This article was first featured in Forbes.
No matter the size or industry, most companies need customers, employees, and processes to achieve growth goals. As the founder of a growth consultancy, we work with organizations to break through these barriers and, over time, have recognized that while there's an array of reasons that businesses fail to scale, many experience similar challenges, such as:
• Struggling to align marketing to support sales outcomes
• Losing the war for attracting and keeping top talent
• Lacking technologies and expertise to automate business processes
• Struggling to access operational metrics to guide growth decisions
• Getting everyone in complete agreement on where you're going and how to get there
While a strategic road map can help companies achieve their growth goals, we encourage them to create a Grow-to-Market™ plan. It's a foundation and activation strategy that centers on the mission of attracting, engaging, and retaining both clients and talent. It involves empowering all of your functional departments — operations, sales, marketing, finance, and human resources — through alignment. When you give your operating team clear roles, responsibilities, and a shared vision, you can build a platform to scale. It seems simple, but stop and think about how many companies are actually getting it right.
Here's how to start with a Grow-to-Market™ plan.
Align Your Purpose With Your Plan
Employees and customers want to work for and with brands that they believe in. Writing a vision of where you want to be at a point in time, agreeing on core values, and outlining a strategic road map to your goals may not be easy. Still, companies that invest in aligning their purpose with their growth plan are outpacing their competition.
The authors of Firms of Endearment studied the performance of purpose-driven companies, including Southwest Airlines and REI. They found that over a 15-year period, these companies had cumulative returns on investment that were 14 times higher than the S&P 500 and six times higher than the companies showcased in Jim Collins' Good to Great.
Businesses can align their purpose with their growth plan by weaving why they do what they do into their brand story. Customers and employees need to know what you stand for. Focus your brand story on what you want people to remember about you, what makes you human, and what makes you different.
Win The War For Talent
Once you've established your purpose and your mission is clear, you can articulate what it means to work for your organization in your brand story. Include elements like your office environment, and weave your brand story into your career site, job descriptions, and company philosophy.
Developing an employment brand strategy is a critical element of your growth plan, and ideally, it should mirror the approach you're using to attract and retain customers. Understand the characteristics that you seek in your workforce, and create an ideal employee persona. Then build a campaign to attract, retain and engage employees.
Retention communications are a crucial part of this strategy. Consistent and regular internal communications help keep everyone engaged and on the same page about where the company and their career are heading.
Unify Your Marketing And Sales Teams
Sales and marketing can be best friends, but they rarely are. Unifying these teams starts with agreeing on goals. We often find that companies set growth goals for sales revenue, but they don't break down how they will meet them. Forecasting where business growth will come from — new customers or existing customers, and in most cases, a mix of both — can help you plan your marketing budget and campaign focus.
Once you've narrowed that focus, it's important to understand your ideal customer persona so you can build a go-to-market campaign and develop a content creation strategy that tailors your message to each buyer. Often, marketing teams don't produce the sales tools, such as case studies, return-on-investment calculators, and lead nurturing journeys, that can fill gaps in the sales process. Understanding your teams' strengths and what can be optimized can help align your marketing and sales teams.
Build A Digital Transformation Road Map
Technology is the backbone of your People+People™ plan; it can support and enhance every part of your organization. But digital transformation is about more than automation; it's about transitioning the use of technology as a support function to the front line of what your company offers. Business technology stacks can support every touchpoint in a customer and employee experience, bringing information together in a single source of truth.
To build a tech transformation road map, conduct an audit of your current state. There are probably more platforms used in your day-to-day operations than you think. Likely, there may also be some significant areas of opportunity. Define each gap's value and prioritize where you can upgrade, choose a new platform, or build a custom solution. Then create a road map, with a detailed timeline and outline of costs, to get to that future state.
How do you know what success looks like if it's not stated and you don't measure it? Surprisingly few organizations set goals and keep score, yet there are many robust entrepreneurial operating systems to guide you. At our company, we follow the principles laid out in The Great Game of Business (I'm a GGOB practitioner).
Having a measurement system — or in our case, a scoreboard — can help you be clear on what goals exist and whether you're on track to meet them. Part of a People+People™ plan includes establishing a set of goals and a scoring system that tracks progress in each functional area of your business. Scorecards for sales and finance are pretty common. Consider also creating scorecards for employee retention and productivity, which are critical business drivers that can have major impacts on growth and profit.
If your business has stalled, you're not alone, and there are breakthrough strategies that can help, provided you're willing to embrace change. Building a People+People™ plan considers growth first, but not at the expense of customers or employees.