One of the greatest things about the web can also prove to be its deadliest of business snares at the same time. That is the opportunity it provides for growing and expanding your business via the internet. Which is one of the main reasons that the web based business market continues to grow at the rates that it does, as it does in the design and development fields.
We see so many of our colleagues rushing out to grow their virtual empires. But this becomes a pitfall in our paths when we neglect to note that while the growth potential can be near limitless, managing said growth is a completely different story.
If we do not manage the growth properly, then it can get out of hand, and be damaging to our construct rather than helpful. Image Credit
This is when many designers and developers end up over their heads drowning in good intentions. It is that other side of the coin that many fail to consider when they see how easily they can build on their web based business. And with the number of design and development focused sites still on the rise, it is understandable that many would want to try and carve out a little corner of the market that is theirs to rule over. But like with all things in life, it is easy to bite off more than we can chew, and in this case that could spell stress for us, and trouble for the brand that we are trying to build.
If we are unable to manage that growth then it is going to fall far short of its desired effect of stabilizing and expanding our empire. In some rather extreme cases, it could effectively mean the undoing of it. So below are some considerations that we should make and some questions that we can ask to ensure that our growth is done at a reasonable, sustainable rate, rather than taking us far ahead of ourselves, into deeper waters than we are ready to tread.
Now below are a few of the points that you are really going to want to focus on and look after in order to keep your growth reigned in and from spiraling out of your control. Naturally, none of these are guarantors of success, but they are ways in which we can hope to strengthen our plans for expansion and get things started down the right path. Here are a few that we would recommend you mind.
The Consistency Ratio
First things first. When one seeks to expand their brand online, they tend to have already gotten some sort of foundation fashioned to build on. Most empires do not just spring up out of nowhere, and so it is this foundation that we must keep in mind as seek to expand our business’ reach. There is already an established level of expectation from our followers, readers, clients, etc, and if we cannot manage to maintain and meet those expectations as, or more importantly, after we expand then our brand is going to be in trouble.
The proverbial bar has been set, and if we cannot meet those expectations then this expansion has cost us our ability to compete. Image Credit
If this expansion impedes with your ability to deliver with the same ratio of excellence and frequency as you have before, then your expansion efforts may be all for not as you might find some of your online audience has abandoned you. Find the right people and bring them onto the team, so that you can keep your growth managed and from ultimately costing you and your business. Once our business begins to outgrow our solo efforts, then assembling the right team to help you continue on your path is essential to being able to keep up your consistency.
Keep Your Finger on the Pulse
Another must for managing the online growth of your business is to keep track of your brand’s impact among the online audiences that you already are, or that you are seeking to be tapped into. Keeping your finger firmly on the proverbial pulse of the online public offers you an important insight into how your business should proceed down this path of expansion. After all, what good is growing your virtual empire if you are cluelessly driving away the very audience you need to make this expansion a true success? So you have to monitor the mood of the masses and regularly connect with them in order to keep your brand’s growth in check.
Not only can this sort of a constant ear to the ground approach help ensure that your growth happens at a controlled rate, it can also be the instigator to the expansion. By keeping up with those your brand is serving online, you can spot trends which can offer you more valuable avenues of reach to your audience, and see which routes for growth you have taken that have worked and which have not. Through this outreach of sorts your brand can find currents to more smoothly navigate these expansive waters. Social media can prove invaluable in this aspect, so having a steady and consistent presence throughout the various networks, being maintained by someone who knows how to harness them correctly is a near must for managing growth.
As you grow, your business needs to keep in touch with your intended audience each step of the way, not only to keep them informed of what is happening, but also for the information you can gain to aid your business. This feedback can clue you in on when to keep pushing forward or even when to back off, so keeping up with it is a step in this process that should never be underestimated or overlooked.
Know the Limits of Your Reach
Another important consideration that has to be examined fully to ensure for proper online growth of your brand, is the limitations of your reach. For years we have heard countless people saying that knowing your limits is a sign of strength, and the same basically applies in this case as well. As your empire reaches out from its foundation, if you do not know how far you can comfortably take this growth and keep it successfully managed, then you risk overextending your brand and you find yourself unable to meet the demands being placed on your business. If you reach too far, not only can you effectively lose your grip on your growth and your business, but you can also lose your way back and be unable to recover.
Sometimes we have gone so far, that we cannot make our way back to where we once where. Image Credit
This is one of the trickier areas to handle when you are growing, and often times we do not know the full limits of our reach until we come to it, and find it tested. But we should always be aware of the potential negative impacts this overreaching can bring. This way, we can hopefully recognize when they are building, soon to be looming in the distance and we can take actions to reel things back in before it becomes too late and we have gone to far. Once we have crossed that line, the trust we have built for our brand with the online masses can become shaken and fragile. Or worse, it can completely shatter. Without that trust in place, managing any kind of growth for your business may become a complete nonissue.
Plan Ahead and Stay Ahead
As with any market, one thing that you have to be able to do in order to stay ahead of the game is to plan ahead. However, the online business market can prove to be somewhat unpredictable, which makes planning ahead that much more difficult. When setting up to grow your business online it is that much more important that you be able to anticipate the trends and read the market, but beyond that you have to expect the unexpected. The web is such an expansive and dynamic place for your business to exist where you can stumble into a viral current and your brand or business could explode overnight.
While it is true that this can effectively be the case with any business regardless of whether they are turning to the digital online landscape or not, the web provides businesses with a much wider international audience in a quicker more compact fashion that you can access for your business unlike any other. So as you start growing in this sort of market you must be ready for that other shoe to drop at any time. Not only that, but you have to also have plans in place for dealing with the viral nature of the interwebs should you suddenly find your business caught in this current. If suddenly tomorrow your brand demanded exponential growth, would you even know where to begin?
So take time to plan for these kinds of occurrences, rare though they may be in the grand scheme of things. It is always better to be prepared, than to be caught off guard. Study the market for similar models that you have seen grow like this for tips on how to tackle it for your own brand should you be faced with it. Also, study those models who have failed in the face of these circumstances and see what lessons can be learned from their examples. If you are ready for anything, then you tend to be able to handle just about everything thrown your way.
Opt for Organic
The final point that we are going to offer up for your consideration to help better control your business’ growth online, is to always opt for a more organic growth. The more naturally your growth occurs, the easier it will be to manage. If you set out trying to force it, then it is often much more likely to blow up in your face. This is where many lose their way and end up on the wrong side of the coin, growing more frustrated and stressed as they lose their grips on their growth. No longer able to keep up with the demands being placed on their brand across the spectrum, multiple areas of the business start to noticeably suffer.
The more naturally we let our growth happen, the better the chances it will strongly root and sustain. Image Credit
So if we allow for our business to flourish along a more natural path of progression, rather than a forced one, we will tend to have a much easier time keeping up with all of the new demands and developments that come with the territory. This also tends to ensure that we do not lose touch with the audience and client base that we hope to grow along with us, which as we discussed already, is itself an important piece of this puzzle.
Now that we have gone over a few of the considerations that one should make as they grow in order to keep things on track, we are going to take a brief look at a handful of the pertinent questions that one should ask before they proceed with their expansion plans also. By asking these questions we help prepare ourselves for the road ahead, so that we can manage all that lies there.
What’s the Rush?
As you set your sights on growing your business online, you want to pace yourself at a rate that helps facilitate this growth successfully. So ask yourself, what’s the rush? Are there any pressing outside factors weighing in on your timetable, or do you have a freer, more open schedule to allow for that organic growth we mentioned? It is easy to be spurred on in this manner, but we have to remember to pace ourselves. Are you rushing this expansion out of excitement? Or even maybe out of fear that someone could potentially beat you to filling those niches or gaps you had your eye on? Chance are, if you do rush your expansion efforts, then things are more likely to get overlooked and out of hand, and can quickly become less manageable. Spelling trouble for your business or brand.
How Solid is My Foundation?
Another question to keep in mind before you leap forward embracing this empire expansion, concerns the base on which it is to all be constructed. Ask yourself, how solid is my foundation here? Do you have all of the pieces firmly in place that you can successfully grow on? Because if you don’t then you are risking doing permanent damage to the foundation of your business should your efforts to grow falter. You could risk toppling your potential empire because your base simply wasn’t ready and you tried to prematurely build on it. How many hits can this base take and still be considered safe and sound? If you have any doubts at all about the strength of your foundation, then you should perhaps give it more attention before you set your sights growing beyond it. After all, the better the foundation, the more growth it tends to be able to sustain.
Why Am I Doing This?
Another question that you must stay focused on throughout this process, is one of purpose. It may become quite necessary even as you work to make this growth happen for your business, to constantly be asking yourself, why am I doing this? Having an idea of purpose, and carrying this sense of mission through the growth process can often ease the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed as you struggle to wrangle all of this in. Which can have a huge impact on your ability to manage said growth. Do my reasons have merit and substance? As long as we can get behind the motivations driving us forward, then we tend to have less of a problem dealing with all that comes with it. So keeping our mission in mind may be key to keeping things in line and growing smoothly.
Can The Brand Survive if this Expand Fails?
Now the final question that we are going to look at today, is actually the most important to ask before you begin pushing forward with this growth. You need to know if the brand can survive should the proposed expansion fail? Should the plans for growth take the proverbial turn for the worst, will your business be able to recover from the negative repercussions that could follow in its wake? If you are unsure that your business or brand would sustain and come out on the other side, then you should really examine whether or not it is truly worth the risk trying to expand. How long will this negatively reflect on the business, and will it be able to endure? The internet has a long memory, and depending on how badly a turn things take, your brand’s reputation could suffer a blow that sticks around longer than your business is able to.
There are many considerations to be made and questions that should be asked so that you are able to more effectively manage the growth of your online design or development business, and as many have bore witness to firsthand, failing to think through any sort of expansion efforts can undo years of hard work and struggling. So making sure to cover as many of your bases as possible before, during, and after you set the balls in motion can help you keep the growth of your online business reasonably within your grasp. What considerations or questions would you add to the list?
Consider Some of Our Previous Posts
- How To Improve Your Branding With Your Content is a post from Smashing’s past with more on strengthening your brand through content.
- The Evolution of The Logo is another helpful post from the vaults that discusses the era of the brand that we are in so you can get a better sense of the playing field.