The sole purpose of a business is to grow. This can take on many dimensions – acquisitions, grabbing more market share, or new product or service, just to name a few. Many people get stuck and never grow because they think, “This is how we have always done it!” Or, when they want to grow and make changes, they do not understand the steps needed for a smart calculated risk.
The road to growth begins with a hypothesis and must be tested to ensure growth is possible, at a minimal risk and greater ROI (return on investment). When we grow in a way that balances intuition (that gut feeling of what is needed) with a calculated approach (a step-by-step process that minimizes the risk of the unknown), we maximize our growth potential.
There are eight steps to develop a new strategic growth opportunity:
- Brainstorm over all the possibilities for growth. For brainstorming purposes, think about all of your potential partners, relationships, current customers, and your competition. What is the marketplace saying it wants? Who is providing it, or not? In a perfect world, what would it look like if money was not a concern? Write down all of your ideas, one at a time. Do not edit or eliminate any idea. We are working on finding a need and filling it.
- Do a gut check. When looking over the list of possibilities, what gets you most excited? What aligns with your vision, values, goals, and talents? We are working on ensuring you are designed to fill that need and have a heart’s desire to do so. Logic is one thing, but in order to be successful, as Steve Jobs once said, “You must love what you do!”
- Define your perfect customer. Think about the demographics of your perfect customer. Who are they: age, income, education, vocation, gender, location, etc.? We are working at further defining your target market. How will you find them?
- Create a value-added proposition and brand. Bring your idea down to a measurable reality. How will you offer your product or service in terms of: Quality? Tailor-made solution to solve their problem? Service-to deliver it? And finally: price? What is the ROI (return on investment) for your customer? This last question will ultimately ensure you have thought about “what’s in it for them?” This can mean monetarily or lifestyle benefits like: beauty, peace, fulfillment, happiness, etc. In this step we are branding you and creating a value-added proposition.
- Market/competition study. Search the marketplace for competition. Who is doing something similar in the marketplace? What do they have missing that you can offer in your value-added proposition? Can you replicate an existing business model that appeals to another market? Combine ideas in a one-stop shop? We are working at finding that missing piece…what is it?
- Engage prospects in feedback. Now, you are prepared, and the next step is to reach out to your perfect profile prospect and find out their opinion of what you have to offer. Where possible, have them experience your product or service first hand to test your hypothesis, even if it means you only have a prototype. When possible, make an intangible item into a tangible item to sell. Even a service can be made into something tangible through a step-by-step illustration board or model so they can envision what they will get. Ask for their opinion about what they liked and what they would change. Ask, “If we made those changes, at what level would you commit?” In addition, ask for referrals.
- Create a trial period and document results. Before going full-out in any commitment, I always suggest walking before you run. Even for the most thought-out, tested hypothesis, there is always a lot to learn in the startup phase. While you may be an established business, anytime we create a new product or service, there is always a lot to learn and mistakes tend to happen in the first rounds of development. Be sure to collect data. Who bought? What do they have in common? What did they mostly buy? How long was the buying cycle? What is the average purchase price? This information will help you in the next step.
- Process improvement. Part of the process of developing any new business, product or service is the willingness to be agile enough to make changes as you go. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities for change. Analyze the documented information in your trial period. Now is the time to take an honest look at your results and make adjustments. When you do this, you are sure to minimize your risk and maximize your growth opportunities! This includes formal and informal customer feedback and surveys, along with simple analysis of the information you collected. Looking at the data: how might you create a better ROI?
Challenge: Where can you find an opportunity for growth and fill it in a strategic way?
Susan K. Wehrley has been a strategic growth consultant and executive coach for 24 years with Susan K. Wehrley & Associates, Inc. (www.solutionsbysusan.com) Her new online growth community, BIZremedies (www.BIZremedies.com) helps companies grow with her online tools, tips, and talent. She can be reached at (414) 581-0449 or email@example.com.