Every organization loves the idea of growth. Top executives discuss it constantly. People write books or make a living lecturing about it.
But planning growth and achieving it consistently are two different things. Business growth strategies are often sound in principal, but poorly applied. For many companies, growth boils down to simply getting more clients or selling more product. The trend now is to data-driven business models, so that counterintuitive strategy seems too risky.
But there’s such a thing as bad growth. There’s often a mentality behind growth strategies that overlooks creativity and the human element. Simply hiring more people or doing more volume isn’t always the best foundation for continued growth. It doesn’t necessarily mean greater revenue over the long term. Some companies can exhaust limited funds and resources trying to cope with sudden growth they aren’t prepared for.
A Different Approach
Every business owner looking to take their operations to the next level will hear plenty of tips and advice from business gurus or more experienced associates. Some of this can be very sensible and valuable, but odds are your competition is doing the same thing. Setting your brand apart from the rest can mean turning away from conventional wisdom and doing the things you’re not supposed to do.
Here are three counterintuitive ideas that can stimulate the growth you’ve been looking for.
1. Think consumer relationships, not advertising
Traditional marketing is based on convincing prospects that your product or service is the best available, or provides the best value. Companies build their brand promotion around the latest technology, best customer service, or other business aspects they consider their strength. Sales and marketing managers spend their day coming up with ways to convince audiences that their product is the best fit for their needs.
Today’s cynical consumer is swamped with advertising on every medium, whether it be print, email, snail mail, TV, or internet. It’s recently been reported that Google and Facebook now control 99% of ad growth. If you want to sustain your revenue streams you’ve got to be focused on building long-term relationships with your target consumers. That means both repeat customers and prospects. The best way to ensure their loyalty is to put customer interests first. Of course, this cannot be reached without an extensive research part, where you try to identify your buyer personas and what it is that they are looking for.
Focus on providing the best customer experience out there. Your marketing department should try to establish and master your own ways of demonstrating how you’re committed to satisfying your customers. Use contests, personalized communications, unique stories, unexpected channels, story-telling, and exciting, informative content to engage and amuse them. That should always be the first step, even before selling. Engage your customers well, and before long you’ll build up a loyal following that becomes your brand advocate.
2. Talk about the competition
That’s the one thing you’re usually told NOT to do – why even mention the competition?! That’s definitely a counterintuitive strategy. However, failure to mention rivals or criticizing them doesn’t mean your consumers aren’t looking at alternatives. One study indicates that 81% of shoppers do online research before buying.
Instead of viewing conflicting business interests as rivals, business growth in the future may be dependent on seeing them as partners. Especially if you have a new or small business, partnering with leading competition can only benefit you, as it makes you more visible to a wider audience. Share links to useful pages on their sites or blogs, videos, webinars, etc. It gives your visitors access to more information.
The competition usually won’t mind because it’s free promotion for them. But by building a beneficial relationship with your greatest rivals, they’re more likely to return the favor. Growth comes as more of their customers turn to you.
3. Aim for Lower Expectations
That sounds discouraging, but you shouldn’t see it that way. The fact is, there’s no brilliant solution to ensure you quick and lasting success. Aiming for small goals and focusing on attaining them leads to incremental improvement and larger gains. Contrarily, thinking that you can achieve 50% growth in sales by next quarter, and failing miserably could lead you to abandon good strategies that could have gotten you there eventually. A 10% improvement might be more attainable and still provide considerable rewards.
Everyone has big goals, but this requires patience. What you need to do is identify what your realistic goals are and develop a step-by-step plan that gets you there, like building a staircase. It also means being aware of the latest industry trends and technologies, how they could benefit you, and how they fit into your business model. That requires flexible planning and adaptive processes.
But it’s far more productive to formulate a good plan and hammer away at it than to expect that flashes of genius will keep coming to you. Expectation management is important to sustainable growth.
You may go through your day granting approval to anything and everyone that promises quick gains in business growth. But by saying “Yes,” you may be tying up resources that could provide more lasting value elsewhere. You are likely to be automatically saying “No!” to counterintuitive strategies, however, that may be just the kind of innovative thinking that drives long-term growth.