When our business is operating smoothly, we class that as a win. If we're bringing in clients, hitting our KPIs, and meeting our revenue goals, shouldn't that qualify as success? But that's exactly what we should be asking ourselves, even at the height of our success. To reach the next level, you must consider new initiatives that bring in new customers and create additional revenue streams. That can sometimes mean making major shifts to the way your business is currently operating.
It's good to capitalize on your company's strong core business, but it's also important to not get boxed into a no-growth corner due to preconceived notions of what your company "is".
I know from first-hand experience with my company, Greenleaf, which I've seen grow over the past 15 years from just a book distributor to a full-blown publisher, and now into a creative marketing agency on top of that - all in response to the needs of our customers.
Here are some tips to recognize when it may be time to strategically shift your company in a new direction.
Diagnose Your Clients' Pain Points
Listening to your clients is a key factor in improving your company's overall year-over-year performance and uncovering unmet needs. What are your clients asking for that you don't deliver? What is their number one complaint? What suggestions for improvement are they most often sharing? Keeping a record of these responses is the first step in figuring out areas for improvement and growth. If the same wants are brought up repeatedly, explore the viability of that possible new area for growth.
Outside of relying on your team's input on these regular requests, surveys can be a powerful tool on this front. Consider surveying your customers at a few different points during their life cycle with you, and include the simple question "what services do you wish we offered?". They may cite services you actually do offer, which presents a sales/marketing opportunity...or they may present services you have excluded for some reason in the past, which may indicate a need to reconsider.
Assess Areas Where You've Turned Business Away
Assessing the business you're refusing can create some lightbulb moments related to new revenue streams. If customers are regularly inquiring about goods or services that you don't provide, pause to consider them. What wasn't a fit in the past might make sense now given changes to your industry, internal resources, or business model. Before you let another client's business walk out the door, brainstorm creative ways that you could introduce or modify a service or product to meet their needs.
In general, this works best when you're not making wholesale changes to your core strengths. As an example, if your reputation rides on high-quality publishing with big distribution muscle, offering a templated, low-budget publishing option with limited revisions and distribution will be off-brand and ultimately disappointing for your customers and staff.
Watch What Your Competitors Are and Are Not Doing
Tracking what your competition is doing is just as important as watching what they're not doing. If your prospect comes to you disappointed by a competitor's proposal, you want to provide the solution. If your company is differentiated from its competition in offerings and holds a high reputation for the quality of work, you'll gain a massive advantage. This is especially true if you can offer something with a strong barrier to entry, even if it takes you years to make that entry yourself. It will pay in the long run.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People
It's easy to feel discouraged by naysayers on your team, or even by your own reluctance to change, but change is vital to keep your company alive and well in a competitive market. Present your change-resistant staff with research and forecasts about the revenue currently being lost without the new initiatives and the strategic plan for growth to weather the shift. It's hard to refute hard numbers and strong strategy.
Ultimately, if it's your own team putting up the most resistance to growth, it may be time to make the difficult decision of replacing them with new and engaged talent who are more aligned with your current vision.
It's easy to slip into complacency with a well-established business, which can blind us to new growth opportunities. Adopt consistent processes to keep an ear to the ground for these channels and focus your staff conversations on the new opportunities they bring to help offset grumbling about "more work." With a strong listening ear and a solid team, you'll be primed to tackle these incremental growth opportunities like a champ.