Business growth doesn’t happen by accident. Whether you’re leading an early-stage startup, an established small business, or a global brand, achieving greater market share takes careful strategic planning and relentless execution.
Of course, there’s more than one way to generate additional revenue. You could develop products that complement your existing offering or create entirely new products. Targeting new market segments or expanding usage among current customers could also be viable ways to add revenue streams. Then there’s marketing; if you haven’t invested sufficiently in branding and customer outreach, doing so could help you generate inbound leads that can quickly become paying customers with a little help from your sales team.
Prepping the Soil for Growth
Not every company is ready to grow, and growing too much too fast can actually be detrimental to your long-term success. If you have a “growth-at-all-costs” mentality, rethink it. Your growth depends on strategies that build a solid foundation for sustainable — not hasty — expansion.
As the fictional character Dwight Schrute from “The Office” puts it, paper is the manure in which “the seeds of business grow.” Paper (and manure!) aside, the seeds of your business growth are measurable goals, and the soil is the strategy that helps you achieve those goals. Here are “seeds” for three important internal teams — sales, HR, and marketing — that will help your business grow successfully.
Seed 1 — Sales: Sign the right clients, not just any clients.
The best sales teams do more than just close deals; they’re able to identify and sign clients that make your organization stronger. It’s imperative that they bring in not just any new client or customer, but the right clients or customers for your business. When you’re working with the right customers, you’ll be more than capable of providing value that makes your clients inclined to stick around.
To nudge your salespeople in the right direction, sprinkle incentives into your soil. If you want to keep your salespeople motivated to bring in quality clients, consider rewarding them based on nontraditional metrics. For instance, award sales team bonuses when clients reach 6- or 12-month anniversaries or when current clients upgrade to more expensive plans. These milestones are indicative of overall customer satisfaction, and by making them the basis for incentives, you encourage your team to think about the entire customer life cycle. As a result, you’ll likely see a decrease in churn and more referrals from existing customers — two essential ingredients for lasting growth.
Seed 2 — HR: Focus on preparing your current workforce for the future.
Your HR team could be feeling the talent crunch when hiring for certain roles, especially ones involving knowledge of emerging tech. Sometimes, however, the people you’ll need tomorrow are already on your staff today. Especially for companies that aren’t already category leaders, developing existing talent is absolutely critical to future growth. Plus, it could aid in employee retention, meaning you spend fewer resources planting additional seeds for growth. Leah Johnson, vice president of advisory at Gartner, argues that the current talent shortage isn’t just a source of angst for employers, but for workers as well.
Gartner recently surveyed HR leaders to assess their feelings of preparedness as we enter the next decade. “The survey found it’s not only HR leaders concerned with the lack of skills but employees themselves,” Johnson says. “Only one in five employees in the study felt like they have the skills today to prepare them for the future. When you think about the collective anxiety that creates in the workforce, it’s concerning.” Growth depends on people, so focus on empowering the ones you have. This will positively affect both retention and recruiting. By connecting newer team members with mentors, encouraging independent learning, and making time for employees to practice and develop new skills, you can build a culture of learning that appeals to today’s top talent.
Seed 3 — Marketing: Make workflows more collaborative.
Is your marketing team operating in silos? Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t just prevent your company from reaching its full potential but can actually lead to long-term damage of your business’s “root system,” or structure. There may be a number of reasons your marketers aren’t working well together, but the end result is the same: inefficiency, complacency, and a reactionary approach to customer engagement rather than a proactive one.
In a fast-moving business environment, growth depends on your team’s ability to collaborate effectively. “If your pain points focus on issues tied to collaboration, deadlines, communication, or resources, then moving to an agile approach would be beneficial,” explains Sarah Fruy, director of online marketing at Pantheon. “An agile workflow can help your department become more accountable and collaborative within time-based constraints.” In addition to establishing an agile workflow, getting individual contributors to operate like a thriving ecosystem requires setting unified goals and clear expectations for each team member. Break goals down into measurable steps with clearly defined deadlines attached.
Slow growth is better than no growth, and it’s often better than exponential growth as well. By growing at a 15% annual rate (which might sound lethargic), a firm can double its size in just five years. On the other hand, light-speed expansion can overwhelm your existing infrastructure and result in more problems than you can handle. Have a plan, execute it carefully, and take your time. As any farmer can tell you, the seeds you plant won’t bear fruit in a day; it takes a whole season.
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