Just two of the questions to the BBC’s small business  panel of experts that have been asked – and answered over the last couple of months. We thought it would be useful to summarise the main points here, but you can of course read all the advice in full on the on the BBC’s business pages.

The advice is provided by an eclectic group of business professionals, including Tom Ryan, founder of US-based Smashburger, the UK’s own Julie Meyer (Ariadne Capital), Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and start-up adviser, Dieter Burmester (luxury German hi-fi) and more.

How to expand

  • Make sure you have sufficient talent and human resources to keep the focus on your core business – expansion will inevitably lead to some dilution.
  • Only risk what you can afford to lose and have sufficient capital to fund your expansion activities.
  • Make sure everyone in the business is fully aware of the expansion and the possible changes that this may have, eg a sudden increase in sales enquiries but also perhaps customer service queries or even complaints. Has everyone been briefed on processes and escalation paths?

How do I get new customers?

  • Firstly, identify your prospective customers – are they local footfall, worldwide online, specialist niche? Then focus specifically on what channels are available to help you reach them, including blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and a search-optimised website.
  • Secondly, what is your key USP (unique selling proposition) or strength? Excellent, personalised customer service? Discount prices? High, fast turnover? Unique product? Again, focus on this and base your marketing around your strengths.
  • Network. Many jobs are awarded through business contacts – still obviously on merit, but nevertheless on being in the right place at the right time.

There’s no one single solution to business expansion or new customer acquisition but the one of the key messages that appears in all the suggestions is focus. Don’t try to be all things to everyone, everywhere. If you focus your efforts and know why you are doing something, what it’s going to cost and what you want to achieve, you will stand a much better chance of success.