Let me make a very quick introduction of our guest blogger, Lee Frederiksen. Lee is a principal with Hinge Marketing and one of those rare marketing professionals. He truly understands the impact thoughtful marketing can have on enterprise value. I asked Lee to share a few thoughts on growth from his book “Spiraling Up“. I know you’ll enjoy his thoughts and benefit from his research.
About three years ago we started to do formal research on professional services firms, who are our target customers. As a branding and marketing firm, we knew this investment of time and resources would be valuable. But what we found startled us. And changed the course of our business.
As we conducted our research, we stumbled upon a group of firms that were growing much faster than their peers — up to 9 times faster, even in the jaws of the recession. These firms were also 50% more profitable. And amazingly they achieved all this while spending slightly less than average on sales and marketing.
The obvious question was, “How did they do it?”
It took us four separate research studies to find out. Today, I’d like to share five steps that you can take to accelerate your firm’s organic growth. (The full results and recommendations are summarized in a free ebook titled Spiraling Up, available at www.SpiralingUpBook.com)
High growth firms were almost three times more likely to be very specialized. They are also almost three times more likely to have a clear, strong and easily understood differentiator. Often their specialization is their differentiator — a narrow focus makes faster growth easier to attain. When a firm tries to be everything to everyone, they almost always end up being nothing special to anyone.
2. See the World Through the Eyes of Your Customer
Most service firms focus on what they do, who they are and what they offer their clients. But the most successful firms strive to see the world from their clients’ perspective. Clients, after all, are concerned with their own priorities and challenges. They aren’t necessarily looking to buy services. But they do want their problem solved. If you can demonstrate that you understand their situation and can provide suggestions and solutions that make sense, a prospect is far more likely to take interest in you. Sadly, most firms really don’t really try to understand their customers. They expect clients to recognize their expertise, give them work and write a check. Wrong perspective.
3. Do Systematic Research on Your Target Customers
Researching your clients is probably the best way to truly understand your target customers, their needs and the trends in their industries. Research also helps you guard against surprise developments in the market. You can anticipate rather than react. You are equipped to lead the market, rather than follow. Consider this: firms that do systematic research on their target audience are more profitable and grow faster than those that don’t. Also, high growth firms tend to have much clearer and more detailed profiles of their preferred clients. It’s much easier to hit a target if you know where you are aiming.
4. Invest in Your Online Presence
Who doesn’t go to a firm’s website before or after a meeting? Who doesn’t use Goggle when researching service providers? High growth firms tend to spend their limited marketing dollars making sure they can be found by prospects who need their services. And when they are found, high growth firms are ready with a clear, focused message (don’t forget step number 1!).
5. Use Marketing Partnerships
They work. And the high growth firms in our research studies were much more likely than average to seek out and take advantage of marketing partnerships. By marketing partnership, I mean two or more companies with complimentary products or services cooperating to market to a single audience. Two companies with this sort of relationship might jointly promote and produce seminars, for example. Partnering firms can more easily build credibility and cut costs. Not a bad combination.
Most companies won’t act on any of these steps — they won’t find the time, money, people or motivation to do the things that will make them smarter and more competitive. That’s where your big opportunity lies. If you actually implement these recommendations you will pull ahead of your competition. What makes me so sure? Well, for one thing, it’s working for us today.