Most of you business owners I know are looking forward to the day when your product, team and processes begin to mature, and your business growth keeps tilting upward as you scale. You expect to relax a bit, and relish in the success that you see coming. Unfortunately, without your proactive efforts to counter predictable market challenges, early growth can quickly stall.
In my experience, there will always be growth challenges that you can’t predict, including new technologies, economic downturns, and political changes, but I’m talking here about changes in the market that every good business leader should anticipate, including the following:
Your targeted customer segment has a limit. No matter how excited your initial customers appear to be, every market has a saturation point on new and repeat sales. Often times, business owners are enticed by early adopters, but fail to prepare for the early majority wave and late adopters. Always have a next segment in your sights.
Of course, don’t forget to continually interact with your best existing customers, to find areas where you can increase customer value and squeeze out additional growth for your business. Offering customized products and personalized support are options often used.
Penetrating new customer segments is not so easy. Stepping into unknown territories takes real customer acquisition marketing and new costs through social media, public relations, and advertising campaigns. Existing customer advocacy and word-of-mouth are no longer adequate to sustain growth. Start today with new customer acquisition efforts.
In all cases, increasing your brand recognition is key, especially for international segments. The Internet has helped small and mid-sized companies compete on the global stage, so building an international brand is a realistic goal for more businesses.
New generation of customers expect more service. The support currently provided by product service can become inadequate to satisfy new customers, as your growth and image becomes better known. Be prepared to create and train a dedicated support group that can keep up with your now large and growing install base of demanding customers.
In fact, customers today look for a totally memorable shopping experience, from ease in finding your solution, through the buying experience, and including support. Real results show that new levels of customer experience may double your growth rate over time.
Customers suddenly become very price sensitive. Early customers, with high passion and few alternatives, are willing to pay your price premium. Over time, continued growth demands that you be willing to offer discount options, and extra features to maintain your revenue growth curve. This calls for creative marketing as well as new cost reductions.
I recommend that you look around you constantly for innovative pricing strategies, that may have evolved in other segments, but can be adapted to your market. Examples might include a “name your own price” option, free add-ons, or unlimited use terms.
A new formidable competitor jumps into play. You may think you have the market locked up with your unique process, trade secret, or patent, but there are always ways for new players to grab your potential customers, or put the brakes on growth. Always be working on your next set of solution enhancements, or a new marketing campaign.
Operational costs escalate as your business scales up. As your company scales into new market segments and new volumes, that single base location and small teams are no longer adequate. New real estate and office buildings were never in your plan. Start planning now for new operational costs, including people turnover, benefits, and training.
Every smart business owner knows they must resist that urge to rely totally on repeatable processes to assure continuous growth. In fact, quite the opposite, you should always be planning to re-invent your business, or at least introduce innovation on a regular basis. The pace of change in the market is increasing, and your ability to keep up is your key to sustained growth.