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April 12, 2012

Size Does Matter: 4 Approaches to Growing Your Business

Regardless of the industries we serve, the age of our firm or the number of employees we have… we all share one common goal.  We all want some greater level of market share and higher profit margins… and in nearly every case, achieving those goals starts with REVENUE GROWTH.

The initiatives you develop for helping to grow your business will most likely fall into one of four strategic categories… or more appropriately, one of the four “approaches” to business growth reviewed below:

Core Growth:  “How can we sell more of our current services to our current targeted clients?”

This means not only finding more clients like you have now, but also increasing sales to your existing clients.  This is most likely the kind of marketing & sales that most of us focus on most of the time… and that’s a good thing.  But beyond this, though, the other three approaches that can really set the stage for explosive growth and provide you with a competitive advantage.


Market Expansion:  “Who else, outside of our current client base, would be interested in buying our services?”

Here, we’re talking about looking at new vertical industries or niches within industries, new horizontal industries and new geographies.

Let’s suppose you own or manage a full-service research firm that serves all kinds of clients.  Over the years, you notice that a bigger and bigger percentage of your business comes from one or two verticals – healthcare and higher education, for example.

Market Expansion suggests that you consider focusing your marketing & sales efforts on those verticals where you’re having the greatest success.  This is not to suggest that you ignore the rest… only that you take a purposeful approach to growing your business in those verticals.

Another option might be ‘horizontal’ rather than vertical.  If your research business targets research buyers (end users) in certain verticals, as is customary, of course, you might also want to consider targeting other firms that also serve that vertical (e.g. ad agencies, consultants, etc.).  These other firms can themselves, become clients or, more importantly, they can become multipliers for you, helping you to make further in-roads into those verticals.

Lastly, you might need to think about geography.  If you service the automotive industry on the west coast, you might want to think about opening an office in Detroit to better serve the auto industry there.


Product Enhancement:  “What new kinds of new services can we sell to my existing clients?”

There are certain obvious ones here… quant shops can start offering qual and vice versa.

Beyond that, though, there are still numerous options.  And today, technology can help to make it easier to make that transition.

Consider the full-service shop again, offering both quant and qual.  What if webcam surveys were added to your quant-side service offering?  On the qual side, what if you became experts in bulletin board focus groups or mobile qual?  Same process… unique tools… new revenue stream.

Take a look at your current clients… what opportunities exist to add to your service mix and expand your relationship with them?  And the broader your relationship, the more difficult it is to be displaced by a competitor.


Diversification:  For this, you need to really think outside of existing services and clients…  “Is there a brand new business we should be in that (and here’s the key) in some way ties into our current business?”  This one can be difficult because it pushes you away from your comfort zone.

As an example, let’s assume that you offer website usability testing services.  With that level of website and UX experience, it’s not hard to imagine expanding into actually offering website design services to an entirely new target audience, perhaps through a new division or subsidiary company.

Look around… are there opportunities for your organization to expand outside the walls of your core business?  But a word of caution… just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  Anyone remember Exxon computers or Levi suits?

So, where do you begin?  Start observing… listen to your clients, pay attention to your competition and follow trends in your industry.  Then cross-reference what you see with ideas for new products and new markets.  Where the observations and ideas meet are the strategies that can help to grow your business.

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