Marketing and the Four Ways to Grow. Part One

How marketing helps you with the four ways to grow a business

You may have heard it before, but there are only four ways to organically grow a business:

  • Get more (good) clients.
  • Get your clients to buy more. (More frequent or larger purchases)
  • Charge more for your services.
  • Cut the cost of operations.

In the next series of four blogs, I’ll look at how marketing is an essential part of each of those ways to grow.


The first way to grow your business: Get more [good] clients.

When revenue growth is a goal, the expectation is typically “more sales”. But if they aren’t the right kind of sale, “more sales” can actually work against your bottom line. The key is to find client prospects that both fit your business model and are profitable.


How to find the good ones.

Analyze your existing customer database. What makes your BEST customers so good? How would you recognize another one like them? Use those qualities to search for prospects that meet the profile and go after them specifically. It’s not about talking to thousands of prospects, its about talking to a hundred great ones.

Look at what you’re selling. Has it changed? Which customers are embracing the new offerings? Even if they aren’t currently your largest or most profitable customers, they may point to your best customers in the future.

Is your business evolving? Does your customer profile need to change to meet the anticipated new you? Envision your ideal future customer and look for ways to recognize them. Dive deeper than the obvious indicators like industry, size and geography to search for more subtle (and telling) markers such as corporate structure, industry involvement, community engagement, and brand reputation.


How marketing can help

Once you’ve identified the ideal client prospect, use direct marketing to reach out to them. Targeted marketing techniques exist in all media—print, web, email and even social media—so don’t limit yourself to one method. Customize and personalize the content as much as possible, using the language and syntax your prospect relates to.

Remember to build a number of touch points into your marketing program. It can take several attempts (research shows a minimum of nine!) to gain the attention of a new prospect. And don’t forget to follow up personally. Marketing can open doors, but the salesperson will need to walk through it.

We’ve all had clients that either suck the life out of us or cost way more than we make. The key to growth is to identify and acquire the clients that fit your business and your revenue model.

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When the customer is wrong.


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” ― Henry Ford


Customer-led marketing strategies are great for developing improvements to existing products and services. But when you want to innovate, your current customers may not be the resource you need.

To create new markets, talk to noncustomers to determine why they aren’t buying from you. What is keeping them away? What are their “pain points?” What is their relationship with your industry overall? Are there opportunities to create new products to meet their unique needs?

The Harvard Business Review writes this about it:

Consider Sony’s launch of the Portable Reader System (PRS) in 2006. The company’s aim was to unlock a new market space in books by opening the e-reader market to a wide customer base. To figure out how to realize that goal, it looked to the experience of existing e-reader customers, who were dissatisfied with the size and poor display quality of current products. Sony’s response was a thin, lightweight device with an easy-to-read screen. Despite the media’s praise and happier customers, the PRS lost out to Amazon’s Kindle because it failed to attract the mass of noncustomers whose main reason for rejecting e-readers was the shortage of worthwhile books, not the size and the display of the devices. Without a rich choice of titles and an easy way to download them, the noncustomers stuck to print books.

Amazon understood this when it launched the Kindle in 2007, offering more than four times the number of e-titles available from the PRS and making them easily downloadable over Wi-Fi. Within six hours of their release, Kindles sold out, as print book customers rapidly became e-reader customers as well. Though Sony has since exited e-readers, the Kindle grew the industry from around a mere 2% of total book buyers in 2008 to 28% in 2014. It now offers more than 2.5 million e-titles.

As your company changes, your customers change with you. Anticipate and facilitate that transition by including noncustomers in your marketing communications plans.


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Launching into the unknown


This is the season of graduations; when invitations to portfolio reviews vie for time on my calendar and resumes flood my inbox.

But this year, graduation is especially relevant for me. My daughter graduates from high school this month. It’s an incredibly busy time for her full of “lasts” and preparations for “firsts.”

For my part it has prompted introspection. How can I possibly direct her, and the countless students that look to me for advice? What decisions did I make back then that brought me to today? Would I do anything differently if I could?

I am a fan of Maria Popova’s blog “Brain Pickings”. You may know of Maria from her writings for Wired and The New York Times. I highly recommend you follow her weekly posts on Brain Pickings.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an old, but particularly meaningful blog post of hers called Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life featuring Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman? I subscribe to her podcasts Design Matters! Over the past six years she has interviewed nearly every notable designer in her weekly interviews.

If she had advice on the creative life, I had to read it.

I learned from the post that Ms. Millman, author of Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits and How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer had given the 2013 commencement address to San Jose State University. How timely! As it turned out, the advice she offered was as relevant to me as it would be to my daughter.

In it, she says that success in life is really about the strength of one’s imagination.

“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”

I encourage you to listen to the full address on SoundCloud. and see the well designed excerpts of this section of her book Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,on the Brain Pickings blog.

But most of all I encourage you, as I am my daughter, to follow Ms. Millman’s advice. “Imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time.”

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