Traditionally, three resources were considered essential to fast growth: access to finance, human resources and market access. Or, in simpler terms:
As this is primarily a blog about marketing and not finance, I’m going to talk mostly about the last two of these, but be in no doubt that the first – access to capital – is fundamental to business growth.
You cannot invest in people or pay for marketing to gain customers without the money. All three are intrinsically linked; the right people can help you get the finance and deliver the marketing you need to reach customers. Attracting customers helps you with the money.
All three resources have to be present at the same time for a high-growth strategy.
Getting the right people
While a company might consider its success dependent on innovation in core functionality and growth opportunities in key sectors, that’s only half the story.
“People are our most important resource” is not just a glib cliché; it’s absolutely true.
A growth company needs people who can do the job, cope with rapid change, and adapt to the evolving organisational environment. They, therefore, need to be creative, flexible and quick learners. They need to have their own vision, but they also need to be able to follow the company's vision too.
At the management level, they need to be able to lead, work in a team, and work on their own when necessary. A growth company needs managers who think like entrepreneurs and aren’t afraid to pitch in with everyone else when circumstances call for it.
From this description, you can guess these people are not that common. And indeed, a lack of quality key personnel is one of the most limiting factors for a growing company. So, it should go without saying that these people are immensely valuable and crucial to a high-growth plan. This point takes us back to our first resource – money – without the investment necessary to pay for and retain talented staff, a company will struggle to achieve growth.
Marketing is the business of getting customers. So a solid marketing strategy is your third key resource for a business growth strategy. Again, money will be needed to finance a marketing plan and to hire the right people to conceive and implement it.
In the past, the goal for most companies aiming for rapid growth would probably have been to build a bigger sales force. But with the revolution in marketing brought on by changing attitudes and the Internet, old-school techniques of selling are no longer effective or economic. You may still need a small salesforce (depending on your product, service or industry), but the main thrust should be hiring marketing people and content creators.
Why content creators? Well, let’s take a minute to look at the modern buying process known as the Buyer’s Journey. Buyers go on a ‘journey’ through three stages:
- Awareness Stage: The buyer realises they have a problem.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
- Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.
Research tells us that the modern buyer will come to you, already sure of what they are looking for, having done their research.
You need to make an impact during the awareness and consideration stages and support the decision stage – which requires content and plenty of it.
But it’s not a question of quantity OR quality – it has to be both. Creating helpful content relevant to the buyer's stage is the key to B2B inbound marketing. So you need good content creators – writers, editors, videographers, presenters, etc.
A good content creation team is a critical resource and essential to growth. They will publish content that helps buyers define their problems, investigate solutions and come to a decision – and if they do it right – then your business stands a good chance of being in the running when the purchase is made.
Other critical marketing resources include a robust system to manage the content, contacts, engagement, leads, prospects and conversions. These can all be managed by separate pieces of software from separate vendors, but there are real benefits (including time and cost savings) to a decent all-in-one solution such as HubSpot.
The marketing team can also be supported by a specialist external agency that can help by creating additional content and providing specialist support, training and consultancy.
Other important factors
Today’s markets are ever more competitive and ever more transparent. We know more about our competitors and publish more about ourselves than ever. The Internet has ensured universal access to information and resources for producing products and services. So competitive edge can often come down to two simple factors:
- Having a great product/service
- Having an ethos your buyer can relate to
With the ubiquitous sharing of information between peers on social media, review sites and elsewhere, it is impossible to thrive and even tougher to survive if your product or service is substandard (unless you are a monopoly, of course). And that includes your after-sales service, too. So having a solid product or service is a prerequisite for doing business in today’s commercial landscape. But that’s only the starting point – you will need a great product or service to achieve high growth.
Because in many industries today, products and services are very evenly matched, the buying decision can often come down to which company the buyer feels more affinity with. As an example – consider two companies supplying the exact same specification of product, but the first is a notorious polluter of the environment and does little for the local community, while the second has taken steps to ensure they protect the environment and supports the local community. Given the product is the same specification and does the same job, any reasonably adjusted human being would buy from the second company.
Research bears this out - over half of Internet users would stop buying products from an unethical company. And although that research is B2C-based, it’s safe to assume that B2B buyers would feel and act in the same way.
Now there may be some buyers whose company’s ethics would not influence, but they would most likely be in the minority, and selling to a minority is not going to achieve business growth. A 10-year growth study of more than 50,000 brands suggests that those which focus on “improving people’s lives” grow three times faster than their competitors.
Having a positive vision and a healthy company culture helps you to hire the right people too. Even given those people motivated primarily by money (a surprisingly small section of the working population), company culture and working environment can be significant factors in attracting talent. In fact, half the workforce (42%) want to work for an organisation that positively impacts the world.
Resources for growth
Growth doesn’t just happen – it needs a good deal of work and strategy and derives from the three essential business resources – money, people, and customers. Obtain the funding, employ the right people, and implement an effective marketing plan, and you will be on the path to sustainable growth.