisticated models of how consumers interact with advertisements and respond to marketing content. Businesses that treat their customers like humans and know how to engage them effectively using innovative marketing and advertising strategies can expect to see their customer base grow as new mobile markets boost sales.
4. Investing in new, skilled workers and up-skilling the existing workforce.
Market-led and government reports seem to be in agreement that businesses that will grow and succeed in the new knowledge economy are those that have skilled workers. Rather than relying on old top-down management models, successful businesses are focusing on building collaborative teams that can think creatively and act flexibly in order to solve problems and generate new ideas with potential worth. Having a well-trained, motivated workforce that has a stake in the company’s success is certainly a top priority for businesses looking to grow.
5/ Seek adequate financing
Even with strong sales and healthy profit margins, most businesses looking to expand will require extra funds to help them realize their growth potential. In the past, businesses would likely seek additional investment in the form of a bank business loan but today’s finance markets offer businesses a much wider range of options. Rather than taking on long-term loans requiring onerous collateral and personal guarantees, many businesses are opting instead for short or mid-term cash advances that calculate repayment on the basis of business sales alone.
Businesses are also increasingly turning to online lending portals as a way of securing extra funds while minimising personal risk. From small-scale peer-to-peer investors to large private investment firms offering millions in exchange for a slice of business equity, online lending is a rapidly growing market for companies seeking to acquire capital funds to grow their business. However, reducing risk often means relinquishing some control as investors seek to influence companies and protect their money. There are pros and cons to every method of financing so business owners need to research the different options available and decide which is best for their company.
Businesses need to plan carefully, borrow wisely and use their money in smart ways, investing in long-term and proven models for growth. Short-sighted measures to cut costs and boost short-term profits at the expense of long-term vision should be discouraged at all costs. Forward-thinking companies with the right priorities will have every chance of successful growth in 2014 and for years to come.