10 Paths to Growth
An innovation expert describes 10 proven paths to growth for a fast-changing business environment.
How would you define ‘Growth IQ’?
Growth IQ is a holistic approach to finding the path to growth for an organization, based on three inputs: the market context, the right combination of elements and the sequencing of your actions. Your context includes current social and economic conditions, your existing product portfolio and the competitive landscape. The right combination is about selecting key actions and initiatives that — when done together — will positively influence outcomes; and sequencing is the act of assigning priority, order and timing to those actions. A company might try to duplicate the visible elements of a rival’s growth strategy, but it is rarely able to figure out the combination and sequencing that led it to succeed.
You have identified 10 paths to growth — three of which revolve around customers. Please describe them.
If you look at the most successful growth stories, one common theme is ‘innovative ways of dealing with and engaging with customers’. That’s why Customer Experience is the first path on my list — and it should serve as the foundation for all the other paths. If companies aren’t almost maniacally
focused on what people value, they might acquire customers once and never sell to them again.
A second path is Customer-base Penetration, which is all about mining the ‘gold’ that you already have. It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one — yet many companies get completely caught up in acquiring new customers and forget about the ones they already have and how they can continue to deliver compelling value to them.
Customer and Product Diversification is a third path to growth whereby you increase the number of things that you sell to customers. Say you used to sell doughnuts, and you decide to start selling doughnuts and coffee; or you used to sell running shoes and you decide to start selling shoes and running apparel. You’re basically expanding the footprint of the products you offer. The commonality of these three paths is that the customer lies at the centre of each and acts as the ‘True North’ for every decision you make.
Optimize Sales is another path to growth. What are some of the keys to achieving this?
Companies often believe that to improve sales, they need to invest in a new CRM application or some new marketing technology. But I would advise people to step back from focusing on technology and ask questions like, Do we actually have a people or process problem and not a ‘systems’ problem? Are we using the right sales and market coverage model? Are we enabling our sales people to be as productive as they can be? Research shows that 50 to 60 per cent of a salesperson’s time is actually spent on non-sales activity — which I think everyone would agree is far from optimal.
Before you try to improve sales performance with some kind of external input — whether it be technology, additional sales hires or a change to your brand strategy — do an inventory of the things you are currently doing with the resources you already have. In my experience, you may find that you can improve quota attainment by two-to-five per cent just by optimizing what you’re already doing, which in a large sales organization can deliver significant returns.
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