Taking your business to the next level first requires that there is a next level to take it to. Wanting to be bigger doesn't necessarily make being bigger possible. So, what can you do to make it happen?
The Rest of the Story...
Step 1: Identify a market where you have a clear differential advantage.
The first thing you have to do is identify a market where you have a clear differential advantage over your competitors. Let’s set aside the fact that it’s counterintuitive to most entrepreneurs that the market has to exist before you can claim a differential advantage. If you don’t have a clear differential advantage in it, you are wasting your time.
Step 2: Make sure that prospects agree you have the advantage.
The next thing you must do is market research. Get off your butt and talk to people. Confirm that your advantage is real, and that it would definitely motivate them to buy from you.
Remember that you’re taking your business to the next level, so you’re not ploughing new ground. Talking to people who don’t already buy from you, and asking them if they would buy from you, enables you to confirm that your differential advantage isn't just a vanity.
Step 3: Make sure you can actually reach your decision makers.
Kottler defines "access" as the critical path item in any marketing initiative. So, what does this mean?
If you can’t communicate with your prospects - and get their attention - you'll never be able to stimulate their interest.
More money has been spent on not reaching decision makers than on anything else in marketing (See John Wanamaker, 1932). Take the time to design your marketing and media plan so it actually puts your message in front of the people who you need to see it. Otherwise, you'll never see a positive ROI.
Step 4: Develop effective messaging.
Articulating your value proposition is one of the hardest things for companies to do when scaling. But why is this?
This is because what worked in an opportunistic market rarely works at the next level.
This is where market research is, once again, critical. Understand your value from the customer’s perspective. Brainstorm ways to articulate it. And test your messaging to make sure it works. Then rinse and repeat.
Step 5: Set-up a few good ways to get the word out to your decision makers.
What you learned in Step 3 is never enough to enable true scaling. It only helps establish the case; it doesn’t close it. So, what else do you need to do?
You now need to come up with three or four more ways to reach your decision maker.
The misconception about the repetition effect is that your six touches can come from the same media. In fact, once the prospect sees the pattern, they can easily avoid you. You have to go in through a window, a door, and a crack in the floor.
Step 6: Execute and Checkpoint
Taking your business to the next level implies that your marginal costs (e.g. for the acquisition of new business) will go down. But that doesn’t mean they go to zero. But, what does it mean? You still have to spend money to make money. And you also have to check to make sure that what you’re doing works.
Scaling is particularly challenging once you decide to pull the trigger. How long do you let something run, if you think it’s not working, before you pull the plug? (And do you really have the resources to stay in the game?) And then what metrics are really reliable to give you accurate feedback from the market? Hint: Do not believe your Marketing Manager!
Step 7: Scale and Recalibrate
Now that you’re growing your market share, remember that, as you add resources to acquire and fulfil on new business, you should create a Red Team to challenge all your assumptions.
Positive feedback in terms of increased sales and profitability can mask missteps in the market, so reserve some resource for second-guessing your strategy. A good function here doesn't cry wolf, though; they should be smart enough to tell you everything is okay, too.