This guide about SME growth was crafted in one go. It represents the cumulative knowledge and experience of mine – the CEO of BizzBee Solutions. As you may or may not know, BizzBee Solutions as a company has worked with 300+ entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs, giving us the opportunity to talk with their founders, CEOs, and Directors, helping us build a pattern for success.

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SMEs' Shortcut to Quick Growth
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Business is not rocket science. I think that many people make a huge fuss about it. Especially consultants, advisors, and contractors as they need to justify their high rates. Any business can be simplified in 3 core steps:

  1. Find enough people/companies that have the same problem (that is significant to them)
  2. Figure out how to solve that specific problem
  3. Communicate with people/companies and show them the desired solution

The majority of entrepreneurs and start-ups fail just because of this.
They fail to find a large enough market, they address a non-significant problem. Or they are simply communicating poorly with their market. In many cases, I’ve talked to founders of companies that have an idea, then spend a lot of time and resources just to develop it, only to hear that the market does not really need it.

I learned that the hard way, having several failed businesses behind me. My last failure was late 2018/early 2019 when I launched a SaaS. We were planning on helping Software Development teams get highly targeted and enriched project opportunities. We found enough companies that had the same problem, but we failed to solve the problem for them.

SMEs, on the other hand, have already proven the system. By proven, I mean – they have a market, they are solving a problem, they have several clients that pay for the solution, and they are breaking even or making some profit. If you are at this stage – congratulations, you are already better than 95% of all companies. But now what? How can you keep growing your profits?

That is the question that all founders struggle with and are facing, even me. Should I invest in new services? Or perhaps I should invest in new markets? Or should I focus on my existing services to my existing markets?

This dilemma was sorted back in 1957 by Ansoff when he built the Ansoff Matrix. He argued that companies have 4 possibilities for SME growth:

Ansoff matrix Scheme for Growth

Market Development (offer an existing product/service to new markets)

Assuming that you have a good service and a proven track record to back that up, your SME’s growth strategy can be Market Development. Or simply put – going into new markets with the same service. This can be geographical new markets (e.g. entering a new country with the same service), or within the same country (e.g. addressing a new segment within the same country).

Coca-cola, Groupon, Adidas, Nike have entered international markets for expansion, by targeting new geographic areas offering the same products/services.

Market Penetration (existing product/service to existing market)

If you have a good service and a good market – the SME growth strategy can be Market Penetration. Growing by improving your market share. In the case of having several competitors, you are trying to grow, by simply stealing their clients.
For example, if you have a 20% market share, with this strategy you can increase your market share to 40%. This is without going to new markets or trying to serve new markets.

T-Mobile has aggressive marketing campaigns in order to attract more users stealing subscribers from other mobile operators. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is offering £150 to new customers switching their bank account to RBS.  

Product Development (offer a new product/service to existing markets)

If you have an in-depth understanding of your market– your SME growth strategy can be Product Development. Since you know your market, you are aware of all the other problems they have and can easily offer to solve an additional problem for them. You already have an established relationship, so the focus is shifting to offering additional services for the same market. These services are usually complementary to your existing services.

Samsung and Apple are developing new flagship products every 1-2 years. Coca-Cola created Fanta as a new flavor, directly as a response to listening to consumers.  

Diversification (offer a completely new product/service to completely new markets)

This SME growth strategy can be considered as a completely new business. You have identified a new market, with a new problem that you want to solve, which is completely different to your existing company.

Samsung is famous for its diverse variety of products offered under the same brand (consumer electronics, IT & mobile devices).
Samsung Diversification example - product portfolio

Which one should you choose?

Even 62 years after the Ansoff Matrix made its debut, it is still relevant. Since those are the 4 options you have for SME growth. Finding new markets for your current service, trying to steal business from your competitors, figuring out new services to offer your existing market. Or simply entering a completely new market with a new service.

Digitalization and the Internet have introduced some flexibility in the model (ex. ability to offer your product/service internationally). However, you still need a huge marketing budget to start targeting worldwide.

So what is the fastest way to achieve SME growth? A consultant would answer: It depends. And they are probably right, as it depends not just on the Ansoff strategy. But it also depends on the specifics of the industry, nature of the market, as well as plenty of other factors.

But is this really an excuse to give up? Hell no! You have worked too hard to get to here to just give up now. As an entrepreneur, you have taken too many risks which have paid off (otherwise you would have closed your business). And also you are comfortable with taking risks (as long as they are calculable).

Plants growth as a metaphor for company revenue

So back to you and your business. What is the quick SME growth formula for you? Are there pre-determined steps that you can follow that will significantly improve your chance of success? At the end of the day, everything is about statistics. If the chance of your company surviving 5 more years is 10%, is there a way to actually improve that chance up to 50% or 90% by growing your company? Which strategy is best for you? Or maybe you have the resources to pursue all 4 SME growth strategies?

For me, Ansoff’s SME growth strategy helped me understand that growth is not just one road to follow. There can be several ways to how you can achieve growth. In BizzBee Solutions, we are constantly innovating new services that we can offer to the same market (Product Development). As well as trying to increase our market share of the existing market (Market Penetration).

4 simple steps for SME growth

Working with 300+ companies I summed up 4 very simple steps that I believe can help any company grow. The SME growth speed depends on you. Here are the 4 steps:

  1. Market Research. Regardless of which SME growth strategy you choose from Ansoff’s matrix, you need research. You shouldn’t have just a limited view of the market. Market research usually includes the market, the competition and the industry. So when talking about market research – we are looking at the broader term.
    Now take a look back at Ansoff’s matrix. Try to figure out a SME growth strategy that doesn’t require market research. Of course, you can’t. The bottom line of good market research is a clear understanding of your ideal clients and who they are.

  2. Inbound Lead Generation plan. From your research, you should be able to derive a strategy on how to attract your market to you. If you can’t – you haven’t done relevant or in-depth market research. If you did a good job, you would know the segments you are targeting, how to find them, and how to attract them.  With the Inbound Lead Generation plan, you should attract your ideal clients – so they come knocking at your door.

  3. Outbound Lead Generation plan. Waiting for your ideal client to get in touch can be quite frustrating. Where are they? Why aren’t they calling? As you may know, inbound strategies are usually long-term and require time for you to see any results. While waiting, you can actually start approaching your ideal clients and show them how you can solve their problem.
    With outbound lead generation, you can actually find all or some of your ideal clients. The research process can be time-consuming. Since it involves identifying a list of companies that match the criteria for your ideal clients. You can even do some level of business intelligence on the companies before you approach them. This could increase your conversion rate.

  4. Lead Outreach. This is related to outbound leads. As you have already identified them and qualified them, the next step is to approach them. With the inbound lead generation – you can only hope for the right lead. While with the outbound you choose who you reach. Knowing the type of company and/or the problem they are having, makes the approach far more efficient, and also the companies are more prone to engage.

Here is a map of the steps:

Lead Outreach steps scheme

As I previously stated I sincerely believe in these 4 steps, regardless of which SME growth strategy you chose. Let me try to cover each in more detail since the formula for fast SME growth is hidden there.

Market Research

Yes, it is a piece of common consulting advice to do market research – even I have heard that a lot. Like it or not, it has become a buzzword. Just like entrepreneur, marketing, or investment. But even “market research” as a term, has many different variations and interpretations.

In this chapter, I will try to convince you that SME growth without market research is a pure gamble. Just like putting it all on black and hoping for the best.

Actually, if you are roulette betting on black/red you have 48.60% chance of winning. And we consider gambling as high-risk revenue. Another type of gambling is sports betting. You are improving your chances of winning a bet by having some sort of sports understanding. Which players are playing/not playing, is the match a home or away match, knowledge of head to head statistics, etc.

All additional information increases your chances of winning. The more you know the sport and the teams, the higher the chances of guessing the right result. The fun lasts for about 1-3 hours and you know if you won or not. If you want to improve your risk chances, you can look at stocks, investments funds, index funds. In that specific order. If you know about a certain company’s growth/decline, you can risk your money on the stock market and hope for some gain. Interest from the bank can also provide some return on investments.

If I learned anything from these types of investments, it is the fact that they offer 3%, 5%, even up to 10% return. Is this really the SME growth you are looking for? Investing to enter a new market, or a new service to the same market (yes, Ansoff again), could really bring you exponential SME growth.

The tough question is, what is the right decision for you? Should you risk new unknown markets? Or perhaps you want to take a risk with a new unknown service? Or both?

Market Research for Outbound Growth - Graphic

There is no single solution, but you need market research or due diligence in order to understand what the best course of action is. You should have in mind that in the SME growth world there is never a yes or no conclusion, and there are always additional risks – but with market research, you can actually understand the market, the competition, the industry, and reduce the rate of failure.  

With the economy becoming more and more competitive with each passing day, having appropriate knowledge about the concerns and preferences of your customers has become an integral part of any business.

Market research provides relevant data to help solve the marketing challenges that businesses will most likely face – an integral part of the business planning process. It provides important information which helps in identifying and analyzing the needs of the market, the market size, and the competition.

Corporations have large marketing research departments in house. Small companies can’t afford this, but still, there is a way they can get the benefits of utilizing a research team. They can outsource it to a dedicated company that can help.

Led by the market opportunity and our experience in the B2B sector, we have created the ultimate methodology for market research. This methodology covers the three main aspects you will need to achieve SME growth – Industry and Market Overview, Competition, and Governance which are the three main knowledge points which will provide answers and equip you with the tools to make key strategic decisions.

The performed analysis includes a plethora of individual research reports, as well as the accumulation of facts and figures provided by many other sources. Each piece of information provides incremental knowledge, which will support the decision-making in different areas of your company. Here are the three main aspects:

Industry and Market Overview

How big is your segment? Is it growing or shrinking? What are the key projections regarding the field you operate in?

This is the first and one of the most important parts of the research because its core purpose is to give a general understanding of the industry and the market in which the company operates.

  • Market Segmentation. Depending on the type and size of the market, it can be divided into different segments. These segments should be researched separately since different parameters apply to them.

  • Familiarize yourself with the latest emerging groundbreaking trends in your segment.

  • Target Market. What if you are not currently targeting the right type of companies or customers? Another important aspect of research is defining and targeting consumers. This is a complex task because it involves many variables and details that need to be included.

Competition Analysis

Do you know who your competitors are?

Get a step ahead with this knowledge, which will enable you to create strategies that can exploit your competitions’ weaknesses and improve your business’ overall performance.  You will also be in a position to set competitive pricing and features. As well as respond to rival marketing campaigns with suitable initiatives.

  • Place your Top 10 competitors under the proverbial microscope, and focus your attention on the following five categories:
    • General information: Fundamental company information such as founding dates of the competitors’ companies, who their investors are, mergers and acquisitions, size, employees, website, etc.
    • Solutions: Offered products, solutions, services, their characteristics.
    • Financial information: Pricing, information available for their revenues and funding.
    • Market information: Industries and countries in which they are operating.
    • Marketing information: What are the marketing activities the competition uses? What is their social media activity and posting frequency? Do their clients engage with them online or not? What does their competitors’ clientele say about them and their product/s?
    • Fundamental online information such as what their top paid and organic search terms are that drives their conversions, website ranking and traffic? What are the online communities where your competition is popular, and which ones do they own?
  • Revise your positioning on the market, by comparing your company with its competitors and confirming the points which differentiate you from the competitions’ offerings.
  • Uncover the alternatives to your solution available on the market, by reviewing other practices or substitutes.
Competition Analysis for Outbound Growth

Governmental Overview

Governments play a vital role in shaping and regulating businesses. They control the market and set up the rules which companies have to follow. This part covers the laws and regulations that affect establishing and running your business. More precisely, the legal framework is being examined as a rule set that needs to be followed and respected, in order to achieve SME growth.

  • Country Overview. A key point of this section is to get a deeper understanding of the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal statuses in any country. In order to do this, we will provide a PESTEL Analysis. This analysis provides an understanding of the wider business environment.

  • Other organizations. A further inspection of potential NGO, Groups, and Associations that could potentially influence the business climate or operations.

Why is market research necessary?

Why do you actually need this? Well, if you want to spend money on sales and marketing for SME growth – I think it is an important step to know who you are targeting (market), what makes you different from others (competition), and how you will position your business in the market.

So, what if the research shows you that you should not invest in a specific service/market? Well, the wisest thing is for you to listen to it. Would you rather invest a million and then realize that that was a mistake? Or would you rather spend a month in research before expanding and realize all the potential mistakes?

What if the research gives you insight that could help you prevent some basic mistakes and save you from losing a lot of money? What if the research actually helps you to make a few key decisions that could define or break your company?

I am sure that you’ve heard the main argument against market research. The customers do not know what they need/want. Obvious examples are Tesla, the Internet, Apple, etc. The argument is that companies made a product, and then the market created the need. This is especially true in the hi-tech world (and therefore it has the highest failure rate).

I recall a Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”  I would argue differently – the need was always there – but these companies found an innovative way of how to solve that need. There was always the need to move, cars were just a better solution than horses to the same problem.

Tesla responded to the need for people to be environmentally friendly. Or have cheaper transportation. I believe the need is always there (and identified through market research). Then it is up to the companies how they will capture that opportunity. Either by copying the rest of the world or by creating something unique.

If you are still not clear of the importance of market research – here are a few clients’ comments below who told us how market research helped them:

Let me give you another example from one of our clients. The client wanted to produce Nespresso compatible coffee pods – and needed Market Research to understand the industry, the market, the competition. Our preliminary research showed that the market was overcrowded, and the competition was mostly competing with their prices – which is a bad industry to be in.

However, by doing the research, we found a gap in the market – nobody was doing high-end luxury pods (filled with the top 5 luxury coffees in the world). The client switched direction based on the research and now has THE most luxury brand of Nespresso compatible pods in the world. 

Outbound Lead Generation

As I am personally a fan of outbound lead generation; let me tell you about a few differences between inbound (pull) and outbound (push) lead generation. With inbound lead generation, you are making a significant effort (either in money for the ads, or content for SEO, or promotions), but at the end of the day, you spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting for someone to call you, waiting for someone to email you, waiting for someone to contact you on your web or social media. And waiting is not my strong suit, especially when it comes to business.

In addition to waiting, once someone approaches you (a prospect), the first thing you need to do is qualify them. As you will be getting quite a few non-relevant requests. Not that it is a bad way of generating sales, it is just a way where you don’t control how many people will decide to contact you. So perhaps the keyword is CONTROL over the lead generation process.

The outbound lead generation, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. You are identifying potential clients that you could sell to, and you are actively approaching them and trying to convince them to buy.

Let me be clear from the start. If inbound is money intensive (ads), outbound is labor-intensive which could also be expensive. Finding a lot of prospects that match your criteria is labor-intensive, but you are approaching the right prospects and not wasting your time and efforts.

Lead Generation Road sign

If I needed to choose one, you actually need both – inbound ads and inbound SEO are immediate and long-term ways of generating prospects, while with outbound lead generation, you are not waiting for the phone to ring – you are pro-actively approaching potential clients and pitching your service. To sum up, you need a team to find leads and reach SME growth.

So what are good leads for you? If you have done proper market research, you know the exact type of companies you want to approach. And with inbound lead generation, you are making an effort for them to come to you. It is a big world, so some of your potential clients would never know you existed.

That is why with outbound lead generation, you make sure they are aware of your presence and existence. You know your ideal target from the market research – so the next step is to find them. How? Let’s take this step by step.

A typical outbound lead generation should consist of 3 main sections:

1. Define an ideal company for you. You should be able to define the criteria for your ideal client from your market research. As the world is large, you should be able to narrow it down by adding criteria that match your ideal client profile:

  • Industry. It is easy to look across industries, but if you look back at what kind of companies were your clients in the past, it is easy to find a pattern of companies that are most profitable for you. I can understand that if you sell web design, that all companies are your potential clients – but look at your portfolio, what kind of companies have you worked for the most that required web services? Or which were most profitable?

  • Location. If your service is geographically-specific – that is, it is in the region you plan on serving. If you are offering digital services, then you need to be more specific than just saying the world is the target. In case you had €100 or €1000 in marketing budget – what geographic location would you focus on? Where do you have a strong portfolio, where you can easily encourage more clients to use your services/products?

  • Number of employees. This seems obvious, but still, companies mix corporations with startups – although they have different needs, budgets and even approaches. Startups need an unstructured approach, flexibility of delivery, as well as mentoring and coaching over the delivery of the service.
    In contrast, corporations have a well-structured project plan, with clearly defined outcomes and milestones which need to be met. And if we talk about budget – it is easy to understand which is which. So the number of employees is directly linked to how big a company is and already gives you certain information about it.

  • Other. If you know the industry, the location and the size of the company – you are pretty clear on your target. But in many cases, that is still too general, and clients need additional criteria in order to shape their ideal client.
    This could range from digital presence (marketing agencies want clients with low digital presence), WordPress site (web development companies that specialize in WordPress have this criterion), companies that have Shopify as their platform (companies that sell Shopify add-ons), even up to companies that have at least 20 000 square feet in roof area (solar panel companies).
    Although this could help in narrowing down the ideal clients, it also makes the research harder – as many companies that not match the criteria will be disqualified, which takes a lot of effort.

2. Define the ideal position within the company. Once the company “qualifies”, congratulations, it means that it passed all the criteria, and the next step is to find the right employee within the company. The wrong employee could diminish the entire effort.

You need to identify people that are responsible for the exact type of service you are offering. The problem lies in that each company has a unique and non-standardized organizational structure. That means that a generalized position might not be the same everywhere.

  • Founder, co-founder, owner, C-level executives, VP. These positions as high-level ones, are quite standardized and are easiest to find. C-level executives are usually one per department. Meaning they are easier to trace as long as you know what you are looking for (CEO – Chief Executive Officer; CTO – Chief Technical Officer).
  • Director, Manager. As it is one level below the C-level, there are more of these positions within the same company, so the outbound activity needs to be careful to approach the right people. There could be several marketing managers managing different teams and different channels. So if you want to present your SEO services, you need to identify the right manager responsible for SEO.

  • Worker, employee, lower management role. Depending on the service offered, you might target individual employees or specific roles within departments. For example, we had a client looking for Factory Safety managers, or Factory Quality Assurance managers. Worker level positions are harder to find, as employees switch jobs more frequently than directors or C-level executives.

3. Depth of information needed. To sum up, first, you need to figure out what kind of companies are ideal for you; second, you need to understand what kind of positions within each company would yield the best results.

Now once you know that, you need to gather some business intelligence in order to get the information needed to approach them and make the right pitch. So the more information you possess, the more relevant you will appear to your potential clients.

Let’s look at some of the information you need. Depending on the value of the product you are selling, the information can vary from simple company info to in-depth company/employee analytics. This can be divided into 3 layers depending on the needed information.

  • Layer 1: Knowing the company and the relevant person. The common scenario with lead generation is that you need to get some basic company info. Name, web, generic email, and relevant direct contact information – position, direct email and phone. With this, you can initiate communication and see if they are interested in your service.

  • Layer 2: In addition to Layer 1, you need to have a deeper understanding of the company. The number of employees, when it was registered, how it is doing, as well as additional information on the relevant people. That includes LinkedIn profiles, education, history within the company, etc. The main purpose of this is to get a better understanding of the company, so the initial approach can be more tailored to their needs.

  • Layer 3: Advanced lead generation. Ultimately, if you are selling Enterprise products (value above €50.000), you need complete due diligence on the company you are approaching. You need to build a tailored marketing approach for them as well – commonly referred to as Account Based Marketing (ABM).
    In addition to Layer 2, you need a 360 degree understanding of the company. Including merges and acquisitions, news in the media, financial indicators over the last 3-5 years. As well as, marketing activities (both offline and digital). Recruitment activities, and any custom analysis that could help your company better assess and approach the target company.
    In addition to the company, you need to have a complete background of the person in the relevant position. You should take a look at the time he/she has been with the company, companies that he/she worked in before. As well as personal social media – even to the extreme where you need to have a so-called “point of discussion.”
    Once you look at their social media you will know if they are a dog/cat fan, car lover, sports lover, and traveler. And based on that info, your conversational approach can be as smooth as possible.

Although Layer 1 is the simplest, depending on your service, you need to consider how in-depth you need to understand your potential clients before crafting a tailored approach.

When we are working with clients that are selling services that range below €100, or have subscription-based services below €50, they don’t need a lot of convincing and can have shorter sales-cycles. We had clients that were offering €30 SaaS subscriptions in the digital marketing area. And another SaaS in the health and safety industry – which we managed to help with some basic company/position information.

However, when we are working with clients that are selling high ticket or high-level subscriptions, they need to know quite a lot about the company/person they are selling to. We had a client that was a leadership coach that charged €4.000 per day. For him, in order to target executives in the Fortune 500 list, we needed some additional data for each company/position. 

Selling services above €50.000? You need to know their maiden name, their pet’s name, who the decision-maker in the company is, who the influencer is, etc. I think you get the point. We had a client in the printing SaaS industry. The client value is €50.000+ and we had to do a complete mini-research per company.

The mini-research involved collecting business intelligence on the company. Meaning marketing, sales, acquisitions, news (media), financial data, etc., but also on the person, (social media profiles, posts, likes, dislikes, discussion points, etc.). We had a similar project for a company that was selling code optimization SaaS. They were targeting CTOs from the largest companies in Europe. And again, it required mini-research on each of their potential clients.  

Lead Outreach

As you have already identified and qualified your prospects, the next step in achieving SME growth is to approach them. With inbound lead generation, you can only hope for the right lead, while with outbound, you choose who you reach. Knowing the type of company and the problems they are having, makes the approach far more efficient and makes the companies more prone to engage.

When deciding on how to do the actual outreach, there are several channels to choose from, or you can use a mix of them:

1. E-mail sequence outreach. The most obvious way to do outreach is by e-mail. If you have done the market research correctly, and the lead generation data gathering – you have plenty of data to resonate with your potential clients.

Laptop with letters- Email Outreach for Outbound SME Growth

But don’t make the most obvious mistake – trying to sell on the first e-mail. I mean, they don’t know you, you can’t just expect them to take out their credit card! Initiate communication, get to know them, build rapport, and then pitch your service.

Most of the time people rush the process and try to sell as soon as possible. Well, people have got used to that, so their mental guard is up. And until you establish some relationship that inspires confidence, people will reject whatever you try to pitch.

That is why the sequence is so important. It starts with a set of emails to move the cold leads (people that have no clue of your existence), and warm them up. That way they become aware of your existence, understand they have a problem that you can solve – to hot leads (they’ve compared competitors and believe you are the best option to proceed with). You can’t really do that in a single e-mail. If you decide to do an e-mail campaign, you need to have a few things in mind:

  • Content creation. When setting up a sequence, what we’ve learned is that each message should have one single goal. If you have 2 goals in mind, then divide it into 2 messages. You can’t have a message introducing yourself, asking for their problem, and pitching your service. You will just confuse the reader. So the content should be planned in advance depending on the number of goals, as well as the nature of the service.

  • Automation. Once you have the content, you need the tech part. Meaning, setting up the e-mail sender automation tool for sending the messages and defining scheduled times and dates. There are plenty of automation tools out there, and it would take another new eBook just to go over them.

  • Email delivery. The sending of the e-mails should be based on the content and the sequence timing. It looks simple, but from our experience, there are too many variables involved that could go wrong. If you failed at content creation, your server may mark your emails as spam. And if you don’t resonate with the prospects’ problems, they will mark you as spam.

  • Handling responses. Eventually, people will respond. Some will be very interested from the start (hopefully). Some will be neutral (and start asking all the questions) while there will always be people that respond negatively.
    Negative responses are not a bad thing – they still took the time and effort to provide feedback to your e-mail. We do continue communications with people that respond negatively. I am proud that we have managed to convert many negatives into actually buying our services. The only problem is with the ones that ignore your mails – you don’t get feedback and can’t adjust your campaign accordingly. These are the ones to be afraid of.

2. Phone call outreach. Another way to approach your potential clients is by actually calling them. Pick up the phone and connect with them. If it is not a good time (most often it isn’t), use the opportunity to schedule the next call. This way they can be prepared for the conversation, instead of being surprised again.

3. LinkedIn outreach. Although kind of neglected, LinkedIn is still the biggest social media platform for business people. If your goal is SME growth, you definitely should keep this in mind. On LinkedIn, people expect to connect to potential buyers or suppliers – so they are more open to connecting and initiating communication regarding business. If you’ve gathered LinkedIn URLs within the outbound outreach, this is the perfect way to initiate communication.

Man jumping from LinkedIn sign towards money - Outbound SME Growth

Since there are several automated or semi-automated tools, here are the steps that we recommend:

  • Go Premium on LinkedIn Sales Navigator. The price is around €60, but the additional filtering options that you will get are priceless. We encourage all of our clients to upgrade to Sales Navigator, as the price is nothing compared to the value you get.

  • Find a semi-automatic tool. Doing a completely manual LinkedIn campaign for SME growth is a waste of resources and time. Especially when there are tools that once you set up the content and the filters right, could save you up to 90% of the LinkedIn effort.

  • Create LinkedIn content. Don’t make the common mistake of copying the e-mail content and pasting it on LinkedIn. Different channels require different content. How would you feel if someone SMSs you a whole e-mail? LinkedIn is used by professionals and they expect to chat, not to receive lengthy messages. Remember – one message, one goal.

  • Execution. With the proper tool, you will be able to send a tailored invitation message, and an automated follow-up message a few hours after someone accepts your friend request. From there, it should be manual chit-chat with prospects moving them toward a meeting.

    More about our LinkedIn outreach here.

4. Social media outreach. As an outbound outreach, you can initiate conversations over other social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, etc. Although they are not positioned as professional networks – you still have access to people.

Facebook has groups of people that share similar interests. If you know your target, and they have a group – it is a fantastic way to approach them and initiate communication. In addition, by posting relevant content, you might start discussions with your target.

I am sure you will find plenty of additional ways to reach out to your target. These are just a few channels that we are actively using at BizzBee Solutions and the same ones helped us with SME growth.

Inbound Lead Generation Plan

We have limited knowledge in inbound lead generation. A wise man chooses which battles to fight carefully, and at BizzBee our expertise lies within outbound lead generation. However, as an SME that wants to grow, you need to be aware of both these ways. What follows is a short overview of inbound lead generation.

Once the market research is done, you will be aware of the market you want to target. For a typical company owner, the problem that arises next is how to attract this target, how to bring them to your shop (for digital companies, in most cases this is your website).

It is an interesting concept to consider your website as your physical shop – is it clean (does it have a clear value proposition, is it bug-free); is it appealing, would people like to stay longer, is it crowded? You catch my drift, right? These are the same questions that can be asked for a regular physical shop.

E-commerce relationship - Inbound plan

So once your shop is up and running – you must figure out a way to invite people to come and visit you (still feels like a physical shop, right?). So for a physical shop, a typical way is to announce an official opening, buy some food, print some invitations, and invite the neighbors and some close friends. At the opening party, provide the best possible experience and share as many business cards as possible. The following day, you will probably sit in front of the phone and wait for it to ring.

It’s quite similar in the digital world – the difference is that everything is online. You decide on a launch date (opening date) – and you try to send as many e-mails as possible (invitations), and you try to provide an exceptional experience for your visitors. Perhaps you can even offer some discounts in order to attract more people (synonym for leaflets in the neighborhood). And same as before, the next day you are again in front of the phone, waiting for it to ring or in front of the computer waiting for an e-mail.

As is the case when it comes to probability, you can actively influence the rate of incoming requests that you will get. A typical company will have the following channels to get requests from:

  1. Phone requests. People will call you and ask for clarifications, specifications, and quotes. As a channel, it will require attention, a person that will actively talk to prospects. The phone as a tool can now be extended to the digital world (Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and many other online communication tools). The main advantage of the phone is that you are able to hear the prospect, get real-time feedback and (if capable) close the lead on the spot.

  2. E-mail requests. Interested prospects could also be e-mailing you instead of calling. This way, you have the flexibility of answering at your convenience (usually at night, after a long day). But still, it does not require immediate action. The main advantage of the e-mail is that you can share additional media over e-mail – leaflets, PDF files, excel specifications. Or anything else that could help you to better represent your service and push the prospect towards a sale.

  3. Website requests. If your website acts as a welcoming shop, you have a way for prospects to engage in active chat with you. If not, you would have left your contact email (which goes back to point 2). Or you have an online form (which again goes back to point 2).
    Nevertheless, the live chat interaction can be as close as phone interaction, and you might be able to close on the spot. With the addition of being able to share additional media as with e-mail communications. The difference is that people are less prone to talk and prefer to just chat (it is the 21st-century thing). So, if you don’t have a live chat on your web, you are missing out on potential communications.
  4. Social Media requests. People are spending quite a lot of time on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). I don’t have the statistics, but I can promise it is a lot :). And they are eager to engage in communicating on these platforms – since 99% of people are on their phones while doing something else.
    Hence, while they are traveling – scrolling. Being on the toilet – scrolling. Having a coffee with friends – unfortunately still scrolling, boring meetings – scrolling. To conclude, it is entirely possible for you to have fruitful communications with people over social media.  

Of course, there are more than 4 channels that prospects can use to get in touch with you, but it’s not my job to list all of them. Yes, there are also landing pages offering something for free (which can be considered as an extension to your website) that have an online form, where once the visitors leave their email you can send a sequence of e-mails and push toward closure => meeting or direct sale. As you can see, all of these fall into the 4 categories mentioned above, they are just different variations.

Now once you know the 4 basic steps on how inbound prospects can get in touch with you, the next step is to figure out how you can attract potential clients to these channels. So that you can get people calling you, emailing you or connecting with you via your website and social media.

When it comes to inbound prospect generation, I think there are too many options to choose from. I mean if you live in the 21st century, there are plenty of digital marketing agencies offering their inbound strategies, guaranteeing their process works, but rarely guaranteeing the output. Believe me, I have tried a few. Here are some inbound prospect generation strategies based on our experience:

Search Engine Optimization bullet-points
  1. Ads. The oldest, but the most expensive strategy which generates the fastest results. Simply put, you pay people (usually your target) to see your advert and convince them to hear more about your offering. Ads can be very broad (usually it is TV, radio, billboards). But now they have expanded to all social media (it is their main source of revenue – e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and search engines (e.g. Google Ads, Yahoo Ads).
    In addition to the general platforms, niche platforms offer ads specifically for their segment – for example, if you are targeting the software development community, advertising on Stack Overflow will yield fantastic responses. Ads are the fastest way to bring in potential clients, however, once you stop the money flow, the traffic stops. There will be some delayed traffic, but ultimately that’s it.

  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Another way to bring potential prospects to your site and reach SME growth, is by sharing a lot of content on your website. And hope (or pay experts to guarantee) that Google and other search engine crawlers will pick up the content, and show it within the first few pages if a prospect searches for specific content.
    The keyword is building content. No matter if that are blogs, video, podcasts, etc. They should be relevant to your potential clients and are written in a way that search engines can pick up. So you are actually writing for 2 readers:

    • Potential clients. This is actually an obvious one. You are building content that resonates with your target audience in order for them to start following you and get in touch with you.

    • Search engine crawlers. This is the hidden reader, which is actually more important. You need to create SEO friendly content – easily understandable for crawlers. Otherwise, even if you have the most important and critical information for your potential clients, if crawlers don’t understand it and mark it as relevant, nobody will ever read that content. Regardless of its relevance and urgency.
      So, the challenge is to build content that first of all will be understood by crawlers, so consequently, it can get a chance to be read by your potential clients. Think about that.

  3. Promotions. We are distinguishing ads from promotions. Ads are paid traffic, while promotions are benefits that potential clients can receive if they take a certain action.
    Yes, you can use paid ads to push promotions, but it is not a must. You can have an internal database of e-mails that you can use to inform people about your promotion. It won’t cost you a dime. Or you can put it on your website, and push people to get in touch with you in order to use the promotion.

    • Ads with promotion. In this case, you are trying to bring in new prospects that have not heard of you. And by using the promotion they will be making the first trial of your service.

    • Promotion without ads. In this case, you are reaching out to your existing database of clients, leads, or social media followers. And there, without any additional cost, you are just creating scarcity for a discounted offer or for limited products. At the same time, pushing people that already know about you, or are already using your services, to buy more in order to use the promotion.

  4. Other traffic generation channels. When using the Internet, the ways in which you can create more traffic on your website are endless.
    You can post a job on Upwork or other freelance platforms, and ask people that want to apply for the job to visit your website. You can create Webinars; (create ads, push people to attend a webinar, explain the service, and with the email sequence push them toward closure). Although, somehow this feels like a combo of the tools listed above.
    There are also events (both physical and virtual) which can be a significant channel for leads. However, this is another story, as it is a book on its own.

Following these 4 traffic generation tactics, as well as your 4 channels of inbound communication, you can rapidly grow your rates, (traffic => interested => meeting => warm-up => closure).

If you want to find out which tactic works the best for your B2B Solution, go here.

Extra – Another Simple Formula for Growth

Looking at SME growth strategies, there is also another perspective that could help you grow your company. While screening content on the web, I stumbled upon Josh Kaufman and his ‘4 Methods to Increase Revenue’. I believe it could give you a different perspective on how you can increase revenue by looking at your existing database of clients.

There are ONLY 4 ways you can increase your revenue:

  1. Increase prices. This is the most obvious one. If you increase prices, your revenue will grow, without further exploration of new markets or new services. The problem here is that you need to figure out how you can add additional value. But at the same time have a foundation for the price increase. If everything else remains the same, increased prices will mean increased revenue without additional cost.

  2. Increase volume. Another way to increase revenue is to push clients to buy more. If an existing client is buying €1.000 worth of services from you, the next step is how to increase the volume to €1.500 or €2.000.
    For example, if a client buys a car, you offer car accessories; if a client buys a website, you offer maintenance and additional features. This means that you can increase your revenue, by simply selling more to the same clients.

  3. Increase frequency. If you have a client that buys €1.000 worth of services per month, convincing them that they need to buy the same amount per week, will increase your revenue 4 times from the same client. So, convincing them to buy more frequently, will multiply your revenue.

  4. Increase the number of clients. As you have exhausted all options to earn more from existing clients, the last option is to look for new clients.

If you liked this guide and want to have it forever by your side, download the PDF version right below.

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