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How to Grow your Business? 7 Tips for Successful Business Growth

Soldier on manoeuvres WW2 How to grow your business in the most difficult of circumstances

It seems that world economies follow a never ending series of boom and bust. Just when we thought global economies stable and productivity improving along come new challenges. First Covid-19 (2020), and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022), and all that goes with it, including the rise of energy and food prices. However, when dealing with tough times, and particularly recession, if you face declining or flat sales, how do you grow your business? So do you plan cautiously or aggressively? In all situations marketers have a key role to play and you have a choice to view your glass as half-full or half-empty. Here are seven pointers to successful business growth:

1.   Be more vigilant to threats and opportunities

Information is a source of competitive advantage. While tough times present threats, they also present opportunities – a lower cost investment opportunity here, or opportunity to take out a competitor there. Rarely will there be greater opportunities for a smart marketing and research department to prove its worth. So understand changing market forces and customer needs and provide timely intelligence and quality thinking to spot new opportunities. There are many ways to do this. Firstly, empower your sales team to fact-find, talk to, or research customers. Also track media activity on trends and what your competitors are doing; read investment blogs and company reports too. Then take this intelligence, and use scenario planning to think through how markets might evolve, and devise strategies to survive or thrive in each circumstance. This is something most successfully undertaken by Shell to address turbulent oil prices.

2.   Ensure your business fundamentals are sound

The most successful businesses are those that are the most customer or audience driven. So if tough times impede your sales, this most likely indicates a weakness in your offer which needs to be fully understood and addressed.  So first check your market share, and if that has fallen too, it suggests you need to do more to compete. However, whatever the economic situation, clear insights must inform what you do. Your startpoint is to ensure a strong product offer. Then with a sound marketing strategy in place you’ll be in a good position to invest and grow.

3. Reassess your product and brand portfolio

A consequence of the present inflationary times, is that mortgage costs are rising, and so are savings rates. But these changes affect people differently. Those with their disposable income under pressure will behave differently to those who are ‘flush’. For example, they will be more motivated to save money (energy) by switching lights off and perhaps going to bed earlier. Whereas those who are more flush may be more willing to invest for the longer term, by investing in low-energy lighting or extra home insulation.

Fast moving consumer goods are typically the first markets to experience change in buying behaviour. Those under financial pressure may shop around more, switch to cheaper outlets, and buy own label products instead of brands. Those who are more ‘flush’ may pay more to feel better.

The purpose of this discussion is not to predict behaviour but merely to spotlight the ease and speed with it changes. Your challenge is therefore to anticipate and understand change, and react quickly.

4.   Maximise cash

The trigger for business closure is usually lack of cash. As evidenced by the recent administration of much lauded battery manufacturer, British Volt which has just been bought out by new Australian owners. Of course, cash management is the responsibility of all, but as this is a marketing blog, let’s focus on what marketers can do. One opportunity is to devise strategies to bring forward and maximise cash flows, for example, by rewarding early payment. Another is to reduce marketing costs. So seek out more efficient ways to communicate. In a worst-case situation, devise ways to rationalise your team. View change as an opportunity to ‘right-size’. Consider what roles are ‘must’ and ‘nice-to-have’. Also, make sure that the right resources are in the right places and perhaps refresh the culture. This then provides a more robust foundation to on which to build, invest and probe for renewed growth.

5.   Don’t stop promoting your products but do be smarter about how you do it

Some studies that show how the share of advertising voice correlates with market share. There is also evidence to suggest that those who invest in proactive marketing during tough times are the first to emerge from the tough times. Also that they emerge the strongest. So optimise and promote the benefits of your products, and use creativity to maximise those benefits. If you focus on building your brand you’ll help avoid creating a hostage to fortune.

6.   Invest while advertising bargains abound

The media market is in a state of perennial flux. As the share of one declines, often does the cost per impression, rating point or click. So shop around for advertising bargains. Over the last two decades promotional spend has shifted to digital media, most notably, Google and Facebook. Often when data to justify return on investment has been sparse. However, their recent declines in advertising income suggests their bubble is bursting. As money shifted to digital, other mainstream media such as television and radio became relatively better value. New kids offering better value propositions such as TikTok have also joined the block too.

7.   But manage the risks!

Of course there are risks. But think big, and cultivate a mindset of controlled aggression to mitigate the risks. So test, and test your way from low cost to higher cost business building initiatives. Though only when you are sure that investments work, and have the metrics to prove it, should you invest heavily.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. How to grow your business starts with good consumer understanding, and a good product. Then profitable product promotion.
  2. So build your business, product and brand strategies on facts by using robust market research. Also make sure you your have processes in place to identify opportunities and threats. Then you’ll be better equipped to, and more timely in making investment recommendations to your Board.
  3. Focus your resources on making sure your products are as fit and competitive as possible to compete in their niches. Because Darwinist fundamentals apply.
  4. Then, when promoting your products, carpe diem. Take a long and short term view on payback, but make sure you earn more than you spend. To do this, don’t just follow the herd, seek out lower cost marketing opportunities. In so doing you will be able to grow your business while others are worrying or sitting on their laurels.

For personal advice and support on how to grow your business just give us a call.

Guy is Chief Marketer at The Marketing Directors and Chief Researcher at The Market Researchers. He helps research and market brands and businesses in consumer goods, services, media, technology and business-to-business. Successes include the BBC, GlaxoSmithKline, First Ark, Global Switch, McDonald's, Scott Bader and Paypal. After graduating with a degree in Chemistry, he started-out in brand management at Boots and Procter and Gamble, then managed business planning at Reader’s Digest, before becoming Group Marketing Director, responsible for 13 countries at media producer Softvision. As a consultant, and then Board Marketing Director he worked for KAE, PricewaterhouseCoopers and New Solutions (Omnicom) before founding The Marketing Directors in 2005. He is co-author of The Marketing Director's Handbook (volumes 1 and 2). Guy plays tennis, water skis and supports #HCAFC.

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