With 2013 behind you, it’s time to start thinking about where you want to take your company in 2014. Do you want to increase the number of retailers you’re in? How about extending your food product line? Or heck, maybe just start a food business?
It’s one thing to set your sights on growth, but it’s another to actually achieve it. Just reading this, are your palms sweating? Are you getting anxious?
Figuring out your growth plan is hard.
After all, it’s never set in stone. The minute you think you know what you’re doing, it changes. You get presented opportunities you never thought imaginable. Demand blows past your projections, and you’re out of glass. Holy moly! You’re losing control.
You need a plan.
Here’s the reality: you have to figure out how to get there. There has to be some kind of strategy. And before I get into my strategy planning tips, I have to let you know what not to do. It’s the one thing that will save your food business from absolute disaster. Here it is:
Your plan can’t be this: DO EVERYTHING! I WANT TO SAY YES TO EVERYTHING!
Growth is exciting. It means more people are buying your product. Production is increasing. You’re in more retailers. But your brain is going to explode. If you get asked one more question, you’re going to flip. That’s what leads me to tip one:
1. Focus your food business
There are a million opportunities that are going to come your way this year. You’ll get distributor requests, sample requests from buyers, subscription box emails, and maybe even a daily deal email.
Think about what’s going to grow your business. Is it direct events? Is it retail? Or is it food service? What strategy has worked for you in the past? What can you do to increase those numbers?
Focus helps you say no.
For example, I get a handful of requests to do wedding favors every year. That requires a smaller jar, but the same amount of time and effort. And generally, they’re looking for a custom label – more time. So, I don’t do them because it’s not my core business. I’ll leave wedding favors to the dozens of maple producers in Vermont.
So, how do you know what to say no to?
It’s easy to say yes to everything. But it’s distracting. No is harder to say, but you’ve got to do it. Starting practicing right now. “No, I will not _____ in 2014”. Write it down. That way it’ll be a constant reminder.
To figure out what you need to focus on, you need to look at what happened in 2013. That means doing some number crunching. (OH MY GOD, NO!). Yes, you have to know your numbers. That’s strategy number two.
2. Analyze Your Food Business to the Penny
Grab your calculator! You’ve got some number crunching to do. Why? Because numbers don’t lie. They tell you the story you need to hear. They help you make better decisions. And they go up and down.
Pay attention to the numbers.
What products sell well? What flavor is headed in a downward trend? Are any of your flavors expensive to produce? How’d you do at the farmer’s market? Can you fit in another market this summer?
These questions need answers. Numbers provide those answers.
I analyzed my business for the last three and a half years. What I found was mind-boggling. Here are just three insights:
- My farmer’s market revenue grew 16%
- I make eight flavors of mustard. Three make up 54% of my sales.
- I generated more online sales in 2013 than 2010-2012 combined. Whoa.
Do you know how your business did? Take some time over the next few weeks to analyze your business.
Yes, you have plenty of time. Your business is a bit slower in January. While you’re closing the books on 2013, analyze it. What trends do you notice?
Trends (hopefully upward) are going to reveal what you need to do to grow your business. Maybe you need to cut costs to increase your margins. Maybe you need to stop selling your worst seller. Or maybe you need to convert more website visitors into buyers. That’s a blog post in it’s own right.
When it comes down to it, growth means you’ve got to a whole lot more of one thing: Sales. Yes. You have got to sell your heart out. Oh, that just so happens to me the final strategy, too. Look at that!
3. Sell Your Heart Out
Do you catch yourself thinking any of these crazy thoughts?
- “I’m not good at sales!”
- “What if they don’t like my product?”
- “It’s hard to make a connection with people”
First off, stop thinking that. Remember why you started your company? You LOVE making your product. You LOVE how customers react to it. You LOVE when people give you cold hard cash for your product.
Channel that love in your sales strategy.
The greatest sales people aren’t sales people. They’re your neighbor, your sister, and your plumber. They’re ordinary people passionate about something.
The greatest sales strategy is to just be yourself. And promote your business to literally anyone who will listen.
Today, I was on a shuttle to get my car from the shop. The shuttle driver knows me well because I gave him free mustard. I even told the other stranger on the bus about my mustard company. Tell everyone.
Get comfortable talking about your business.
Once you get the confidence to talk to random strangers about your business (farmer’s markets are awesome for that, too), you’re going to be ready to sell more product.
Find your list of retailers and get out there. Sell, sell, sell!
So there you have it. The three strategies I’m using to grow my company in 2014. What about you? What strategies are you using? Have you found something that just works magic?