Business Growth: Optimizing Products & Increasing Awareness

October 29, 2013

by Mark Paggioli

This post is the second in a series on the business growth opportunities that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can consider as they seek to increase top line revenue.

The four elements listed in our recent article on topline business growth (products, markets, customers, and technologies) each have their own role to play in any SMB’s overall business growth strategy.  Today, let’s take a closer look at the way products enter into the mix.

First and foremost, though, you need to consider product attributes as they relate to the other elements listed above.  If you are targeting new customers, what do you know about the state of their end-use markets?  Is your offering still relevant?   It is important to explore what the market values to ensure that your business growth planning doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

With smaller companies, business growth planning often means “we need to increase sales.”  This approach tends to put a target on the backs of the sales team; yet, there is a real need to look at the goods and services being offered first.   In any business growth initiative, consider the whole of the business and the complex interplay of moving parts.  The product lineup may be correct, but perhaps your pricing is out of step; ultimately, what you don’t know about the market’s perception of your business could be your biggest detriment to business growth.

Time to Rethink Your Products

Obviously, customer growth can be a challenge for any business. Perhaps you’re not finding new customers because you have product shortcomings, or buyers don’t understand what you are selling.  As a leader, there’s no time like the present to start examining your product lines.  Declining sales to existing customers may be due to a lack of new products, a failure to stay on top of product trends, or the fact that your most popular products are getting to the end of their lifecycle. You will never know the answers until you spend the time to seek them out.

Think about the marquis brands when it comes to product development: Apple or major auto manufacturers, for instance.  Do they let their offerings stagnate?  The end of the year is an excellent time for a quick gut check. What percentage of sales do you have coming from products more than five years old?  The answer may tell you if there are lifecycle issues to address.

As you ponder this aspect of business growth planning, consider adopting a regimented new product development process.  Ideally, this process will not only capture new product ideas but assess the corresponding opportunities.  When executed properly, an opportunity assessment is sure to add value to your organization.

As always, business growth through product optimizations builds from an ability to stay in touch with customers.  You can use any number of engagements (trade shows, webcasts, etc.) to learn as much as you can about where the market is and what it needs.  Three excellent strategies for this type of knowledge gathering are Voice of the Customer, market intelligence, and competitor intelligence.  All of these should be considered before you move forward with any business growth initiative.

If you step outside your own product concerns and the ever-present desire to sell, you will find a need to think about the businesses on the other end of the transaction—the buyer.  What are they worried about on a daily basis?  It is, after all, about their world, more than ours.  The more you can know about their needs, the more likely your product lineup will find alignment with the market.

It’s not too late to begin the business growth planning process for 2014.  If you’re unsure of where to start your foundational, deep-dive look at the interplay of growth factors in your business, consider CONNSTEP’s Business Growth Program. The program is designed specifically for small and midsize companies focusing on each of the four key elements of business growth.  Click here to learn more!

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