William S. Burroughs, a well-known American writer, once stated,
“When you stop growing, you begin to die.”
And it’s difficult to think of a more apt description of a company’s lifecycle. After all, in industries with any level of competition, businesses must constantly expand in order to avoid being surpassed by others.
However, achieving a state of continuous business growth is difficult. If it were, every business could do it, and you wouldn’t be reading this article.
However, there are a number of time-tested and proven approaches that businesses can use to achieve a state of continuous growth. And by combining them into a single all-encompassing growth strategy, any business can set itself up for long-term success and sustainability.
Here are five of the most effective strategies for continuously growing your business.
1. Make an investment in talent development.
If you look at some of the world’s most successful companies, you’ll notice that they all have something in common. It’s that they go to great lengths to attract the best available talent and to assist their employees in constantly improving their skills.
The reason for this is simple: businesses will only go as far as their employees will allow them to go. In other words, better, more capable workers result in increased productivity and growth.
In fact, 72 percent of learning and development leaders agree that L&D is becoming increasingly important to their organizations. As a result, investing heavily in a talent development program is one of the most important strategies businesses can use to achieve continuous growth.
They will be able to accomplish several important goals as a result of this, including:
Improving workforce performance – assisting the company in driving productivity gains
Aligning workforce skills with business needs – ensuring that the company is paying for workers who can perform business-critical tasks.
Improving employee engagement and retention metrics – keeping employees interested in their work and preventing employee departures and churn
Creating advancement paths – providing employees with additional career opportunities through internal promotions (based on new skill acquisition)
A high-quality talent development program improves almost every aspect of a company’s operations. And this is a great way to generate long-term, sustainable growth.
2. Build a Sales Funnel
In any case, businesses cannot grow unless they have the financial resources to do so. As a result, the majority of strategies that improve a company’s bottom line are pro-growth strategies. However, this does not imply that every effort to improve bottom-line performance qualifies as a strategy for fostering long-term growth. It is possible, for example, to improve the bottom line by reducing staff—but this is contraction, not growth.
To promote growth, it is necessary to look for ways to increase cash inflows while not significantly increasing overhead. And for the majority of businesses, that means increasing sales performance.
One way a company can do this is to invest in expanding its sales department, giving it the resources it needs to identify and pursue new potential customers. This will result in growth, but it may come at a high cost.
That money would be better spent on creating and maintaining a sales funnel.
Doing so is an excellent way to increase sales indefinitely without incurring significant overhead. The reasons are numerous.
The first is that a sales funnel aids in increasing the ROI of a company’s marketing efforts. It accomplishes this by directing new leads through a well-defined process that leads to conversions.
By optimizing marketing spending in this manner, a company can spend less on marketing without sacrificing results. Better yet, it enables them to spend the same amount of money while achieving superior bottom-line results.
A sales funnel also ensures that leads are always moving through the sales process, increasing the chances of a consistent stream of completed sales. It is this type of revenue consistency that allows businesses to grow. It establishes a financial foundation that allows the company to expand into new markets and lines of business while remaining confident that its core operations will remain strong.
But that isn’t all. Reorienting sales efforts to support a sales funnel will improve overall sales department efficiency.
It enables the company, for example, to devote its top sales talent—the closers, if you will—to prospects who are already primed to convert. That is the best use of their time, and it always results in more sales. The rest of the sales support team can then concentrate on keeping prospects moving through the sales process so that the closers never run out of deals to close.
The bottom line is that investing in the development of a sales funnel positions a company for long-term revenue growth, which is required for the company to achieve continuous overall growth.
3. Make Data-Driven Choices
When making critical business decisions in the past, business leaders relied on intuition just as much as they did on market research. This was especially true when assessing new product concepts or market expansion opportunities. These are the kinds of decisions that have a direct impact on a company’s growth prospects.
The problem is that making poor decisions in those areas can result in significant financial losses, which can stymie growth. When those mistakes are extremely costly, the company may be forced to curtail operations in order to survive. That means that business leaders who want to achieve long-term growth can’t afford to be wrong very often, if at all.
The thing is, business leaders don’t have to continue relying on instinct to guide their decisions. They can now access vast amounts of operational, sales, and third-party data to gain the insight they need to make the right decisions. However, in order to do so, businesses must make strategic investments in a data and analytics operation.
The first thing they should look into is forming an in-house analytics team.
This will ensure that the company has the right people in place to put its data to use.
But that isn’t all. It is also necessary to invest in the necessary training to ensure that key decision-makers have the analytical skills to incorporate data-derived insights into their deliberative processes. It is an effort that, in time, should spread to all levels of the business’s operations.
Ultimately, the goal should be to develop and sustain a data-driven culture that informs everything the company does. That’s the best way to increase the likelihood that each expansionary step the company takes will be a success—creating the kind of stability that feeds a period of continuous expansion.
4. Make a Diversification Strategy.
There are only two paths to continuous growth, regardless of industry. The first is a monopoly on the market. In that case, the opportunity for growth comes from out-competing every other business in the market and absorbing their market share. But the truth is that market dominance has natural limits to the amount of growth it can generate.
Look no further than the story of eCommerce behemoth Amazon for proof. It set out in 1994 to dominate the online book sales market. And it eventually did all of that and more, driving physical bookstores to near-extinction. However, by 1998, it was clear that book sales would only get the company so far.
That is what prompted Amazon to pursue the second potential path to long-term growth: diversification. They expanded their product line to include music and computer games, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Amazon now sells almost everything imaginable. They’ve also grown to be the world’s largest cloud services provider, with an unrivaled logistics and shipping network.
Amazon’s story teaches us a valuable lesson about what it takes to achieve long-term growth. As a result, any company seeking long-term growth should develop a diversification strategy as early as possible in its life. The goal is to keep an eye out for potential future areas of expansion that will allow the company to grow.
Of course, it’s not necessary to aim for diversification right away. In fact, experienced entrepreneurs frequently advise against it, instead advising young firms to take an incremental approach to diversification rather than developing complex long-term plans.
However, being constantly on the move into new products and markets (when feasible) is an excellent way to continuously grow your business.
5. Analyze New Distribution Channels
In many cases, businesses begin to invest in developing new products after they believe their existing products have reached their sales ceiling. That makes perfect sense. New products can help you increase sales and even broaden your customer base. They are, however, not without risk.
Creating new products necessitates the expenditure of funds. And if a new product fails, the initial investment is lost with no meaningful bottom-line benefits. As a result, it is frequently a much better idea for businesses to look for new distribution channels for their existing proven products.
The recent expansion of Allbirds into the physical retail space is an excellent example of this in action. They began as an online-only sustainable footwear brand, a market that they have recently dominated. They quickly realized, however, that offering their products in retail stores in addition to their online marketplace was the surest path to growth.
The move enables them to increase sales of their core products by exposing them to a larger number of people than they could otherwise. It also assisted them in increasing sales among existing customers, with the brand reporting that shoppers who visited both their online and physical retail outlets spent 1.5 times more than shoppers who only visited one.
The best approach is to use a combination of channels. Before investing, an optimal distribution channel can be selected by analyzing data on the company’s target market and their interactions with the product or service. With 90 percent of internet users connecting via a mobile device, an accessible and responsive mobile website is critical to expanding a company’s revenue as mobile usage continues to rise. 
The bottom line is that finding new ways to distribute already-popular—and thus proven—products is frequently a less risky way to generate growth. When done correctly, it can become the foundation of a company’s long-term growth strategy.
At the end of the day, no business can survive for long if it can’t find a way to grow. However, there is a distinction to be made between achieving growth and achieving continuous growth.
It doesn’t take much to achieve the former, and it can even happen naturally at times. However, achieving the latter requires careful planning and a great deal of effort.
The five strategies outlined here all provide a path to long-term growth. However, they work best together. As a result, they create a comprehensive plan for transforming a business into a growth engine with limitless potential. And when executed flawlessly, the sky’s the limit!