Want to Expand Your Business? Get Started with These 6 Steps
➽ I've owned a business based on a single product for two years. What steps should I consider to add revenue streams?
➽ Most people either have no clue where to expand or have so many expansion ideas that they’re not sure which one is best for them to pursue. Two women who successfully grew their revenue streams say that doing more doesn’t have to be complicated as long as you do your homework.
The first person I spoke with, Amie Hoff, a New York fitness trainer, created FitKit, which is a portable kit that has all the tools for a total body workout with more than 250 exercises. Hoff identifies four steps as crucial to her success.
Brainstorm your options. To expand, Hoff could have booked more personal-training clients, but there are only so many hours in a day. Although she considered creating a fitness product from scratch, the potential for sky-high manufacturing and distribution costs were a deterrent. To make more money and reach more people despite limited time, Hoff expanded by selling FitKits to corporate wellness programs and moving into corporate consulting. In the process, she tapped a new pool of clients and greatly increased her income.
Conduct research within your target market. Hoff’s research winnowed her options and educated her on exactly what she was getting into. She studied fitness industry publications, joined networking groups, and examined industry trends on blogs and in webinars. “Most [of these sources] offer insight into what is already being done and how you might fit in,” Hoff says. “I also connected with human resources directors and corporate wellness managers to better understand what was being done, what was lacking, and where and how I could offer my expertise. Most people are willing to share their experiences and offer guidance.”
Hoff also gave potential corporate clients a free taste of her FitKit, a step she calls “a small price to pay for the experience and feedback.”
Know your numbers. Hoff’s homework also gave her a handle on the anticipated costs and time line. “You must understand the cost of developing and the time involved. Then you have to be realistic about what you have and are able to spend,” she says. “Putting every detail on paper shows you the reality of what you are up against and whether you can make it work.”
Commit fully. Ultimately Hoff had to jump in and give her all. “Trying to create something part time will not allow you to truly grasp the full potential. As scared as I was, I took a hiatus from my personal-training clients, who were my bread and butter, to put more effort into consulting. You won’t know if something is going to work unless you give it the time and energy to find out.”
Another expansion-minded entrepreneur I consulted was MC Swab of Tulsa, Okla. She became fascinated by the second careers people chose. As a result, Swab launched a hobby that has turned into a business: a weekly video series called Fly the Coop that focuses on interesting individuals who figure out ways to get paid for pursuing their passions. From that video concept, she has segued into speeches and brand ambassadorships, and is pursuing local and national corporate sponsorships. Her suggestions follow.
Know your audience. Swab, a stay-at-home mom until her kids went to college, has a core market of 35- to 55-year-old moms, but she needed to know more details about them to expand. She accomplished that by researching what interests the women who are drawn to her videos.
“What 40-something women want and where they search for it has changed drastically in the last 10 years. I pay close attention to what stories resonate most with my audience,” Swab explains. “This trial and error is easy with social media. You can put things out there and get feedback for free. I ask questions and conduct informal surveys on Twitter and Facebook to take the pulse of how my videos are being received. It helped me gauge what steps to take when I moved forward.”
Be confident in what sets you apart. Having a fan base of middle-aged women was pivotal to Swab’s securing a brand ambassadorship with an outdoor living company that was trying to reach a similar audience. “I am the face of their ad campaigns for their outdoor kitchens, furniture and playgrounds.”
Determining what makes her special as the host in her videos guided Swab to the conclusion that women probably would like to hear her in person, which led to speeches on reinvention and second acts. “I spent time honing what is unique and special about me,” Swab says. “For me, it was that I had my own segment but I wasn’t a reporter, so I could throw myself into stories and show my personality and share my true joys and fears. It made me relatable, which helped me market myself for endorsements and speaking engagements.”