For businesses, it’s hard to think of a more apt description of their lifecycle. After all, in industries that have any kind of competition, businesses must constantly grow to avoid being overtaken by others.
But achieving a state of constant business growth is not easy. If it were, every business would be able to do it – and you wouldn’t be here reading this article.
However, the truth is that there are a variety of time-tested and proven approaches that businesses can use to achieve a state of constant growth. And by putting them together to create one holistic growth plan, any business can put itself on a path to long-term success and sustainability.
A strategy for continuous business growth
Here are the best strategies you can use to continuously grow your business.
1. Invest in talent development
If you were to examine some of the most successful businesses in the world, you would find that most of them have something in common. It is that they go to great lengths to attract the best available talent and help their employees to continuously improve their skills.
The reason is simple: businesses will only go as far as their employees can take them. In other words, better, more capable workers mean higher productivity and higher growth.
In fact, 72% of learning and development (L&D) leaders admit that L&D has become more important to their organizations.  For this reason, a key strategy that businesses can use to achieve sustained growth is to invest heavily in talent development programs. 
By doing so, they can achieve some very important objectives, including:
- Improving employee performance – helping businesses increase productivity
- Aligning workforce skills with business needs – Ensure the business is paying for workers capable of performing business-critical tasks.
- Improving engagement and retention metrics – keeping employees interested in their work and preventing departures and churn
- Creating avenues of advancement – giving employees additional career opportunities through internal promotions (based on new skill acquisition).
Overall, a high-quality talent development program enhances almost every aspect of business performance. And that’s a great way to create sustainable long-term growth.
2. Create a sales funnel
Any way you look at it, businesses cannot grow unless they have the financial means to do so. And that means most strategies that improve a business’s bottom line are pro-growth strategies. But that doesn’t mean every effort to improve bottom-line performance qualifies as a strategy to create the conditions for sustained growth. For example, it is possible to improve the bottom line by cutting staff – but that is contraction, not growth.
To encourage growth, it is necessary to find ways to increase cash flow without significantly increasing overhead. And for most businesses, that means improving sales performance.
One way for a business to do that is to invest in growing its sales department, giving it the resources to identify and pursue new potential customers. It will grow, but it may come at a significant cost.
Instead, that investment is better spent building and maintaining a sales funnel.  Doing so is an excellent way to continuously improve sales without adding significant overhead. The reasons are manifold.
The first is that sales funnels help improve the ROI of a business’s marketing efforts. It does so by channeling new leads into a clearly-defined process designed to lead to conversion.
Optimizing marketing spend in this way can allow businesses to spend less on their marketing without compromising results. Or better yet, it allows them to spend the same amount while achieving better bottom-line results.
A sales funnel also helps ensure that the sales process is always moving forward, increasing the odds of a steady stream of perfect sales. It’s that kind of revenue consistency that makes it possible for businesses to grow. It creates a financial foundation that allows the business to branch out into new markets and lines of business, secure in the knowledge that its core operations will remain strong.
But that’s not all. Reorienting sales efforts to support the sales funnel will also improve efficiency across the sales department.
For example, it allows a business to dedicate its top sales talent – closers, if you will – to prospects already primed to convert. It’s the best possible use of their time, and it always leads to more sales. And then, the rest of the sales support staff can focus on keeping prospects moving through the sales process so those close people never end up closing deals.
The bottom line is that investing in building a sales funnel sets a business up for long-term revenue growth, which is a prerequisite for a business to achieve sustained overall growth.
3. Make data-driven decisions
In the past, business leaders relied as much on intuition as they did on market research when making impactful business decisions. That was especially the case when evaluating new product ideas or market expansion opportunities. And those are the kinds of decisions that directly tie into business growth prospects.
The trouble is, making the wrong decisions in those areas can lead to significant financial losses, which can sabotage development. And while those mistakes are extremely costly, they can also result in a business needing to scale back its operations in order to survive. That means business leaders looking for sustained growth can’t afford to get it wrong often, if at all.
The thing is, though, business leaders don’t need to rely on instinct to inform their decision-making. These days, they can turn to a vast trove of operational, sales and third-party data to get the insight they need to make the right calls. But to do that, businesses have to make some strategic investments in data and analytics operations.
The first thing they should explore is building an in-house analytics team.  It will ensure that the business has the right talent to put its data to work.
But that’s not all. It is also necessary to invest in the necessary training to ensure that key decision makers have the analytical skills to put data-derived insights to use in their decision-making processes. Over time, it’s an effort that should permeate all levels of business operations.
Ultimately, the goal should be to create and maintain a data-driven culture that informs everything the company does. This is the best way to improve the odds that each expansion step a business takes will be successful – the kind of stability that feeds a period of continuous expansion.
4. Create a diversification plan
No matter the industry, there are only two paths to continuous growth. The first is market dominance. In that scenario, the growth opportunity comes from competing with every other business in the market and swallowing their market share. But the truth is, there are natural limits to the growth that market dominance can produce.
For proof, look no further than the story of ecommerce giant Amazon. In 1994, it penetrated the market for selling books online. And eventually it did and then some, driving physical bookstores close to extinction.  But by 1998, it was becoming clear that book sales would only carry the company so far.
That’s what led Amazon to pursue another possible path to continued growth: diversification. They added music and computer games to their product catalog—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Amazon sells almost everything imaginable. They have also become the world’s largest cloud service provider and have built a logistics and shipping network that is second to none.
Amazon’s story offers a powerful lesson about what it takes to sustain growth. And that’s why any business looking for a long-term growth strategy should create a diversification plan as early as possible in its life. The point is to keep an eye on potential future areas of expansion that will provide the business with the necessary room to grow.
It is not necessary, of course, to aim for diversification right out of the gate. In fact, experienced entrepreneurs often advise against it – instead younger generations focus on an incremental approach to diversification rather than drafting complex long-term plans. 
But always moving into new products and new markets (when possible) is a great way to keep your company growing.
5. Explore new distribution channels
In many cases, businesses start investing in developing new products when they believe they have maxed out their existing products. And it makes sense. New products provide a means to increase sales and expand your customer base. But they are not without risk.
Developing new products means spending money. And if the new product doesn’t succeed, the initial investment is lost without generating any meaningful bottom-line benefits. That is why it is often a better idea for businesses to find new distribution channels for their existing proven products instead.
A great example of this in action is Allbirds’ recent expansion into the physical retail space. They started life as an online-only sustainable footwear brand—a market they’ve come to dominate in recent years. But they soon realized that their surest path to growth was to offer their products in retail stores in addition to their online marketplace.
This move allows them to expand sales of their core products by exposing them to more people than they otherwise could. And it also helped them drive more sales among existing customers, with the brand reporting that shoppers who visited their online and physical retail outlets spent 1.5 times more than shoppers who visited only one or the other. 
The best approach is to use a combination of channels. By analyzing the data on the business’s target market and their interaction with the product or service, the best distribution channel can be chosen before investing. A growing channel is mobile, with 90% of internet users connecting via mobile devices, accessible and responsive mobile websites are key to expanding company revenue as mobile usage continues to grow. 
The bottom line here is that finding new ways to distribute already-popular—and therefore, proven—products is a much less risky way to create growth. And when executed well, it can become the basis of a business’s continuous growth strategy.