By Christa Kleinhans Tuttle
In today’s economic environment and ever faster moving marketplaces, it has never been more important for company leaders to make the right decisions about strategy, people, execution, and money. There is little room for error.
While ideas abound on the topic of accelerating growth, here are several critical and less frequently asked questions that can have a substantial impact – both short and long term – on a company’s ability to reach and exceed their revenue and profitability objectives.
Customers see the company for who it is today, and that is not always where the company wants to be. Hearing customer perspectives on the sales experience, the onboarding process, use of products or services, support, and even billing can be an eye opening experience. That insight is priceless to executive leadership as it can highlight where to focus to support achieving a company’s growth objectives.
Companies who embrace the concept of truly understanding market perceptions often use a third party to conduct audits by speaking with customers [and even lost deals]. These interviews gather in-depth feedback on all aspects of each customer’s experience and often lead to recommendations for change and improvement throughout the organization.
For example, one technology company in the northeast recently made changes internally to people investments, the focus of product enhancements, and the structure of the support organization based on the findings of a customer satisfaction survey. Within one year they doubled their customer base, turned several disgruntled early customers into evangelists, and are continuing their trend of triple-digit growth each year.
Employees at every company can be the source of countless ideas that will effectively cut costs, streamline operations and/or grow revenue. From the corporate office, to the factory floor, to out in the field, each employee brings a unique perspective based on their role and responsibilities, and many great ideas can be uncovered just by asking.
Beyond the employee suggestion box, encouraging innovation can take the form of putting together small teams to brainstorm new ideas, allocating and encouraging a certain amount of time each month dedicated to idea creation, or implementing an online solution focused on sharing ideas, which often leads to further innovation.
Just as critical as creating an environment that encourages innovation, is having a plan in place to implement the most promising idea(s). This requires true support from management as it entails allocating resources and dollars that could be used elsewhere to further develop each idea and determine its long-term viability. While not every project will turn out as planned, they may turn out even better and have a substantial impact on the company.
Using a variety of inbound and outbound lead generation activities to drive top-of-funnel traffic is the norm for marketing, yet what is working continues to evolve. This is especially evident by the rise of the “self-directed buyer” – one who researches product or service options extensively via online and social channels before ever engaging with the company or going to the store to make a big purchase.
To address this trend, new techniques are now being used on the marketing front to find, develop and qualify potential leads before passing them to sales. This includes using marketing automation (MA), which enables marketers to more efficiently uncover and engage with prospective customers and understand which programs are really impacting revenue, how budget can be shifted to maximize ROI, what the lead flow and conversion rate is through each stage of the sales funnel, and more.
These insights mean that company leaders can objectively measure the impact of marketing on sales and accurately project what is needed to support sales funnel growth. In addition, this knowledge can help lower customer acquisition costs, shorten sales cycles and increase the predictability of sales forecasts.
Are We Making the Right Systems Investments?
From eCommerce solutions to customer relationship management (CRM) to MA to support systems, every decision should be made with long-term needs in mind and should be integrated with all applicable systems internally.
This is important because technology is often a big investment for companies, both in hard and soft dollar costs. Getting it right the first time will save significantly in the long run through more streamlined operations and the ability to scale quickly without the need to dramatically increase headcount.
When choosing systems, it doesn’t need to be bleeding edge or even leading edge, but every investment does need to support business growth in the short- and long-term. Some companies opt to create their own system, reasoning that they can create a solution that is tailored to their specific needs. In theory, this sounds great, but while a home-grown system may work exactly as a business does today, they often don’t scale well.
Asking the right questions of the team and fostering a candid conversation about where the company stands today is paramount to stay competitive in today’s economic environment. Top performing CEOs aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions – they will provide critical data that can be leveraged to create a cohesive strategy involving people, execution, and money, all of which is essential to exceed revenue and profitability goals.
Christa Kleinhans Tuttle is the Founder of Launch Marketing, a boutique marketing services firm who helps B2B companies generate leads and drive revenue. In her role, she’s worked side-by-side with countless entrepreneurs and CEOs on their company’s number one objective: growing revenue and profits. Reach her at email@example.com
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