This article was originally published in Forbes.
As entrepreneurs, we focus on building and growing a business and often get excited at the possibilities that lie ahead. Many of us have big dreams about where our company will go and how we’ll get there, but it can also feel like using a map with no starting point.
When I founded Insightly, our primary goal was to deliver the premier customer relationship management platform for businesses. As our customer base evolved, so did their needs and, as a result, so did our features and functionality. We scaled as our customers did the same.
Based on my experience, here are three guiding principles to help you scale with your customers while maintaining your company’s identity.
Gain deeper insights into your customers and where they want to grow.
One of the things we talk about most often is the importance of truly knowing your customers. It’s important to look at a whole host of data about your customers, including key demographics, buying behaviors, how they interact with your brand and more. Armed with this info, you can develop a close connection with customers, personalize their experience with your company and send the message that you’re invested in their success.
From there, you’ll be able to ascertain their goals, big and small, for the future and how you can continue to support them along the way. For example, you might need to introduce tools and services to support your customers’ expansion into new market segments and/or geographies. Depending on your product and services, this could mean anything from introducing multilingual support to providing international market insights to adding currency and time zone conversion features to your app.
Or, maybe your customers are adding online stores and need various system integrations and marketing tools to support e-commerce. There are a couple of things to consider here: First, are there enough customers who need these features and services to justify the new production cost? Second, do these new products/features or services align with your company goals (i.e., would they attract and secure your target customers going forward)? So, if you are looking to gain bigger, international companies or online businesses, then investing in features and infrastructure that would support international customers or e-commerce makes a lot of sense. This leads us to the next point.
Think about the features you need as a company.
In order to serve your customers’ growing needs, you must grow in a way that also serves your business’s needs. It’s two sides of the same coin, and one cannot exist without the other. What are the top priorities you need to invest in to make it easier and faster to serve your customers?
When thinking these through, it’s helpful to categorize them into shorter-term investments and long-term investments. What are things you can likely implement and accomplish in six months to a year, and what are things that will take a few years to complete? In order to serve your customers well, you need to put your best foot forward, and doing that requires that you think about what investments will serve your company best. In short, you must fill your own cup so that you’re able to fill those of others.
Don’t lose sight of who you are to satisfy a bigger fish.
It can be tempting to get ahead of yourself and sprint toward attracting the business of a “game-changing” customer. While part of scaling is taking into account the needs and goals of your customer, it’s crucial to not lose sight of the foundation of your company in search of more business. It’s not your job to be everything for everyone; in fact, that’s a great way to stretch a business too thin, too quickly. Instead, your job is to be the best at the work you do. Like many things, it’s about finding the balance.
Scaling a business can be a daunting task for any entrepreneur, but with the right mindset and the right tools, it can be markedly less so. By serving your customers, serving yourself and focusing on your goals, you’ll have a recipe for success.