(photo courtesy of http://www.webweaver.nu/clipart/dragons3.shtml)
Let’s be honest. In today’s volatile economy, strategic growth planning and marketing innovations are easily pushed aside in favor of reactively averting poisonous arrows and perilous moats.
Those hazards continuously threaten us—and often appear from a surprise enemy. How many of us keep putting our foot on the gas and have not slowed down to finesse these dangerous conditions?
We may not be able to control unforeseen events and demanding clients. What we can control is how we respond. It starts with arming ourselves with knowledge and confidence.
Knowledge begins by understanding the most common pressures our clients are facing:
1. Information overload is pushing clients closer to “overwhelm” than ever before. They crave simplicity, and will pay handsomely for it. According to sales expert Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling, “If you do not offer a quick, easy way for clients to work with you and demonstrate your value, one of three things will happen: they either a) delete your messages, b) delay getting back to you or c) disappear into a black hole.”
2. Larger organizations continue to reduce suppliers. In many services and knowledge businesses, such as training, coaching, software, logistics, and IT services, the purchasing power has shifted from functional areas to the procurement department. Dynamics have shifted from a relationship orientation to a transaction orientation. Suddenly the purchasing department is your gatekeeper, hastily forcing you into cost reduction conversations.
Beverly Heinritz, Vice President of Customer Service and Support at Rearden Commerce, this has generated longer sales cycles. Rearden provides a network platform that connects mobile professionals with over 160,000 suppliers. Today, even these innovative companies can demonstrate immediate ROI yet still face these roadblocks.
3. Leaders continue to struggle to do more with less. In spite of the number of recovery indicators, massive currency fluctuations, tighter credit, and the increased cost of labor and materials has limited how much organic growth many B2B companies can pursue. This forces even high-end brands to provide lower-priced services to cost-obsessed customers.
How do you protect yourself from these market dynamics? Build your defenses by looking first at the gaps in your own company, and how you can eliminate them.
It might be easier than you think. After working with hundreds of entrepreneurs and dozens of Fortune 500 companies, I discovered that only two major gaps stop most companies from reaching their true potential. Thankfully, both are within your control to address:
1. Lack of a practical, easy to understand growth plan. You will notice I did not suggest you develop a strategic plan. This is overkill for most small to medium-sized companies.
Most companies develop plans from the INSIDE OUT. In other words, they focus too much of their time on financials, operations, core values, mission statements, and ‘what if’ scenarios. During turbulent times, your finance and operations teams can be your best friends. But if you forget to re-focus on your clients during the recovery, they may also forget YOU.
Take a different approach. Start planning from the OUTSIDE IN. Look first at market dynamics, such as:
• The strategic market imperatives (internal and external pressures that are forcing your clients to change) – these may include pressure to reduce error rates, improving internal compliance, streamlining time to market, or positioning the company for eventual sale.
• The consequences and impact on the client if they do not address these imperatives—how will management be affected? Their employees? Their competitive positioning? Their ability to innovate?
• The Ultimate Result and Unique Value Factor—Shine a light on your “UR-UV.” Identify how clearly you understand your client’s needs, issues, and frustrations. What makes your company stand out in their mind? How do you make their businesses and lives better?
• Your Ideal client. After you have identified your company’s unique attributes, review the traits of your ideal client. Instead of focusing first on the demographics, analyze their behavior. This may include their decision-making style, commonly shared values, culture, and innovation philosophy.
2. Letting “the Beast” in your company run wild, and lacking a system to tame it.
The Beast is a whimsical yet pungent metaphor for your limiting beliefs. Author and change catalyst Daryl Conner, author of “Managing at the Speed of Change,” once said “The Beast takes dreams and turns them into nightmares.” He is right. They can kill a perfectly good growth plan and winning strategy in a heartbeat.
The Beast is sneaky. It expresses itself during meetings and private conversation. You may recognize these common Beast remarks:
- “I’m a banker, not a marketer.
- I don’t have time to focus; I am too busy.
- Let me explain why that won’t work…
- Planning is expensive and time-consuming.
- If I focus my market too much, I will miss out on new opportunities as they arise.”
Charlie, the CEO of a global engineering firm, took nearly ten years to identify the Beast in his organization. In his company, his lead engineer Bill was channeling the Beast. He repeatedly told co-workers “here we go again…another change initiative. This too shall pass.” Charlie’s new initiatives were repeatedly sabotaged.
We guided this client through some challenging conversations to help them tame the Beast. In the end, they felt more committed to their key priorities and more confident about their competitive business strategy. Team members became more open during weekly meetings. Bill chose early retirement. Within just 12 months, their collections improved by 50%, profitability was restored, and they were featured in Inc. Magazine.
If you can address these two strategic growth planning gaps, you will be miles ahead of the biggest beast of all: inertia. Don’t wait. Don your finest dragon slayer gear and start now.
Copyright 2010, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.