It seems like we hear it everywhere we go online as marketers: It’s all about growth.
In a world full of growth hackers, growth strategies, ebooks, articles and listicles, there’s no shortage of people or ideas out there. Despite all the success stories and upward-turning graphs populating the internet, there is little focus on addressing the challenging points of growth.
There are a million tactical approaches. But how exactly do you identify any troubling areas that could be inhibiting your growth?
In this post, I’ll tackle a big question on many people’s minds: Why isn’t my company growing?
1. You don’t devote enough time to strategy and planning sessions.
Growth strategy is a never-ending process. It requires constant feedback, rebalancing and adjustments (as discussed further below).
The most successful plans are annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly. Documentation, follow-up and over-communication are critical to every successful marketing and growth planning initiative.
2. You’re not collecting or acting on enough customer feedback.
Without feedback from customers and prospects, we are left with raw data to help us understand our resonance and performance.
Often, small-to-midsize high-growth companies don’t have enough data to figure out what’s really going on. Effective feedback collection requires software and the talent to use it. Use surveys and personae or customer interviews to gather feedback and refine your strategy.
3. Your growth strategy is too narrow.
“Facebook—that’s the answer. We’re going to post on Facebook every day to make sure all of our fans see us.”
Any strategy that is based on one or two channels could potentially be very harmful. How can you know, with certainty, where you have more prospects? Or where you have better prospects?
Even when you find a winning mix, you must consistently revisit your old assumptions and introduce new hypotheses to ensure you maximize your performance as measured by ROI.
4. Your growth strategy is too broad.
You tried everything—and applied a lot of your very limited bandwidth, staff time and money to all of it. The data you’ve collected is spread across numerous platforms. Making sense of it all is now a huge project on its own.
Try and limit yourself and your team/company to no more a few channels per campaign. If you must cast a large net, put 80% of your focus on the channels that you can safely assume will produce the best results. And, if your assumptions turn out to be false, you can reallocate your spend and activities elsewhere.
5. You don’t iterate.
There is no perfect winning strategy. It is testing and iteration that returns the best results—each and every time.
This is true at both the macro and micro levels, from your biggest strategies down to which image you use in a Facebook ad.
Test, test and test again. When you’re done, test some more.
6. You don’t have a documented process.
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
If you cannot answer each of these questions for every task, you need to revisit your processes. For more visibility, everything should be documented with some process or task management system to track it all (e.g., Teamwork, Trello or Asana).
7. You have the wrong mix of people.
It’s a tough conversation. But do you have the talent or partners capable of addressing every point on this list?
If you don’t, you might think about hiring an interim CMO, growth consultant or another role to help develop the right team of employees, local contractors, gig contributors and agency partners to get the results you’re aiming for.
8. You don’t have the right tech stack.
Marketing automation is the key to two very important things:
1) Marketing at scale with a small team, and
2) Keeping your messaging and client experience highly personalized and relevant
Without a powerful marketing automation stack in place, you’re simply unable to keep pace with your competitors that are strong in this space.
9. You don’t have enough time to devote to growth.
You had the best intentions when you embarked on the journey to drive sustained growth.
But then you had a business, a team or a function to run. And things have slowed down since.
There is no easy solution to his challenge. Every business is different. Remote project managers can be an affordable and efficient option. You can also stratify tasks to keep senior folks on strategy and analytics.
10. You lack the needed level of personal focus.
If you’re reading this—especially this far down the list—you’re likely the one responsible for growth at your company.
It is your leadership that will make this successful. That means knowing every detail of every project plan—every week.
11. Your branding and messaging aren’t working.
You’re out there, but it’s not resonating.
This comes back to feedback, testing and iteration. Another quick-fix alternative is benchmarking. Use your competitor’s websites and some assessment tools to see what they’re doing and what’s working.
12. You don’t have a partner strategy.
If three companies with an audience of 3,000 each band together, each one has an audience of 9,000.
This simple, exponential approach is often overlooked. We tell ourselves things like we’re not big enough yet. Or we need more content first.
Partnerships are generally a good area to focus on as soon as you have a compelling website and a small following. Your partners may change over time, but there will always be others in the same boat as you.
13. You’ve grown too quickly and quality has suffered.
Your strategy paid off. You grew! And you landed that awesome customer you had been dreaming of all along. Congratulations are in order.
But it’s a lot of work and it requires significant account management overhead. And now it’s choking your business.
This is another one with no simple or easy answer. It really boils down to stratification again—ensuring that your senior people are focused on the most critical strategic objectives while the production team drives performance at the tactical and channel levels.
14. You don’t have enough reviews and social proof.
Seventy percent of the buyer's journey happens online—all before a company or individual is ever contacted. That stat is a couple years old and I’m willing to bet it’s up over 80% now.
What online research reveals about your company, product and services is a critical factor in determining whether someone reaches out to you or purchases downstream. Without a strategy here, you’re missing out on leads and conversions.
15. You keep experiencing employee turnover.
Your organizational knowledge capital keeps walking out the door. All the work you did around processes, planning and strategy left with it. Now you need to spend three to six months getting someone new up to speed. Fingers crossed they don’t leave shortly thereafter.
While some turnover is natural, we’ll save the ins and outs of employee engagement for another post. If you are constantly training new employees, you need a very tight and well-documented process so your new people have a good template and system to follow when getting started.
16. You gave up too soon.
You tried it. Some things worked. Some didn’t. A couple of months went by, and you tried again with similar results.
This lurching approaching is typical of a small company trying to takeoff while juggling numerous product and fundraising priorities throughout that journey.
In these scenarios, it’s best to revisit your plan and scale it back slightly. It’s better to do a little less but deliver consistently than to constantly invest the time and resources needed to pick something back up and reignite it.
17. You don’t have a CRM.
Without a centralized repository of customer and prospect information, including actions taken, you’re dead in today’s marketing and sales landscape.
It’s really that simple.
18. You aren’t relying on reporting and analytics to make decisions.
You need data in order to make good decisions and track performance. What to kill and where to invest that “found money” is a strictly data-based decision exercise.
With Google Analytics and basic reporting in your CRM and/or marketing automation tools, you should have just enough to get started. As your operation starts to scale, you’ll need more tools related to SEO, conversion analysis and the like.
19. You’re not using dedicated sales agents.
If you’re not using sales agents, resellers and distribution partners, you’re sleeping on a major channel.
Often, you can find industry veterans that are willing to enter into referral arrangements strictly on commission. In other industries, you may need to look for more established companies as opposed to individuals.
Either way, this is almost always a worthwhile exercise and has a great ROI.
20. You haven’t built a culture of closing.
If you want, you must ask.
Leads should never sit. Every opportunity should be worked thoroughly. Every follow-up should be scheduled and completed. Every time.