How to grow your business on a budget

It’s only natural for new companies to want to grow.

Scaling up takes time and effort, but it doesn’t have to be costly. Online tools are making it easier than ever to reach new clients, keep in touch with existing clients and better understand which services they should focus on. Here are four economical ideas for how small businesses can scale up on a budget.

Be part of the conversation

Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are places where businesses can promote themselves and their services, but getting involved in conversations can be far more effective than simply selling. SMEs should use these platforms to seek out discussions that demonstrate their knowledge and expertise.

For accounting professionals, it can be tempting to save commentary and insights for events such as the run up to a budget announcement, a tax filing deadline or regulatory changes. But this is also the time when it’s easiest to get lost in the deluge of opinions. SMEs should maintain a steady flow of interactions while still being ready for those big opportunities to share your view.

On Twitter, small businesses should search for conversations around relevant hashtags and follow accounts for companies, organisations and individuals they could work with. When it comes to LinkedIn and Facebook, the value is in identifying groups that could benefit from your professional expertise such as those for local businesses.

Take advantage of analytics

Understanding website analytics helps SMEs assess what current and prospective clients are interested in. Google Analytics – another free tool – gives much more insight than simply the number of visitors who’ve visited the company’s site.

Small businesses should make sure to examine where traffic is coming from – are people being referred from another website, arriving through search engines with specific accountancy queries or typing the site’s address directly into their browser? Paying close attention to which pages are most visited will give a good indication of the services potential clients are seeking.

While companies shouldn’t be beholden to analytics, especially when dealing with small numbers of visitors, metrics can be a useful signpost of where to focus when trying to grow. If a particular page is getting lots of attention but not generating leads, for example, it may be worth revising the copy or adding a more direct call to action.

Understand the power of email

A weekly or monthly email newsletter giving clients and prospective clients insights into issues that will affect them is an effective way to both maintain contact and generate new leads. Building an audience can be as simple as including a signup form and call to action on the company website.

Email services such as MailChimp ensure that newsletters are optimised for a range of devices and allow SMEs to personalise each message. Create a virtuous circle by including links to social media accounts in the newsletter and, in turn, use those tools to promote email signups.

The key to developing an effective email newsletter is to ensure that the information included is interesting, relevant and timely. If audiences are able to see real value in what’s being delivered they will continue to open the messages and build trust in the sender’s expertise.

Accounting from the cloud

Perhaps the most important tool bookkeepers and accountancy firms can invest in is accounts software. Cloud-based solutions such as FreeAgent, Quickbooks and Xero allow bookkeepers to leave spreadsheets behind and focus on balancing their clients books, no matter where they are.

“Because we use FreeAgent we are no longer sifting through boxes of receipts or driving for two hours at a time to pick up folders and files from clients,” says Shelley Pritchard, Accounts Technician at Pillow May. “It’s the reason we’ve been able to scale-up and get the clients all processed and working much more efficiently.”

Ultimately, scaling up means working not only harder but smarter. Online tools allow small accountancy firms to expand their client base and better understand the needs of those clients. That’s the path to more and better business.

Jesse Onslow Norton is a writer, editor and communications consultant at Flibl. A former coder, his editorial work focuses on fintech, digital transformation, policy and regulation. His clients include corporations, governments, startups and SMEs from across the world. Follow him on Twitter @JesseOnslow.

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