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3 Questions to Identify Roadblocks to Business Growth (and How Strategy Can Clear Them)

What challenges you most about your management and leadership role as business owner? Do you think about it? Our observations suggest too many business owners work according to learned practices which they do not renew. The result is company financial performance staying well below potential. Good and reasonable performance can become a hindrance to excellent and exceptional results. It’s easy to think ‘we are doing OK, there’s no need to change.’ Consider your response to any of the following questions:

• Please explain your marketing strategy and how all the methods tie together.

• How does your business use strategic planning?

• Describe your long-term strategic plan.

• Do you have an effective written business plan or marketing plan?

• What are the key elements of your staff training and development program?

The first step to facing uncertainty and challenges is to admit there are potential roadblocks to creating business growth. The second is perhaps admitting ‘I need help to remove the roadblocks’. If you take the second step to seek help, you are in the top 25% of business owners. Most resist help. A recent classroom experience at a prominent Australian University highlights this. A working student from India observed Australian business owners seem to be very independent and commonly have the view it will all work out in the end. ‘She’ll be right mate’ still prevails. This attitude may cost your business significant profit performance.

There is a key understanding every business owner needs to grasp if consistent growth is to become normal. We all have blind spots and beliefs we hold onto and thereby restrict success, breakthrough and improvement.

Will we confront and remedy our blind spots? Gaps in vision, strategy planning, marketing plans, leadership and management practice, our experience and even how we view our own industry or product groupings can form craters of restriction.

Let me suggest 3 questions every business owner could answer to start to identify gaps and reveal blind spots. You may find the questions confronting. None of the answers are necessarily easy to find, let alone the solutions simple to implement and establish in your business. Don’t put aside the questions if you are overwhelmed by the multi-faceted specifics required to instigate change and create growth. Consider the exacting specifics of research and change required in industries such as airlines, development technology, communications, security, automation, medical practice and more, where blind spots or neglecting systems can cost lives.

Q1. What time, energy and money are you prepared to invest in research, relationships and skill acquisition to begin or accelerate business growth?

Any change or adjustment will upset routines, historical practices, processes and systems, or the current lack of them. This is often the reason change and improvement is avoided. It disturbs routines, the status quo and demands careful change management. The easier part is usually discovering what is required but the high level challenge is in execution and implementation of the business plans to be introduced.

We’ve observed so many businesses try to create a strategic plan using basic goal-setting practices, but the day-to-day pressures pull staff back to operational and more urgent matters. There is no overriding business plan in place to maintain accountability and ensure target achievement. Strategic planning is not only the realm of large companies.

Q2. How will the required changes be achieved and what process will be used to advance all facets of a new business plan?

A Harvard Business School study found that 70 to 80 per cent of small businesses fail to see the projected return on investments due to the inflexibility or lack of strategy. Many small to medium business owners ignore or resist strategic planning for growth because it’s too hard or perceived as irrelevant. Hence, there is no certainty of business practices or clarity of company purpose beyond basic revenue generation and continued existence.

A successful business plan begins where we are and moves us towards where we want to be. Strong implementation and execution must articulate how we are going to move there. Clarifying goals and expectations is part of the process and ideally should be in light of relevant product and market life cycles. Plans start with small, deliberate steps for what’s important now and then create projects with longer-term specific action plans. Maintaining team focus on the desired outcome will then happen.

Q3. When was the last occasion your senior team members spent dedicated time with you as business owner to grapple with the high level thinking, leadership and creativity needed to see a breakthrough into new ways of running the business?

We worked with a company that supplied and installed a hi-tech product with increasing demand. The company had a staff of 10 people and the business was growing quickly. The director of this company argued in an elevated tone that he needed no one’s help, he was self-sufficient and no person can change how they operate. He was certainly right about himself. Discussions with staff showed he was blind to the true needs in the business and most staff were cruising well below capacity. A strategic plan would have accelerated the business into exceptional growth.

Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, authors of The Strategy-Focused Organization, identified in larger businesses, 85 per cent of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing business strategy. Too many SMEs never even mention a strategic plan. To lead a business into high-level thinking, leadership and creativity the key team must be reading, studying and keeping up to date with what is happening in their industry and business at large.

“Pay special attention to evidence that contradicts your beliefs” – Charles Darwin

Decide to push through those long-held beliefs screaming at you ‘it’s the only way something can work’. Remove the roadblocks, fill in the gaps and move forwards with certainty and clarity.

Business Growth – Are You Choosing the Best Way?

One of the best and least expensive approaches to business growth is through your current customer base. It is far easier to sell more to customers who are already buying from you. You don’t have to spend a huge amount on marketing because the relationship is already established.

What you do need to do is to find creative ways to sell them more of what they are already purchasing from you or introduce them to other products or services in your range.

Study your existing customers’ profiles to gain insight into the type of customers you attract and use that information to find more of the same. Look for potentials whose needs are similar and who tend to make purchases in the same way. You should see quick and significant growth to your business with both of the above approaches.

Business growth could come through investigating new markets for your existing products or services. For example, you may manufacture a piece of technology that is sought after by the transport industry.

With research, you may find that it would be equally useful for the aerospace industry, albeit for a slightly different purpose.

Developing new products or services could be the key to business growth. They could be in addition to what you already offer or to replace existing ones that are becoming uncompetitive or obsolete. You should offer these to your existing customers first. In this way you can test and fine-tune your approach before going large-scale.

If your business is small, business growth through diversification is not really for you. It is a high risk approach. It should only be considered if:

o You cannot meet your goals for business growth through the other approaches

o You have the capital to invest and the resources to carry the work through

Improving Business Growth Through Content Creation

Using website content is a key online business strategy to boost traffic and to generate product, company, or service awareness, and to improve a site’s online presence. The effectiveness of written content creation, in particular, will depend upon the right strategy being used — regardless of whether the business is an online one, or a bricks and mortar type.

Content Types

Text: When addressing a target audience with a direct message, it’s the written word that remains a favourite option. Articles which utilize the language, expressions, terms and words unique to a particular industry, niche or market automatically set the context and tone of the message. With this kind of content, impeccable grammar is of the highest priority, followed closely in importance by the proper structuring of sentences and paragraphs in order to command audience attention and send clear messages.

Images: Photos, diagrams, infographics and computer-generated graphics attract the human eye and help to deliver a message by illustrating an organization’s products, services, concepts and ideas.. Such image content must be high quality in design, composition, colour and clarity.

Videos: The ever popular use of video on the Internet serves a variety of purposes from providing product or procedural demonstrations, to giving a face to either a business or product, to teaching classes half way around the world to generating a buzz in social networking platforms.

Infographics: Images accompanied by small amounts of text referred to as infographics are the latest Internet and media craze. Infographics are an increasingly popular, visual way to relay information, data and sometimes complex concepts and messages. Conveniently eliminating the obvious sales pitch, infographics can be utilized to effectively share a company’s story in a creative and entertaining way.

Standard original content can also be leveraged into other forms of content like:

– Microsites
– White papers
– Webinars or webcasts
– Branded content tools
– Research reports
– Traditional media
– Print magazines
– Digital magazines
– Mobile content
– Podcasts
– eBooks
– Print newsletters

Purpose Of Content Creation

Information is the core of content creation – with regard to what an organization wants to share with its market and potential customers. Through information sharing businesses can increase brand awareness, boost their customer bases and develop and maintain positive relationships with their existing clients. Content can also be leveraged for other objectives, including:

– The engagement of employees via company blogs
– Easy recruiting through organisation web pages which are highly representative of the company’s vision, direction and goals
– Greater business development, especially when such content is shared between businesses (B2B)

Keys To Successful Content Creation

Identify The Audience: To send an appropriate and effective message a business must correctly identify the audience with whom it is delivering the information.

Style Guide: To develop a business’ over all brand and ensure the same message is being delivered through each method and channel being utilized, content consistency is critical. To ensure consistency in a message, style elements must be decided upon before the creation process begins. Such elements include tone of voice, words to be used and choice of language.

New Content: Just like produce sold in a market, online content must be fresh if it is to attract the attention of the target audience, and encourage them to return for more relevant information in the future.. Unique content also needs to be insightful so that it provides information that readers will find useful and want to learn more about. In this age of information, content is not just about what the business wants to relay, but rather, what the audience or searchers want or need. As a marketing tool, content must convey the value of the business, its services and products, along with the business’ niche authority, to the targeted consumer in a way that’s informative. Once convinced of the business’ value, the audience will find the next step of following a call to action to feel much more natural.

Ongoing Development: While consumer behaviour undergoes changes, so does market conditions that can also be accompanied by new challenges and increases in competition. This requires the creation of new content to keep the consumer informed. Those who create this type of content should also undertake continuous learning by researching quality sources of authoritative information to be used in the new content. This self-education results in new approaches and aspects to write about while offering a way to build on previously acquired information, allowing the content creator to enhance their authority and credibility with the audience.

Reusing Content: With imagination, creativity and resourcefulness, old content can have new life breathed into it. Repurposing or reusing content can come in the form of images being converted into slide show presentations, video clips can be arranged as part of a webinar series, and text entries can be incorporated into newsletters and eMagazines.

Ideally, the responsibility of content creation should only be assigned to a team or person who either has an understanding of your industry and establishment or who has the capacity to conduct the necessary research to learn about it. This understanding will be manifested in the way the material is written, revealing the creator’s comprehension of your services’ or products’ unique strengths, selling points and current market trends.

While many large organizations provide their clients content creation services through an in house development team, it’s important to remember that aside from adequate service/product knowledge and writing skills, such staff members must also have a solid grasp of best practices regarding SEO (search engine optimization). Perhaps more importantly, they need to be motivated to expend the time that is needed to stay up to date with changing trends in premium content creation.

An growing number of businesses, online and offline, contact me to write unique content for them, continuing the growing global trend of outsourcing tasks such as this that require specific expertise.

Whether you have your own content writing staff or you commission a content writing service, it’s critical that they have full comprehension of the special strategies that need to be used in the online business world.