There are multiple reasons why business fail to grow. Indeed there are multiple reasons why business grow badly or why growth is counter-productive but perhaps those two topics are for a later discussion.
Business Growth can be defined in one of two ways:
Boosting top line revenues through greater product sales or additional sales and services
Improving the bottom line through greater profitability. One could argue this second definition cares as much for cost savings as for revenue generation, so one has to be careful when using this as the benchmark to measure against.
Failure to grow a business can be segmented into a number of categories around sales, marketing, leadership, overall strategy, customers and market. Whilst we would argue there are many reasons and no two customers have the same challenges, or indeed opportunities, failure to grow is usually broken down as follows:
Failure to Communicate your products or services
It all seems obvious: What is it you do? What is it you’re selling? Then why is it that so many companies fail to adequately explain this in a way that helps the customer understand?
In order to communicate well your product or service you must clearly define your value proposition. Explain the value you bring to the customer. Connect with your market. All too often we begin the search for communicating our products and services with trying to understand who the customer is. However, there is a stage even before that – understanding who you are as a supplier.
Understanding who you are is not a stand-alone process, nor is it a kick-starter process. To understand who you are and what you deliver you need to ask your customers. Your customers will tell you why they bought and what they bought, not the product or the service, but the reason why and the decisions they made. This is invaluable and should become a regular part of your customer conversations as you look to expand your portfolio or make changes to your products and services.
What does your brand identity say about you? Understand the impact of the brand. Understand the impact your slogans, artwork and imagery have on your customers’ perception of you. What emotions do you want to evoke in your customer with your brand? What do your salespeople say in their tone, style and presentation? Pick six words that totally encapsulate everything that you want to say about your company. Not a sentence but six simple but effective words. If you’re not living up to that then you need to work to change where you are and what you are to be what you want your customers to believe you are.
It is important to retain a sustainable dialogue with your customers. Taking feedback from customers who both like your product and those who might otherwise choose an alternative. Make sure you not only listen to what it is they have to say but dig deeper, ask more, understand more. Be prepared also to challenge what they say, if you can establish a truly open dialogue with a customer then your chance to excel will only increase.
For customers you have lost and for those deals you never won in the first place. Take feedback, ask questions and listen to what they have to say. We all learn from mistakes but not asking for feedback is a mistake.
How efficient is your CRM system? As well as tracking all the calls, meetings and emails, does it track influencers as well as decision makers? Does it truly manage the Customer Relationship or is it just a sales tool? How is that information shared across departments or, if it’s a small company, who has ownership of the different levels and types of communication? Do you want this all in one person’s hands or is it best to share responsibility and have someone else ask about sales performance, helpdesk support, company values?
Communication with your customers is not a reactive responsibility. How often do you update and inform your customer of business developments? Do you provide industry trends and knowledge sharing with them? Are you a thought leader for your customers, even if not for your industry? If your customer is not coming to you to seek advice outside your area of influence, then you are limited by your product and by your position only as a supplier. You are not yet a trusted partner.
Leading the conversation and getting customers to ‘lean in’ cements your relationship that allows you a greater opportunity to fail and still be there the next day. Learn to use your knowledge and share it with your customers in a way that helps them. The more you do this the more you will grow your business; whether they stay and advise others to contact you or whether they leave and bring you in to a new opportunity.
A failure to communicate with your customers about all aspects of your product or service in a consistent and coherent way can have dramatic consequences over time. In the shorter period it will become a barrier to growth or develop growth patterns that do not benefit you in the long run. Be clear on who you are and in communicating that to your customers.
“You’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow”: Lou Holtz.