Growth Insights for CEOs

Get in “Gear”: How a Market Focus Can Propel Your Company Forward in 2018

Posted by Mark Shuster


For CEOs reading this blog, you are undoubtedly working to emerge from a bit of holiday malaise in your enterprise. Though you would love to enjoy peace on earth and spreading good will to all mankind, you still have a business to run – and 2018’s benchmarks, objectives and targets will be here before you know it.

As you reflect upon your company’s growth strategies and prepare to drive your mid-market enterprise forward with purpose, you first need to understand whether your business is armed with the right mindset needed to flourish in the new year.

Where is Your Focus?

In their book The Growth Gears, Chief Outsiders Co-Founders Art Saxby and Pete Hayes examined how mid-sized company CEOs like you tackled their growth challenges. More than 200 CEOs, representing 27 industries, participated in the study. 

The research revealed the existence of these two basic types of companies: Those that are operationally focused – led by CEOs with a background in manufacturing, engineering, finance and sales, and focused on short-term, grind-em-out results – and those that are market focused – run by marketing or IT-focused CEOs with a keen eye toward their company’s path forward. 

The summary of the research shows that, while the operationally-focused CEO runs great companies, the market-based CEO does a better job of growing companies.

So, which type of CEO are you? And, how can you incorporate enough of the behaviors of the market-focused CEOs to ensure that you are growing your company, rather than just running it? Let’s take a look at a self-assessment that will help you better understand how you and your company are poised to accelerate your future prospects.

The Growth Gears

Saxby and Hayes identified an interrelated group of key disciplines that companies can adopt to become more market-focused. Called the “Growth Gears,” these key disciplines, when addressed sequentially, can help to maximize an effective transition to that valuable market-driven growth focus.

Let’s take a closer look at the three gears, and some questions and considerations you can begin to ponder on your own to gauge your own status in the operational/market-based paradigm: 

  1. Insight

Does your company continuously collect – and leverage – insights about itself, its customers, and its competition? These insights form a solid foundation for decision-making on your strategy, products, positioning and resource allocation. 

Some key questions to gauge your company’s effectiveness here: 

  • How well does it leverage data and knowledge about itself and the marketplace?
  • Does it clearly understand what its customers want and need?
  • Who are your most/least profitable customers and why?
  • Does it have strong knowledge of its competitors and why they win or are vulnerable?
  • Is it effective at tapping actionable insights from its employees? Is there a perpetual feedback loop?

The key to the “insights” gear is consistency – developing a corporate culture that values the ongoing capture and synthesis of insights from all stakeholders, both formally and informally. Even accessible tools, like Survey Monkey or Mail Chimp, allow the gathering of insights via email for a small monthly investment. Plus, you’ll benefit from the acquisition of a strong email list of your customers, which can be used to foster a further dialogue from a growing, and loyal, consumer base.

  1. Strategy

Using the insights gathered as a foundation, companies can create and maintain an informed strategy that will help you to define who you are going to serve (the market), how you are going to serve them (with the right product offerings), and why they should believe you (product positioning). 

Answering the following questions will help you to better understand your company’s strategic alignment with those insights:

  • Does it understand target markets and segments potential?
  • Are your current/future product offerings aligned with the needs of the marketplace today and in the future?
  • Is it getting rewarded for innovation with pricing commensurate with your unique point of difference?
  • Are your business objectives specific, documented and supported by solid market insight?
  • Is your current positioning clear, distinct, relevant and compelling to the target audience?

At this stage, you are assembling a knowledge base in a quest to define your target market – necessary if you are going to ensure your product, positioning, and messaging are on point. Your company’s most current growth plan should be specific, feasible and inclusive of future new product offerings and markets.

  1. Execution

Having the right resources, tactics and metrics in place to execute against an efficient strategy lies at the core of a market-focused company. At this stage, you should be developing a very specific action plan, delineating resources, tactics and metrics to ensure proper alignment behind the key priorities. 

Some key questions for the CEO to ask:

  • Is the company growth strategy understood and embraced throughout the organization?
  • Do you have the right people and systems in place to help you get to where you want to be?
  • Are your resources and tactics aligned with growth strategies?
  • Are the marketing tactics focused on addressing specific objectives that are fully integrated and work together with purpose (vs. random acts of marketing)?
  • Does the company have a measurement and feedback mechanism that allows management to see progress and adjust plans? 

Successful execution relies upon the development of purposeful marketing tactics – not “random acts of marketing.” Your tactics, ultimately, should support the specific outcomes aligned with business results. You’ll also want to have a process to measure results and to make adjustments, if necessary.

Where to Go From Here

Understanding the answers to these questions is only part of the process of turning your own “Growth Gears.” Hopefully, you now can see how a market-focused approach can be a powerful accelerant to your company’s growth strategies. The value in investing in the right plan, resources and approach cannot be understated – particularly if 2018 is the year you have targeted for significant improvement at your mid-market business.

If you would like more information on how to understand or implement the Growth Gears, or how to supercharge your growth strategies, we at Chief Outsiders would be happy to help. A fractional, part-time Chief Marketing Officer – like myself or my colleagues here at Chief Outsiders – may be just the ally you need to quickly turn your Growth Gears for success in 2018. If I can be of assistance in this regard, please click here to contact me.


Identifying Strategic Growth Opportunities

Topics: Business Growth Strategy, Revenue Growth, Growth Gears

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