Navigating the complex terrain of modern business can be a difficult path, with roadblocks, detours, and uncharted territory, but with the right guidance, you can reach your destination.
As a CEO, you’ve been given an incomplete map for this journey, but often have been told that you have until yesterday (as if you were a time traveler) to reach the destination. It’s little wonder that CEOs like yourself struggle to find a path toward growth.
In our first blog in this series, we started our five-stage process for illuminating the pathway to growth at your company. We laid the foundation for identifying your “North Star” – recommending an aptly-named “GROW” blueprint that can help you and your leadership team check off the prerequisites to corporate sales success – identify the core goals, take timely actions, and elicit the team commitments that will set the stage for profitable growth.
Now, it’s time for cartography – that critical map toward the North Star. While the map will only do part of the job of helping us navigate the territory, the five steps below will equip your leadership team with strategies that will help make the most of what lies ahead.
First, a qualifier: Having worked with more than 1,500 B2B and B2C clients since Chief Outsiders started, our CMOs have observed a common thread: When businesses are competing head-to-head with other products and services, they tend to counter the competition on price alone.
In this blog, as with the first one in the series, we encourage you to change your focal point to your company’s value instead of price. Of course, identifying what consumers or companies really value is a collaborative process that can only be achieved by leveraging the Voice of the Customer (VoC). In my view, it takes five defined steps, which we’ll cover in greater detail below (see graphic):
(To download charts and tools associated with this article, see A CEO’s Guide to Growth Toolkit 2)
According to Marc Andreesen, Silicon Valley investor and engineer, getting to product-market fit (PMF) is “the only thing that matters.” Given new entrants into the market, competition, and new product/service launches, each organization must be diligent about achieving and maintaining PMF.
One of the best ways to learn about PMF is to observe the top reasons why startups fail. After CBInsights reviewed more than 100 startup post-mortems, three of the top five reasons are related to the lack of Product-Market Fit:
The lesson is thus: For businesses to have a sustainable business model, a satisfied client base, and the potential to grow, its validation will stem from its client base (VoC). Validating PMF, as noted by the experts, includes:
So, how can you validate PMF at your company? The most straightforward process stems from Sean Ellis, who was Head of Growth for Dropbox, Eventbrite, and Lookout. He states: “I ask existing users of a product how they would feel if they could no longer use the product. In my experience, achieving product/market fit requires at least 40 percent of users saying they would be “very disappointed” without your product.”
Once you’ve validated PMF, you will have what it takes to strengthen your brand with VoC-based data. Yet you need to move beyond a rote quantitative survey to get to the essence of why clients really love your product or service -- in their own words. You can leverage other data points through:
Finding the common patterns that weave throughout the above materials will help you complete a Brand House framework (see graphic) to:
This process is best implemented with the Growth Gears. When you use VoC insights, identify the core competencies of your organization, and compare those with competitive benchmarks, you can find your unique value propositions and positioning that will define a sustainable competitive advantage.
(Note: Our firm provides Brand Messaging Workshops to facilitate this process in nearly half the time and a fraction of the cost that it would take an agency to do the same. To download the Brand House framework and other tools, see A CEO’s Guide to Growth Toolkit 2)
Research firm Gartner has reported that it takes over 30 touchpoints in the B2B customer journey between initial research and a closed won/lost decision because the journey isn’t linear. Since the core decision-making team can have as many as 10 leaders (decision makers), there could be hundreds of pitfalls and pushbacks on the journey to a deal. This means that your leadership teams must be ready to pivot at any moment to remove friction in the customer journey.
And, since it can take as many as seven or eight touchpoints before anyone reaches out to your firm, you’ll want to carefully craft a go-to-market playbook that outlines the core requirements for Go-to-Market success:
Since 92 percent of a business prospect’s journey starts with an information search, and more than half prefer online research instead of interacting with a salesperson (Content Marketing Institute), content must provide thought leadership, be business savvy, offer the appropriate technical information, and ensure price transparency – all easily accessible in a DIY mode.
One of the most essential tools that I’ve used with CEOs like you to map growth opportunities is the Ansoff Matrix (see A CEO’s Guide to Growth Toolkit 2). It helps you visualize existing products and markets and new products/services to new markets to identify short- and long-term priorities for growth.
Adapting the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Growth Share matrix to your client portfolio will also help determine:
This exercise will enable you to identify which clients to prune or churn (through attrition or higher pricing) and more importantly, which clients to amplify with TLC to accelerate their growth for the next three to five years. (To download the Ansoff Matrix, Growth Share Matrix, and other tools, see A CEO’s Guide to Growth Toolkit 2)
In my experience, business prospects and current clients respond best to a personalized, respectful, and trusted advisor approach. An organization can’t solely rely on the Net Promoter Score process because that’s a lagging indicator. How do you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening throughout the customer experience? There’s no better way to achieve a frictionless customer journey than to map the customer lifecycle by stages using:
You can take this a step further by identifying departmental-specific touchpoints (with emoticons) that range from marketing to sales to operations to finance to customer support to client success to the leadership team.
Like Maslow’s hierarchy, where self-fulfillment is at the apex of personal achievement, delivering a superior customer experience is the culmination of these five steps in the Go-to-Market process. When used with the Growth Gears, leveraging A CEO’s Guide to Growth Toolkit 1 and Toolkit 2 will help your business navigate toward your North Star for growth.
In our next blog, we’ll introduce you to the 10 questions you can ask to gauge the impact of your growth marketing Initiatives. In the meantime, if you’d like to download A CEO’s Guide to Growth Toolkit 2, click here.
Stay tuned for Part 3: How to Measure the Success of Your Growth Initiative's Impact.