Overview:

The year 2024 brings both challenges and opportunities for SMEs worldwide. The evolution of consumer behaviour, technological advancements such as AI, and global economic shifts  have combined to create a dynamic environment for SME business leaders to navigate. To succeed, businesses need a growth-centric approach that’s tailored to meet the demands of their market. In a world where ’standing still’ leads to businesses actually ‘falling backwards’ in their progress, achieving consistent growth is not merely an option but a necessity. Growth ensures that a business remains sustainable and relevant in a competitive landscape. In this article, we cover 8 tips that are sure to help your business boom in 2024.

1. Establish your Growth Foundations

Define clear business goals

At Firestarter, the first of our core values is ‘clarity’, and we believe this is the first step towards business growth. Take the time to understand what needs to happen to make your business grow in 2024. Whether it’s expanding market share, launching new products/solutions or hiring staff, having well-defined objectives helps to provide direction.

Conduct a comprehensive SWOT analysis

A great way to address any business doubts about the future is it conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis of your business. A SWOT analysis allows you to craft strategies that leverage your strengths, address weaknesses, capitalise on opportunities, and mitigate any potential threats.

Identifying target audiences and new markets

Knowing your audience is key to adopting an effective growth strategy; by identifying and understanding your target audience(s) you can develop targeted strategies that are informed by buyers wants, needs and desires. Additionally, you should consider exploring new markets that align with new or existing products/services.

2. Embracing Digital Transformation

Could 2024 be the year you venture into a new social media channel to reach your audience? Do you finally commit to that marketing, automation & email platform you’ve been looking at? Or maybe you go big and invest in a fully functioning CRM system. Whichever you choose, they all have benefits when it comes to the growth of your business.

Social media

Social media is no longer the new kid on the block, it’s been around for a while and isn’t as revolutionary as it once was, however, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t be making use of its benefits. A 2023 study by GetApp shows that 34% of SME leaders want to try a new social network, with their top 3 platforms of choice being TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube. Social media continues to help businesses reach a higher marketing potential and still plays a key role in improving brand recognition and understanding your audience better. Take the plunge and invest some resource into a new social media channel for 2024.

CRM

It is extremely common for us to see SMEs who are still not utilising the power of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system – whether that’s because they don’t have a CRM at all, or because they don’t get the most out of their existing system. Common issues we see SMEs struggle with include following up with leads, inconsistent marketing efforts, and disorganised customer data – all resulting in fewer customer insights and sales opportunities. Do you know what a well-used CRM system is? The solution to all of the above problems – plus a lot more!

It could be the case that your current CRM might not be the right fit for your business; a 2022 survey revealed that a massive 1 in 4 SMEs replaced their CRM systems due to unsatisfaction. Many replaced their CRM due to them still running homegrown internal systems which often lack key features, and many replaced due to not seeing a positive ROI.

We’ve found that SME leaders want their CRM to simply work harder for them, a struggling CRM system can often be put down to not being setup or utilised correctly. We’ve helped businesses to understand what they want from their CRM system and how it can work as part of their ongoing sales process, through strategies that include automation, optimisation and data sorting. By taking the time to understand your CRM platform you can ultimately align your sales and marketing activity which can have potential revenue implications.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Knock knock, it’s 2024, and AI is here to stay.  In the era of digital transformation, the integration of AI into business planning is not just a huge trend but a necessity. AI provides businesses with unparalleled capabilities in data analysis and automation, revolutionising decision-making processes. Simple, but previously time consuming tasks such as planning a social media calendar, writing a job description, developing core HR policies or writing  email campaigns can now be done within a matter of minutes, creating increased productivity throughout your teams.

Now, from our experience with AI, it isn’t something you should be scared of (nor should you feel ashamed to use it).  Some sceptics will have you believe it’s here to steal all of our jobs. It isn’t, but what AI can do for your business, is speed up processes, handle vast amounts of data at incredible speeds and ultimately save you time in common time-consuming tasks. Learning how to integrate AI into your business will be critical for future growth.

3. Build Strong Brand Identity

In today’s hugely competitive business landscape where everyone is vying for prime position and visibility across multiple channels, growing  a strong brand presence is key for sustained growth. This involves a comprehensive strategy that seamlessly integrates storytelling, visual aesthetics, and strategic partnerships. Your brand identity is often conveyed through the various channels you operate within, such as PR, social media, email campaigns, digital advertising or your online presence through your company website. Your narrative should not only convey your brand’s origin but also highlight its journey, values, and aspirations. A well-crafted story establishes a connection that goes beyond transactional relationships.

By pushing a captivating brand story, a positive image, and having (and living by) your core business values, your business can establish a powerful and enduring brand presence going forward.

4. Enhancing Customer Experience

Enhancing customer experience has remained a constant focus for businesses throughout the years but in 2024 the trending behaviours and attitudes towards customer experience seem to be bigger than ever before. With big shifts in technology and consumer behaviour, the traditional approach to selling could no longer be a viable approach for SMEs. With new approaches to viewing the customer journey in analytical tools such as GA4, we are now able to see more about our customers than previously possible. Access to such data and information will lead to hyper-personalisation strategies which will include individual product recommendations, bespoke marketing communications and a need for voice interactions being deployed more by SMEs to gain a competitive edge.

In the B2B sales landscape, a focus on the customer journey and viewing each prospect as a relationship instead of a transaction remains true. However, reducing the disconnect between ‘brand’ and ‘customer’ remains a task that many companies battle on a day-to-day basis. Evolving customer needs require the right tools and strategies to be deployed to refine customer journeys and ultimately make the journey smoother by providing personal relevant experiences. SMEs can redefine success by placing the customer at the core, creating a competitive edge through exceptional and personalised experiences in 2024.

5. Partnerships and Collaborations

Collaboration can open doors to new opportunities, but also help to improve your brand value. By identifying potential partners within your industry and fostering relationships that mutually benefit both parties you can therefore grow your business whilst simultaneously opening the door to PR and marketing opportunities. When identifying partners, make sure to identify partners with complementary skills and resources, this maximises the collective impact and capabilities of the collaboration. For long term results ensure that potential partners share similar values and goals, this way you can build a foundation for a mutually beneficial collaboration.

6. Employee Development

The heartbeat of a growing SME lies in the continuous development of its people; investing in people is a growing trend and needs to be at the core of any growth strategy. In 2022, on average UK employers spent £1,780 per employee when training someone new. For an SME the number will more than likely be lower as this figure is simply an average.  The cost to recruit, onboard, train and develop an employee will vary dependent on your business type and the employee’s job role.

Investing in employee skills is a direct route to heightened productivity. Well-trained employees operate with increased efficiency, reducing operational costs and contributing significantly to the overall success of the business. But possibly more importantly, well-trained and supported employees who feel valued and respected in their work will give you a much happier, committed, loyal and more productive workforce.

Amidst this commitment to growth, businesses are discovering the power of tailored training programmes. Our Bespoke Sales Training is a seamless blend of tailored training delivered by people with years of sales expertise. It’s not just training; it’s a strategic augmentation of your team’s capabilities, subtly aligning your employee’s roles to your business goals.

7. Efficient Financial Management

Efficiently managing your SME’s finances is pivotal for sustained growth in 2024, budgeting, streamlining operational expenses and optimising your SME for growth effectively positions you for expansion come the end of the year.

Budgeting for growth

Allocate resources wisely. Develop a budget that aligns with your growth initiatives, ensuring that funds are strategically invested in areas that drive expansion. An investment in growth initiatives helps businesses to overcome obstacles through strategic planning that ensure sustained growth.

Optimising operational expenses

To optimise operational expenses, you should regularly review and cut any unnecessary expenses. Unnecessary expenditures could include:

  • Undefined marketing without clear ROI
  • Business travel – can you and your team make better use of virtual meetings and telephony?
  • Unused/underutilised tech and subscriptions
  • Entertainment such as client events and hospitality

Cutting unnecessary costs frees up resources for more impactful initiatives, contributing to sustainable growth.

Positioning your SME for financial growth

Strategic investment into your funds ensures that your financial growth for 2024 is positioned to drive expansion and overcome obstacles through sustainable business growth. By regularly reviewing your operational costs at every stage in your growth, you free up resources and streamline your SME for financial success whilst understanding the right time to make investment decisions to support your growth strategy.

8. ESG and Sustainability

SMEs are increasingly recognising the significance of prioritising Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors for sustainable growth. If you’re not familiar, ESG represents a set of criteria used to assess a company’s impact on sustainability, societal values, and ethical governance. Defining clear ESG goals for your business that align with your values and objectives will set the foundation for integrating sustainability into your day-to-day operations.

Embracing social responsibility can include fostering further diversity and inclusion within your workplace, engage with local communities and uphold ethical business practices. According to the 2021 PwC Consumer Intelligence Series report on ESG, 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.

Despite their being a desire for more sustainable practices within business, a 2022 GfK Consumer Life data report found that over half (53%) of U.S. consumers think more sustainable products cost too much. With increased inflation and the cost-of-living crisis here in the UK consumers are less likely to factor sustainability into their purchasing decisions leading to suggest that consumer priorities are shifting.

Focusing on your Sales Engine in 2024

With SME business owners facing big challenges in 2024 such as rising costs, lower consumer numbers and staff shortages the need for adaptation and growth is bigger than ever. SMEs must adopt a growth-centric approach tailored to their market demands. The tips outlined, from establishing growth foundations to embracing ESG and sustainability, provide a comprehensive guide for SMEs to thrive in the dynamic landscape of 2024. By integrating these strategies, businesses can not only overcome obstacles but also position themselves for sustained growth, ensuring they remain agile and resilient in the face of a rapidly evolving business environment.

Here at Firestarter, our expertise lies in elevating sales and driving growth for businesses like yours. Whether it’s strengthening your existing sales team, providing additional skills and resources, or putting our specialised knowledge and leadership expertise to use, we’re dedicated to gripping your 2024 growth strategy and firing  up your sales engine to help your business reach its full potential.

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