Does your company speak Growth?

Achieving growth requires everyone in your company to be in sync with your growth program.  This means that leaders and staff talk about growth in the same way, connecting different functions such as marketing, sales, customer service and finance.  Common growth vocabulary can be a powerful enabler of your growth program.  

Organic growth—increasing revenues by attracting more customers or selling more to the customers you have—is more important now than ever.  In today’s high interest rate environment, growth by acquisition is riskier than it’s been in a decade.  These days most successful companies are growing organically. 

Unfortunately, established companies looking to reach their growth potential often struggle.  The reasons vary by company and industry, but some common examples include: 

  • Products and/or services need improvement or modernization to appeal to a wider group of customers 
  • Pricing and discount policies don’t optimize revenue or profitability 
  • Branding is weak—customers don’t understand what makes you different and better 
  • Marketing and sales functions don’t operate efficiently and effectively 
  • IT infrastructure won’t support a larger customer base 

One reason companies often struggle with these basics is that individual departments optimize their own areas at the expense of the whole. 

Take the Marketing and Sales example from above: 

  • Marketing may be working to attract as many leads as possible, but may be targeting prospects already loyal to a competitor 
  • Sales may be handling many leads from marketing, but struggle to understand which are the easiest to close and drive the most profitable revenue 
  • Product managers may have a sense of buyers through their own experiences, but lack the perspectives of sales and marketing, who face customers every day 

A powerful way to better connect these functions is to articulate your growth strategy using a vocabulary that aligns your departments, enabling them to work toward common goals.     

Around 10 years ago, I co-authored an article in Harvard Business Review entitled “Creating an Organic Growth Machine”, which you can read here:  https://hbr.org/2012/05/creating-an-organic-growth-machine  The article proposes four “rules” companies should follow when pursuing growth.  The one that resonated most back then—and is still relevant now—was the one advocating a common growth language. 

Here is a brief example of the growth glossary developed by one of my clients that appeared in the article: 

  • Headroom for Growth:  the market share we already have minus the share we are unlikely to get (usually because some customers are loyal to a competitor), helping marketing and sales focus on the customers most likely to buy 
  • Switchers:  customers who aren’t fully committed to your company or one of your competitors; they are most likely to be influenced by marketing, pricing and new offer development 
  • Needs-Offer Gap:  The difference between what would induce customers to switch and what they are currently getting from a competitor, aligning product development, marketing and sales with the right priorities for product innovation 
  • Operational Segmentation:  Organizing market-facing operations (e.g., stores, branches, sales territories) into groups defined by customer and competitor dynamics.  For example, groups of stores located near direct competitors could employ more aggressive pricing and discount policies than those facing less competition 

Using this common vocabulary allowed my client to focus on their most promising growth opportunities.  The plans of individual company departments reflected overall company growth objectives, leading to better collaboration and coordination. Developing this vocabulary was an important step to making their growth strategy actionable and successful. 

How do you talk about growth opportunities in your company?  Are the functions of your company aligned to achieve your growth objectives?  Is there a set of terms with well-understood definitions that can guide the identification, evaluation and execution of growth ideas? 

David Meer specializes in data-driven approaches to growth.  He has advised leading corporations on numerous highly successful marketing campaigns and new product launches.  He is co-author of three articles in Harvard Business Review, including “Rediscovering Market Segmentation”, one of the publication’s top 50 best sellers.  

Downeast Growth Partners is a firm that helps early-stage and mid-size companies grow to their potential through organic growth and acquisitions.  Downeast offers growth assessments, growth project implementations, acquisition diligence and post-sign acquisition services.  For more information please visit our website at www.downeastgrowth.com.   

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