1. Beware of the S-curve around the corner.
You can bet that this bedrock principle is an integral part of any established business’ growth plan. As outlined in a lucid article by Dave Power on barriers to growth, 70 percent of growth companies are sold before they reach the $30M mark.
It’s all about continuing innovation, he explains, and this idea is foundational for startups or any scaleable company because a growth-orientated business will inevitably stagnate if it fails to regain value for its market.
So, what happens is this: A startup with a great product opens for business and enjoys explosive growth for a few months, or even a few years.
After a while, however, revenue begins to plateau as the first version of your product starts to lose its sparkle, competition arrives increasingly as entrepreneurs discover that there is a large market for what you’ve got, and the necessity to pivot or update your product becomes imperative.
At the point when this happens, you find yourself smack in the middle of the growth S-curve, which is the plateau just before your next jump in growth—but only if you were ready for it.
Apple demonstrated skillful navigation through the S-curve over and over again because after losing steam with the MacBook, the company continued to win over consumers with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
They made it look easy and innovation is anything but, especially the kind that leads to a marketable product. It’s for this reason that the smartest businesses constantly innovate so that they’re ready with new product when growth begins to plateau, and that’s probably one of the best-kept secrets of intelligent strategy.
2. Your customers will tell you when to pivot, and when to innovate.
Any good business owner knows that you’ve got to listen to your customers, but not only is this a good practice—it is a necessity if you want to find out what the market is doing next.
It is a good idea, however, to take care who you are listening to, and you really have to get customer feedback on a large scale for this to work.
Instead of waiting for customers to loudly demand that you provide something that the majority of your customers doesn’t even care about, you’ll get a better picture of what your customers need from you. Customer insight is essential to product innovation and making the right pivot.
3. Create & market a product that is “addictive” to customers.
Starbucks has a built-in legal drug to hook their customers, and the latest Apple mobile device may as well be a controlled substance because their loyal followers will jump at any new product, simply because we know it was made by Apple.
There are just some products with that special something that seems to cater to a consumer’s every desire. It’s like comfort food. Many times there isn’t anything complicated about it—it just tastes good, and you always want more.
Find a way to convince your customers that they need to coming back because they can’t live without your product, and as long as you keep it interesting, you’ll have a devoted market.
4. Everybody wants to be part of something special.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book because businesses have known for decades that if they can make people feel as if their business is warmly inviting them into an exclusive family that will accept consumers if they only buy in, these are the kind of customers who are truly loyal.
Many companies use this strategy to differentiate themselves from the pack by turning it into a game of Good Guy vs. Bad Guy. The Rolling Stones did the same thing to secure their position as some the first “bad boys” of rock n’ roll; the “good boys” title was already taken by The Beatles.
The distinction does not have to be good vs. evil, either. As long as your business is offering customers any kind of family that makes them feel like they’re a part of something special, you’ve achieved the desired effect.
5. Embrace technology, or you’ll be left behind.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning all the same because there a lot of small businesses out there who are trapped in the Stone Age. I get it—some business owners are old school. They believe the old ways are superior, and in many ways, they’re right.
If you don’t care about growth or expansion, and you merely want to appeal to a very select group, then this mode of thinking may actually work for you; however, you will have trouble reaching the majority of your market if you don’t keep your business up-to-date.
A 100-year-old wood fire oven in an authentic pizza restaurant is one thing, but deciding to remain a cash-only business in a virtual world is something else.
The bottom line is that your competitors will be utilizing the latest technology, and if you don’t embrace it, too, you will probably end up missing out.
We live in a new generation of business—some even say we are a culture of startups—but in many ways, it makes no difference because the strategies that have been working for decades can still work to grow your business today.