The internet has completely changed the way people do business, empowering even children to quickly build profitable empires. There was a time when in order to run a business you’d need to have permits, a physical store, a substantial marketing budget, inventory and much more. However, today all you need to start a new business is an idea and a website. The online space is crowded and extremely competitive as far as business is concerned. Everyday multiple businesses open their eyes in this world but not many survive for long. How and why their ventures fail is a completely different debate but if your business is making progress and you are witnessing a huge and consistent improvement in your visitors or users then you should be happy as well as concerned! You should be happy, simply because your business is growing and at the same time, concerned because now you have more responsibility to sustain the current user base, account for potential threats and disasters and make preparations to grow and take it to the next level accordingly. Here’s what you need to know when you’re ready to start taking your business to new heights. Retention is key, not just sales If you have an online tool or service, with a considerably large, even paying, user base, they’ll certainly not stick with you for long unless you engage them beyond the usual sales talk or technicalities of the business relationship. As part of your retention plan, you’ll need to get focused on the customers’ needs beyond what relates to helping you make more sales; build those relationships Take an example of a famous tool in the digital marketing and inbound niche “Moz”. They function as a marketing tool that helps you better understand your website and guide you with the techniques that can help you attain better visibility online and through search engines. MOZ does a lot of interesting things to retain their customers but one of the major investments is their blog. They have a blog as well as a definitive guide section that updates on regular basis with some of the highest quality actionable information you’ll find on the web on SEO. They’ve proven it’s not just about making money through their services but building the SEO community globally with content that matters. This makes their brand sticky, attracting people who want to be a continued part of their community and pay them on a monthly basis. Your retention plan does not necessarily need to be a high cost activity but instead thrives on customers simply feeling appreciated through basic relationship building gestures. Investing time and effort in a genuine blog, for example, is a powerful way to find success and grow. Make your customers your promoters Having a paying customer in this age is not enough; they need to be brand ambassadors as well! To accomplish this, you’ll need to approach this from the ground at your employees and peer level, promoting a culture of pride and dedication to a powerful vision, all the way through to the customer by paying attention to their deepest desires and needs and treating them intimately. Your clients need to be proud that they’re using your product and willing to share it with their trusted circle. Again, Moz is a great example; they’ve used gamification to keep users and customers engaged with elements that make any active user proud to be part of the community. In addition, acquiring points in the Moz community not only shows that you’re active but also publicly acknowledges you as knowledgeable in the SEO world; which goes a long way if you’re trying to sell yourself as an expert – a great incentive for being active and sharing. Here they have introduced a points system where every user can gain points while contributing to their blog and as the number increases the benefit increases. The general idea here is to implement activities that connects with users on an emotional level or serves a great need in the community. Another great example is Dropbox, who incentivizes users for inviting their friends to sign-up for free accounts – a simple yet powerful way to increase their user base. Preparing for the Rainy Days You’ll quickly realize that the more success you acquire online, the greater the threat will be for experiencing service downtime and hacking attempts. This is especially true if your services depend on continuously working servers and data centers and as your user base and demand increases so does the strain on your network and IT staff. I’m sure many of us have witnessed the Twitter “fail whale” as their servers become offline and are pushed beyond their capacities. One can only imagine the monetary loss for companies as large as Twitter when there’s downtime. And while they have the cash and resources to invest in the best teams, servers and systems they’ve had some setbacks over the years as they experienced growing pains. The good news is that growth, scaling and adjusting for new demand does not have to be a risky and disaster prone process. Thankfully, security-as-a-service (SECaaS) providers in this age offer affordable and powerful services that cover not only providing backups for servers running your apps and other vital business processes, but will also boost your app and service delivery speeds through powerful and widely distributed content delivery networks, and web application firewalls and other defences to protect against DDoS attacks, and other zero-day threats that could potentially compromise your entire network. To ensure high availability for your apps and business services, the average business will need a load balancing and failover service which a few modern cloud providers offer. This solution ensures that a working server is always available and is delivering your services to your clients; and if one goes down, traffic will be routed to another available machine. Or in the case of a complete network failure, provisions can be rapidly implemented via backup installations and server locations as a fallback for your network – guaranteeing a service that is always available to serve customers and make money. Have a Phase 2 Marketing Plan Growth never moves at the pace you expect and your industry is never quite as it seems when you first decided to launch your business and were assessing the market. As you hit a growth spurt, you’ll quickly realize that your original marketing plan is not up to par with what your audience and users are demanding and the marketplace may have drastically changed due to new technologies and strong competition. Never be rigid or too intimately attached to any plan and be flexible and ready to adapt as the tides shift. The quicker your response to market demands and trends the better your chances for victory. Be open and ready to quickly conceptualize and execute a phase 2 plan that sometimes contradicts the first. Be open to feedback and manage change Flexibility, adaptability and speed complement growth, especially if you’re an up and coming startup. Your willingness to respond to the market not only promotes the right culture among customers and the industry but is also vital for selling products and services that work. The failures of Blackberry smartphones and movie retailer Blockbuster are prime examples of companies stuck in their ways with a rigid approach to the changing world and business. Be ready and willing to hear what customers have to say by making it easy for them to reach you and share their opinions, suggestions and recommendations. Allocate staff and resources towards analyzing and understanding customer feedback as a means to identify trends and opportunities to better serve. This is the response that will determine whether your growth is meaningful and has potential for longevity or a superficial success that will cave in when reality hits. As your business grows so does your responsibilities, risks and opportunities; and preparation will always be an important part of your success. Be flexible, be ready to change and listen to the voice of your audience and you’ll find that growth is beautiful. Images: ”Business hand touch 3 tips to grow and manage online marketing concept/ Shutterstock.com“ __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). See our review of 2013 for more information. An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.