Growing an Existing Business


Rapid growth is tempting and exciting, but it can also be a costly trap that can lead to expensive problems rather than continued success. Because you have been successful, you have established a level of quality and an overall vision for your company that identifies your brand and is something in which you take pride. The opportunity for growth can be built upon the foundation you created with your business plan. Revisit your initial planning, take stock of lessons learned and begin to renew your planning efforts with the same thoroughness, persistence and creativity that you used when starting your business.

Entrepreneurs frequently define growth as an increase in sales. Your experiences as a business owner will have undoubtedly exposed you to a variety of sales strategies. Some of these strategies may be your own creation while others may have come from observing how your competition operates. As you consider plans for growth, you can jump-start the process by considering the following questions:

Can growth be achieved by selling more of your existing products to former or existing customers?

  • What would it take to convince your customers that they should buy in larger quantities?
  • Are there additional uses for your product not yet explored by your customer or your company?
  • Are any of your customers buying some items from you and some from a competitor? What offer would encourage the customer to give you all their sales?
  •  Would additional staff, promotion, longer hours, better customer service or any other alteration in your business practices lead customers to increase their purchases?
  • How would an add-on, product improvement or assortment change help sales?

Can growth be achieved by selling new products or services to previous and existing customers?

  • After purchasing a product from you, are your customers buying supplemental or related products from another vendor?
  • Could these add-on products or services be part of your product line?
  • What new products are needed by your present customers? Would these new products fit into your corporate mission?

Can growth be achieved by finding new markets for your present products?

  • What additional resources would be needed to expand geographically to sell to new customers?
  • Which foreign markets are most appropriate for your product?
  • Are there customers of a different age, income level, industry or other characteristic who are not presently purchasing from you but have a need for your product?
  • Can your product be used to serve more than one need? Can it be sold to a different group of buyers based on a need you have not yet promoted?
  • Is a competitor with a sizable market share changing products or business practices? Will the change allow you to sell to a competitor’s previous customers?
  • Would a change in brand name, packaging, channel of distribution or other marketing variable allow you to sell your present product to new groups of customers?

Can growth be achieved by developing new products or services for new groups of customers?

  • Are there unmet needs in the marketplace that are emerging as a result of changes in technology, lifestyle, the economy or other conditions?
  • What additional products are sold by others in your industry, but are not presently part of your offerings?
  • Are you presently purchasing services from a vendor that could be supplied by an expansion of your own firm?

If you decide that the method of sales growth is to increase sales to previous and current customers, your strategies must include:

  • the production of quality products that meet the expectation of the customer
  • the delivery of excellent customer service
  • pricing that assures the buyer of value

Repeat sales rarely happen simply out of habit or convenience, but because a customer was satisfied with the initial purchase experience. It is less expensive to sell to a present customer than to find new ones, yet many firms develop the majority of their strategies with their sights on the new customer. Always start any search for increased sales with a thorough knowledge of present customers and their needs. Even if you find you cannot sell more to them, you can still use the knowledge gained by applying it to strategies you will use to in new customers. If your business expansion occurs as the result of selling new products to your present customers, your experience should allow you to understand their needs and buying habits. If your record-keeping has been thorough, you will have mailing lists and other data allowing the introduction of new products in a cost-efficient way. Business expansion through the addition of new products or services should be well planned even when existing customers are the prospective buyer.

For more information about starting and growing a business in Pennsylvania, check out the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Entrepreneur’s Guide.