No magic bullet to business growth
The most successful businesses are continually changing, looking for ways to do things better or smarter, researching ways to improve their products or developing new products to remain competitive. It takes more than a good idea to drive growth, however. There are many principles that can impact efforts to grow business.
First, consider timing. There have been many great products that have failed as a result of poor timing. If you’re planning to introduce a new or improved product or service, it’s important to consider if the market is ready for it. Does the product matter to customers right now? Are you anticipating your customers’ needs and meeting them? Take too much time to develop, engineer and manufacture a new product and another company might beat you to the punch. Take a product to market too early without first testing and spending the necessary time in development, and you risk a flop.
Another important element to consider when growing a business is the brand. A strong brand is essential because it increases the value of a company and the products it produces. When introducing a new product, it can also be a great time to re-engage customers with the brand and build brand equity. If the brand isn’t clearly defined, it can be re-engineered to ensure a strategy is formed and differentiators are identified. The stronger a brand, the more customers will form attachments to it, leading to loyalty and increased sales.
Employee engagement is also critical to growth. By first aligning employees with the growth strategy and goals, and ensuring they know their role in helping realize those goals, a company establishes a strong foundation upon which to grow. Research shows that employees who are more involved in the direction a company is taking are more likely to remain with that company. Lower employee turnover increases stability and expertise—both key contributors of growth.
Growth can only be fully realized if the bones of an organization are strong. That includes solid customer service and a focus on encouraging brand loyalty. A company that doesn’t treat its customers well and must continually acquire new ones to replace them isn’t likely to grow. Conversely, a business that has a solid customer promise that it adheres to in all customer interactions will earn loyalty and referrals. The customer experience depends upon how well a company fulfills its promise. When you consider the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, while the probability of selling to a prospect is only 5 – 20%, it’s clear why the customer experience must be a focus in order for a company to grow.
Also essential to growth is a solid sales and after-sales process. Do customers have the same purchase experience no matter where they go to buy a product? If they don’t, that weakens a brand and the products it offers. What is the after-sales experience like? Are customers supported after the sale so they know how to get the most out of their product? Are they backed by a strong service organization that fixes products when they’re broken and answers customers’ questions?
Being proactive with established customers is another principle of growth. Loyal customers are great to rely on for steady business, but if a company isn’t careful, they can be taken for granted and lost in the blink of an eye. Instead, be proactive, ask how you can serve them even better and implement ways to enhance their experience buying, selling, owning or using a product or service. Taking an active role in their satisfaction shows you appreciate their business, you’re a trusted partner and you want your relationship with them to continue. The result is loyalty, which leads to growth and stability.
Driving growth requires fortitude and a focus on these and other business principles. Along the way, don’t forget to celebrate successes.