Seriously? Are You Willing To Invest, To Make Changes And To Hire Or Fire? Are You Really Ready?
Put 100 company CEOs in a room and ask them to stand up if they want their companies to grow, and you’ll get 100 people proudly standing.
Now ask them to remain standing only if their companies have grown over the past year, past two years and past five years, and you’ll end up with somewhere around 20% of the audience still standing.
What’s the story? Where is the gap? If they all want to grow, why wouldn’t all of these smart CEOs be able to figure it out?
The reason is simple: Business growth is the hardest part of running a business. Growing a business requires checking many different boxes, and the challenges associated with scoring well in all of those areas are tough.
You should have a great product or service, one that is unique in its market. You need great people. You need strong financial management. You need to align sales and marketing. You need to invest appropriately in all of the right areas.
You need compelling and emotional messaging. You need to stay ahead of your competition and understand your prospects in an intimate way. You need solid core values and a strong culture.
Need I go on? I think I do, because I’m not sure people know everything that needs to come together to fuel growth. If they did, more people would be doing it.
You need to set smart, attainable goals that get cascaded down to everyone in the organization. You need to build the marketing program to produce enough leads to fuel your desired level of growth. You need a sales process that delivers a remarkable experience for your prospects.
You need customers who are happy to be advocates for your business. You need strong leadership and effective communication across the entire organization. You need to be intimate with your customers. The list goes on.
But most importantly, you need to understand that growth is not one department’s responsibility. Everyone is responsible. Everyone needs to be working to help the company grow every single day.
Let’s break this down and look at a few of the key elements.
Very Few People Are Experts At Every Aspect Required For Growth
You might be the best (fill in the blank) on the planet, and that’s probably why you started your company. Consider Sarah the pie maker in Michael Gerber’s book “The E-Myth.” Sarah was such an amazing pie baker that she started a business, only to realize she was spending most of her time doing everything except for what she was great at – making pies.
Helping small businesses with their benefits is different than growing a 100-person benefits company. Being a great graphic designer is different than running a 20-person design agency. Being a great auto mechanic is much different than leading a 10-franchise auto body business.
Very few people are experts at all the aspects of business required for growth. That means you need to supplement your skill set with the skill sets of other people. This introduces even more complexity. Now you have to pick the right people (hiring). You have to set goals for those people (planning). You have to communicate your expectations to those people (leadership). This all introduces more places for the whole thing to break down.
You’re now working on marketing, sales, finance, human resources, operations, purchasing and taking care of customers. These all are potential areas where you’re not an expert.
So you bring in experts. If you don’t hire them, you find companies like mine who have expertise in particular areas. You might also work hard to improve your skill sets in other areas through training or educational materials, and you might even consider software to help with some of the processes where automation can be helpful. All good tactics.
Make sure you actually follow the advice of these experts. Don’t hire people who you have to tell what to do. Hire people who are going to tell you what to do, and then do it.
Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Culture And Core Values
When we started our business, I downplayed the importance of culture and core values. Not today. I now see this as a mandatory requirement for businesses that want to grow.
I’m working closely with two of our clients, and I asked them to share their core values and core purpose. I wasn’t expecting them to have either, but they are progressive leaders with progressive companies, and I wanted to match our guidance to their core ideology (if it existed). I’m still waiting for a response, which means they likely don’t have either.
Core values are the handful of guiding principles by which a company navigates. Core purpose is an organization’s most fundamental reason for being.
Without these, growing your company is much harder. It’s like navigating a ship without a rudder. You might get to your destination, but the odds are against you. Getting these established for your company is like having everyone rowing in rhythm. It makes one plus one equal three, and it’s a requirement if you want to see accelerated growth.
Sales And Marketing Alignment Is Not Optional
It’s no longer OK for sales and marketing to be two warring factions. That’s old-school thinking. Today, you really should be looking at a blended team called a revenue department, with one leader, one set of goals and one mission — to drive month-over-month revenue growth.
If that’s too aggressive, then at least get your two teams completely aligned around your shared goals. Have them work on the prospect’s buyer journey experience as a team. Measure them on revenue performance as a team. Co-locate them together (or have joint meetings) so they start working more closely together.
For those advanced companies, consider a service-level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing where marketing is responsible for creating and delivering a certain amount of prospect value each month, just like sales is responsible and accountable for closing a certain amount of new customer revenue.
Sales should also be responsible in the SLA for working leads as per the agreed-on sales process and providing feedback to marketing, so they can adjust their programs based on that feedback.
Properly Invest In Key Areas
Want to stifle growth? Underinvest in marketing. What happens when the economy turns sour? The first place people turn to cut expenses is marketing. Business leaders notoriously underinvest in marketing and in sales, and then they wonder why their companies are not growing.
If you buy a $5,000 website when you need a $50,000 site, you’ll get what you paid for and the results associated with that cheap website. If you hire an agency for $6,000 a month when you clearly need to be investing $16,000 a month to drive the results you expect, you shouldn’t be surprised when you come up short.
Growth takes time. If you start working on growth initiatives and then change your mind, change your agency or change your goals, you’re going to have to start over again. Investing properly means having the right long-term perspective on growth. Nothing takes days or weeks. Almost everything takes months or longer. It took you years to get to this state, and it’s probably going to take at least a year to get you out of it and moving in the right direction.
Figuring out the right level of investment can be challenging. There are a variety of ways to come up with a budget for growth related to sales and marketing. One method is a percentage of revenue. This article from the WordStream website recommends allocating between 6% and 12% of your gross revenue to marketing. That seems high to me, as I typically recommend between 1% and 10%.
The best way to figure out your level of investment is to calculate the revenue cycle (or funnel) you need to drive to your goals. Do you need 200 leads or 20 leads? Is your close rate 80% or 10%? Once you get all of that data, you should be able to figure out the tactics you need to get you to your goals. Bigger goals require a bigger level of investment.
Have Realistic Expectations
This is hard, and I get it. We live in a microwave society. We expect everything today. Amazon sends my packages the same day I submit an order. Netflix lets me watch my favorite shows instantly. Trunk Club sends new clothes to my front door. But growing your companies doesn’t work like that, no matter what you read in a Facebook ad.
It’s not realistic to expect 100 high-quality leads tomorrow. I’ve never seen it done once. We’ve been close a few times, but the planning and execution that went into producing results like that took weeks leading up to those leads coming in.
Growing your business is like losing weight. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes changing your habits and it might take working with an expert or following a set program (like a diet). You’re going to make mistakes and go off the diet. The same is going to happen to your company’s growth plans. Not everything you do will work exactly as expected. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, stick with it.
The clients who achieve the best success have been with us for years, and they have seen their companies double in size, triple in size, be acquired and do the acquiring. Growth is hard work and will require stamina.
One of the entrepreneurial blogs I read had this to say about business growth: “There is A LOT of work that goes into growing your business and some key elements include endurance, passion, persistence, drive, motivation, commitment, patience… the list goes on.” If you want to read the entire article from Entrepreneurs on Fire, click here.
You have to commit to the long term. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Growth won’t happen in a week or even a month. Start thinking in years.
At Square 2, this year alone it took us almost nine months to build a sustainable competitive differentiation platform, and then another couple of months to roll it out through our marketing and sales execution. The investment in this is approaching half-a-million dollars. But the payoff is going to be huge in 2019 as we see the growth we’re looking for come to fruition.
You have to make a similar financial and timing commitment to growth.
With all of this planning, all of these tactics, the changes your company has to endure, the financial investment, the technology, the people and the collection of partners required to get growth, it’s no wonder so few people can pull this off. It is one of the hardest tasks you’ll every face professionally.
I’ll go back to the question asked in the headline: Do you want your company to grow?
Are you ready to do whatever it takes to grow? Seriously? Are you willing to invest, to make changes and to hire or fire someone? Are you prepared to learn new things and to be patient? Are you ready?
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Posted By Author Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist
Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.