15 Tips on How to Grow a Service Business
Every service-based entrepreneur wants to take their business to the next level. But figuring out how isn’t as straightforward.
That’s because there are numerous growth opportunities for service businesses, and it takes time to figure out which is the best for you. Below, we’ll take a look at 15 different ideas on how to grow a service business.
How to Grow a Service Business: 15 Different Ways
1. Create new services for untapped customer segments
Your existing service business might cater to a very specific customer base. However, there are likely ways you can expand your audience with complementary services to your already-existing core offerings.
Let’s say you’re a tour guide who offers hikes through your local parks. You might add a walking tour of your neighborhood or customized private food tours as additional offerings. Tourists who may not enjoy the outdoors would potentially like to walk the city or try the cuisine.
2. Increase sales with customer loyalty programs
Customer loyalty is key to sustainable business growth. One survey found that of loyal customers, 86% recommend the business to their connections, two-thirds write a positive review online, and 46% maintain their loyalty after a single negative experience.
You can use customer loyalty programs to grow your service business and leverage this word-of-mouth marketing. A nail salon may offer a free pedicure after 10 paid services, or a dog groomer may gift a free dog treat each time someone refers a new customer.
3. Grow by expanding your portfolio of services
When you launched your business, you may have had one or a few select services. Now that you’re looking to grow, you can potentially add to your service menu. This can boost average order value (AOV), as well as attract new customers who are interested in those specific services.
For example, a dog walker might consider adding housesitting to their list of services. They could care for pets, plants, and day-to-day household duties like fetching mail and taking out the trash.
4. Use the Lean Startup method
The Lean Startup method is “a principled approach to new product development” that “teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration.” Essentially, it helps you identify and prioritize new product opportunities.
5. Use alliances and strategic partnerships to get new customers
Business partnerships put you in front of others’ audiences, helping you build brand awareness and win new customers. And added bonus is that these audiences already have a certain level of trust with your collaborators, and they represent a predictable, defined audience segment. In other words, you can tailor your offerings to meet their needs with the advantage of not having to win their trust.
6. Optimize your website for SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, helps website users find your business via search. This is a great way to attract new customers. Here are some things to do to optimize for SEO:
- Update your Google My Business profile so it’s accurate and complete. It’s actually the top local ranking factor, and especially important for service businesses that serve a specific geographic area.
- Speed up your site. Page load time — how long it takes your website to appear — affects your ranking. The faster your site, the better your rankings.
- Start a blog. Research keywords relevant to your business and create content to target those keywords.
- Review your metadata. This includes your page meta title and descriptions. If you rank but have low click-throughs, you’ll want to adjust this copy to be more compelling.
Remember, SEO is a long game. You won’t get overnight results. But if you’re consistent, you’ll see results over time.
7. Leverage sales funnel software
If you’ve ever relied on face-to-face networking for customer acquisition, you know how time-consuming it can be. Sales funnel software automates a lot of that process for you, so you can focus on other things while knowing you’re also nurturing those leads.
Some sales funnel software to check out include GetResponse, FreshWorks, and HubSpot.
8. Use digital ads to market your small business
Digital ads are effective for customer acquisition in particular. With digital ads, you can run campaigns and promotions that target a specific audience segment across multiple channels. Some channels include paid social ads (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), paid search ads, and display ads.
Regardless of the campaign and tactics you employ, ensure messaging is consistent across the entire user journey. If your ad promises a certain experience, make sure the link you’re driving to delivers on those expectations.
9. Create and implement a content marketing strategy
Your content marketing strategy will support other efforts, like SEO, email, social media, and digital ads. Content can build trust with and add value for existing and new customers. If you’re a career coach, you might have a blog where you publish advice about resumes, interviews, and negotiations. Career coach Carol Parker Walsh has a blog where she showcases her expertise.
10. Promote your brand on social media
There are more than 9 million active users on Facebook alone, not to mention channels like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Like content, social media is a great way to promote your brand and build and nurture relationships. Regular posting helps you stay top-of-mind, and paid advertising opportunities allow you to target specific audience segments with tailored messaging and campaigns.
If you offer childcare services in your area, you might post on social media about local events, small businesses in the neighborhood, and nearby activities to do with kids. Then your paid social media efforts might drive people to book a tour of your childcare facility, targeting parents in your zip code.
11. Grow your reach with email marketing
More than 90% of people use email, and it’s one marketing channel you truly “own” — while a medium like social media can be taken away at any moment. You can use email to reengage existing customers as well as attract new ones.
One way to win new customers via email is to build your list. Offer valuable content to your email channels — a massage therapist could show people how to make DIY foot scrubs, for example. You can also use email for promotions and discounts on new service bookings.
12. Use online webinars to win new customers
Webinars have become increasingly popular as the world moved to a mostly virtual state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most webinar attendees spend 53 minutes consuming the content. That’s a lot of time to prove your expertise and grow your business.
You can host live or pre-recorded webinars. They can be free, or you can charge attendees for webinar access. You might offer a discounted rate to those who only want the recorded sessions vs. those who attend the live ones. Bear in mind, though, that if you charge for webinar access, the content and experience must be worth it.
13. Demonstrate expertise and build trust with online courses
Online courses have also surged in popularity. More people are forced to learn online and, as a result, more people are becoming comfortable with it.
You can promote and sell your courses independently on your own website, or list it on a third-party platform to take advantage of a pre-existing audience. Terrain, for example, has curated courses targeted to entrepreneurs who want to learn key skills.
14. Grow by acquiring related businesses
One potentially quick way to business growth is by acquiring a related or complementary business. This way, you get their customers, employees, processes, and systems along with it.
If you own a law firm, you might purchase another one local to you. Or a tailor might acquire a local shoe repair shop, while a car wash could find a car repair business to buy.
15. Franchise your service business
Franchising is when you license out your “business” to franchisees for a fee so they can open their own business under your brand. Essentially, they open a business under your brand name while adhering to your standards.
Comet Cleaners and Laundry is a perfect example. The dry cleaners offer franchising opportunities in select markets, so they can grow without having to do all the leg work.
Creating Your Business Growth Plan
You need proper planning for small business management and growth before implementing any of the strategies listed above. Enter your business growth plan. Here’s how to do it:
Define your expansion goals
If you want to know the best way to grow your service business, you’ll want to start with identifying what that growth looks like. This is the goal-setting stage. Make sure they’re specific and measurable, and write them down so you have it documented.
Research to identify customer segments
Customer segments are essentially groups of shoppers who share a set of characteristics. Some customer segments might be based on demographics like age, location, and occupation, whereas others might be based on behavioral data like highest AOV or most repeat purchases.
When conducting market research, you’ll want to use internal (your own data) and external sources (research you can find on the internet and from your competitors) to inform your customer segments.
Know the strengths and weaknesses of your competition
Adding on to the idea of researching your competitors, it’s also a good idea to do a holistic analysis of the competitive landscape. Look at things like their branding, pricing, website usability, social media engagement, and physical spaces to see what they’re doing well and where they can improve. Then apply those insights to your own business growth plan, identifying opportunities they haven’t yet capitalized on or places you can do better.
Evaluate your team and finances
Take stock of your existing resources so you know exactly what you have and what you need to help you reach your goals. This includes business partners, full- and part-time employees, and outside contractors. You’ll also want to analyze your cash flow and cash reserves to see how much you can comfortably allocate for your growth plan.
Identify the best expansion strategies for your service business
Once you’ve done the research to identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities, you can prioritize your growth options. Consider your resources, competitors, and personal goals when you put these ideas together. Table anything that doesn’t fit into your bigger picture so you can revisit it at another time.
Outline key indicators for tracking progress
Nodding back to our original goal-setting stage of the business growth plan, you’ll want to consider additional metrics to measure your progress. These key performance indicators (KPIs) are measurable, concrete data points that show where you’re succeeding and where you might need to pay extra attention. Some examples of KPIs for your business growth plan might include:
- Sales by service
- New customers
- Repeat purchases
- Customer loyalty program membership
- Basket size
Whatever your KPIs, start with your own historical data to establish a baseline and then track against that.
Write your business expansion plan
Now it’s time to put all the pieces together! Document your business growth plan so you can keep yourself accountable, as well as share it with your team and any potential investors. Remember, your business growth plan can be a living document, so it’s okay to come back to it and change things up as your business and goals evolve.
Moving Forward With Your Service Business
There are many ways to grow a service-based business. The best way all depends on your personal and professional goals, as well as the competitive landscape, your customers, and your resources. Once you’ve got your ideas together, put together a business growth plan to get it into action!