Promotion of Existing Products to Existing Customers and/or Markets

Promotion of Existing Products to Existing Customers and/or Markets is finding new ways to market a current product/service to customers and is an activity designed to boost the sales of a product or service. Examples are discounts for repeat customers, frequent user, and/or loyalty programs.

How Can Changes in Technology Influence Growth Strategy Decisions?

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No matter what industry you are in, advances in technology influence what your growth strategies should be.

Maybe you don’t view your company as directly related to technology. Perhaps you sell things like paper products, over the counter medications, or canned or bottled foods. The reality is, each year’s flu season drives increased sales for Kleenex tissues, Charmin’ toilet paper, Chap Stick lip balm, TheraFlu, Halls cough drops, Vicks Vapo Rub, Canada Dry ginger ale, Joy Mangano’s cotton and bamboo blend blankets, Hallmark get well cards, and Campbells chicken noodle soup. The flu even impacts which items are purchased from the Home Shopping Network.

If your company is involved with these and similar products, you may not be happy to learn about progress being made by Dr. Rider and his team at MIT, but you do need to know about it. An article by Scott Tarone in the September 2013 issue of TECHLIFESCINEWS shares information about DRACO, which is a double stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizer that has been successful against 15 different viral infections including the H1N1 flu virus!

If customers tend to purchase and use your products when they are feeling well, you need to know about DRACO too. You might decide to establish higher market penetration goals.

If you don’t think that something like DRACO is relevant, maybe a better question is whether someone from your team should attend the annual CES event. Their advertisement in the Sept 2013 issue of WIRED magazine accurately describes the event as “It’s a Lab. A Social Phenomenon. A Marketplace and a Look into the Future.” This global stage for innovation will be in Las Vegas, Nevada from January 7-10 in 2014.

What your team members read is also important. If your business is influenced by techno gadgets, maybe someone in your company should be reading Liszewski’s Gizmodo blog.

Think about it. The formulation of growth strategy includes rethinking: your company’s positioning, products/services, customers & market, competition, and business model. We all need to be informed about technological advances before making these big decisions. Who is leading and coordinating the research effort for your organization?

Turn the Waves of the Economic Ocean into Success

The cover of the 09-09-13 issue of BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK proclaimed HOLY SHIP … for good reason. Drake Bennett’s article shares that Maersk Corp. has recently ordered 10 of the new Triple-E cargo ships that can haul 18,000 TEU (standard shipping containers). That is huge! It wasn’t very long ago when carrying 6,000 TEU was remarkable. One Triple-E ship is as long as the Empire State Building is high and can carry 182 million IPADs or 111 million pairs of shoes from Shanghai to Rotterdam. That 25 day trip involves 530,000 gallons of fuel. When you visit Shanghai Harbor, you cannot help but notice the three Triple-E hulls on DSME’s floating docks. At this point, a new Triple-E is entering service every 6-7 weeks.

Although a portion of the readers of my weekly blogs are in ship building, import/export, and/or transportation, I realize that not all of you are. So why should you care that Maersk ordered 10 Triple-E cargo ships?

Maersk is the world’s biggest shipper in part because its leaders apparently know how to read the rise and fall of the economy and spot windows of opportunity. The shipping industry is very cyclical. They started planning to GO HUGE 4 years ago. The 500+ page contract to order 10 Triple-Es (with an option to buy 10 more) was signed in February 2011. It takes a year to build, test, and deliver one Triple-E, so the ships are now launching during the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2013. If competitors try to copy Maersk, their timing would be way off.

This is yet another example of true wealth that can be traced back to actions taken during recessions and periods of uncertainty. 2008-2010 were some of the most stressful years for most companies. Maersk was busy getting ready to buy/fill/launch 10 HUGE Triple-Es. By the way, Maersk did not exercise its option to buy 10 more, but isn’t it impressive that they created the opportunity for themselves?

Although we are not anywhere near the scale of Maersk, we do benefit from the fact that 3 of our 5 related businesses grow more rapidly during periods of uncertainty and/or recessions. That didn’t just happen. The concept of establishing a suite of related businesses (and 2 unrelated companies) was the result of deliberate research, analysis, and negotiations. Fortunately, none of our contracts were/are 500+ pages, like Maersk’s.

What is your executive team doing to read the cycles of the global (macro) economy? your industry’s economy? your company’s micro-economy?

What risk will you be taking to turn the waves of the economic ocean into success?

Nobody Cares What Your 2007 Customer Survey Said!

The recent recession and the lingering period of uncertainty that followed has had an odd effect on some business leaders.  Yeah, I know we all need to conserve cash.  I get that.  But most of us need MORE information about what our prospective customers are thinking, need, prefer, want, and would pay for…NOT LESS.  We can’t afford to make costly mistakes investing in products and marketing based on outdated information! Who cares what your customer survey results were in 2007! It’s like “dog years.” Those 5 YEARS are equivalent to 35 YEARS when it comes to marketing!

Even though museums competed against places like zoos and theme parks in 2007, area residents would still visit. Today, those same museums face funding cuts and are now competing more with children spending their time texting on smart phones than with zoos.  A secret shopper project we recently conducted as part of a strategic assessment/growth strategy planning assignment revealed how incredibly behind many businesses have gotten over the past 5 years.  Wouldn’t more frequent market research help family focused organizations catch up?

A community banker who was competing for a signature on the next subprime mortgage deal  in 2007 is just now coming out of his/her shell after cleaning up the book of bad loans, foreclosures, and short sales. A few years ago, community banks had a window of opportunity to compete against the huge financial institutions because so many people were angry about government funded bailouts and the underlying causes of the recession.  But today, many of us have almost accepted the realities of this “new economy” even though consumer confidence varies on a daily basis.  How frequently should community banks conduct their market research to guide decisions about how to compete for your and my trust?

In 2007, I was in my 3rd year hosting a weekly online peer to peer radio talk radio show with Presidents of midsized companies.  If we had ignored (or not done) market research, would we have missed the cue to become completely video based, use YOUTUBE, and shorten the interview segments?

There are many cost effective options out there, including secret shopping companies,  customer satisfaction survey firms, interviewers who can focus on specific targets, etc. Isn’t it more expensive and risky to fly without a net!

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

True Differentiation Doesn’t Just Happen

Two very clear traits become apparent when you interview Presidents of truly differentiated companies.  They really do know how to listen to their customers and they focus much more on the business than themselves as individuals.  That may sound obvious and familiar because most of us have heard it before. But most of us don’t pay attention, look at our own behavior, or make changes based on it.

Smith Yewell is the President of Welocalize, Inc. Yewell’s company didn’t remain a home based consulting firm and subscription on line import/export business.   He listened to what communications companies were saying and got into the language translation business in a big way. Welocalize, Inc. invested in multiple locations for visibility on a global basis.  They have consistently upgraded their technology.  One of their 10 acquisitions was a software company that could pick up the speed of their on demand translation work. Today, they are a $60 Mil/year industry leader with Google, CISCO, and Computer Associates (CA) as clients.  Many of their top clients have been with Welocalize since Smith Yewell started the business in 1997.

Welocalize, Inc. reflects a few of the tests to evaluate if your business is truly differentiated:

Does your business address a problem, a pain, a meaningful gap in what competitors are doing? Just doing what others already do–just a little bit better–can be tiring and expensive.  Computer Associates, Google, and CISCO needed translation done well and much faster than they were able to get find elsewhere.

Is your product/service conveyed in a memorable way? Smith Yewell changed the name of the business to Welocalize, Inc. to convey the benefit (the results) of fast excellent translation services. That is more powerful than something like “TranslationsRUs,” don’t you think?  1 800 Got Junk is a more powerful differentiated name than “Jim’s Hawling Services.”

Does you business feel like a magnet pulling prospective customers, vendors, talented employees, and investors toward you? Why wouldn’t you receive several resumes each week from people who want to work for/with you when the unemployment levels are as high as they are these days?

Is everyone in your business invested in learning and continuous improvement? What is your reaction when you hear customers complaining? Do you become defensive and shift your focus to more compliant customers?  Or are you like Welocalize, Inc. and pick up your speed, invest in technology, go global, and seek the most demanding customers to sustain your position as an industry leader?

Click herewww.TheGrowthStrategist.com to listen to Aldonna’s interview with Smith Yewell – one in her series of shows on DIFFERENTIATION .

Is Your Success Setting You Up for a Plateau or Continued Growth?

Margery Krevsky, the CEO of Productions Plus headquartered in Michigan, was recently a guest on my weekly on-line peer-to-peer-to-peer radio show, THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. There are so many cues to encourage Margery to coast, get cocky, and ride on her past successes.  She’s won several awards including Michigan’s “Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year” award for her industry.  Her company is the largest production and talent firm in the state and one of the best in the country.

Margery is now living “Above the Radar” (see blog # 30 – 2010). Perhaps you are too. Other people now approach her with business proposals. She is invited to speak at conferences. She could serve on just about any non-profit board she chooses (and some for-profit boards as well).  She could chair major fund raising events in a figurehead role. She might even be tempted to write a book.  Margery is clearly in the top 1% of female entrepreneurs. She’s been so successful folks are now watching what she will do next. She is expected to know A LOT.

So far, Productions Plus has experienced consistent growth. She is proud of her executive team. They’ve invested in skilled managers.  And they didn’t stop there. They wisely brought in Jim Alampi to help them implement “The Rockefeller Habits.” (Read Verne Harnish’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, if you don’t know what I am talking about here.)  Margery has been a long time participant in a VISTAGE group and paid the very experienced facilitator, Barbara Stanbridge, to provide extra coaching for her.

When you listen to enough executives of midsized companies, you can tell which company will continue to grow and which is more likely to soon be stuck …even without looking at their financials!  I’ve been interviewing Presidents/CEOs of midsized companies ($20-200 Mil/yr) for my weekly on line peer-to-peer-to-peer radio show for 6 years. Plus all of my service businesses (strategic planning, search, growth financing, etc) help midsized companies keep growing. I’ve heard hundreds of pitches for growth financing.

If you were in Margery’s shoes (and perhaps you are) would you coast? Take a break? Leave things alone for a while? Act like you know everything? Or would you raise the bar on your company’s approach to strategic planning? Look for new ways to energize managers? Update your vision? Learn about succession? Create a much larger business?

Here’s to the Margery Krevsky s of this world … who keep learning!

Avoid Wishful Thinking and Presumed Conclusions During Deal Making

A deal is a sale with a non-customer.

Some deals help your company acquire new technologies or capabilities more quickly than trying to develop it yourselves.  Some mergers and acquisitions are done between complementary companies to expand the product or service offering to better serve the best customers. Acquisitions can also be done to eliminate a competitor in an important market.

I noticed that the lingering recession has led some tired entrepreneurs to consider acquisitions and mergers as a way to get relief from their intense schedules.  Unfortunately, this increases the vulnerability of the already tired entrepreneur.  Wishful thinking takes over, and the entrepreneur convinces him/herself that an acquisition can solve their problems.  Why not hire a strong “#2” and get centered again before considering any acquisition or merger?

I have become convinced that acquisitions are like marriage.  When a tired single parent marries to “solve his/her problem,” new problems often develop.  Acquisition, merger, and marriage negotiations all seem to go more smoothly when each participant is centered.

But what do you do when/if the two entities don’t seem “centered”?  What if you thought you were negotiating a merger, and the other entity (key person) waffles, seems a bit too nervous, and withholds information? It pays to slow down and expand your view. Maybe the other person just wants to cash out and retire.  Maybe he/she had become bored. Maybe the transaction will only involve the purchase of assets so you don’t take on their debt or “people” issues.  Maybe you should only offer to pay a licensing fee and not purchase anything.  I’ve seen acquisition negotiations end in simple subcontracting arrangements.  We all know couples who concluded that they should just continue dating one another.

The best deals are when the leaders of two companies look for synergy (fit) and leave their options open…instead of starting the process assuming the answer will be an acquisition or merger. If there is not win/win fit, the title of the deal you don’t make won’t matter. It pays to leave the structure of the deal to attorneys.  Whether it’s a strategic alliance, a joint venture, an acquisition, a merger, an asset purchase, or something else isn’t the most important question.

Pegging

Have you concluded that you really should expand the definition of (what you call) “your market”?

Instead of diving in to try to reach millions of people you don’t know, try a technique called PEGGING to expand your reach based on your customers’ preferences.

  1. Identify the primary trait(s) your customers have in common.  To help you see how this works, let’s follow an example. Imagine that your customers are all Catholic.
  2. Look for secondary demographic traits of subgroups within your market.  Are some single mothers? Are some grandparents? Are some high school students?
  3. Choose one subgroup with 2 shared traits. (e.g. Catholic single moms). Survey. Listen. Observe.  What do they read? Which websites do they visit? Which blogs do they read? Who do they listen to? What do they buy? Where do they shop? Which associations do they join?
  4. Then obtain access to those websites, subscriptions to those magazines, membership in those associations, use of related lists, etc.
  5. Send outbound marketing messages through those websites, magazines, associations, stores, lists, etc. to reach out to a broader group of single moms beyond those you have had as customers in the past. Include a secondary message that would particularly appeal to the Catholics among them.  You’ll attract even more Catholic single moms and have expanded your marketing methodologies.
  6. Now select a second subgroup from within your existing market (customers) that differs from the first subgroup.  Catholic grandfathers perhaps.  Again, reach out to that subgroup of existing customers.  Don’t just sell them more products.  Learn who they listen to. Find out what they read. See which memberships they value. Observe which websites they visit.
  7. Now repeat the process. Do a marketing outreach through those websites, magazines, associations, lists, etc. (with a Catholic sub message) to sell products to a broader group of grandfathers, including those who are Catholic.  Make sure to choose a range of characteristics (age, career, geographic location, income level).
  8. For many companies, 3 or 4 subgroups capture the range of people within their customer base.  You will undoubtedly end up with dramatically different websites, blogs, stores, publications, associations, and list…AND that’s the idea.  After a few rounds of research and marketing outreach, you will have an expanded data base of prospects and some new effective marketing mediums.
  9. This technique can help community banks attract more small business customers away from the large impersonal financial institutions that precipitated the recession of 2008/2009.

Stop Waiting for Teleseminars – Learn from Your Peers While on the Treadmill

Here’s a suggestion for busy Presidents/CEOs of midsized businesses (especially $20 – $200 Mil/yr) who

  • feel that your time is STILL your scarcest resource
  • recognize the need to feed your mind, learn, stretch, grow
  • find relevant teleseminars but then can’t participate because they run at the same time you are involved in important meetings
  • know you need to exercise but are going to the gym less often
  • have been tempted to attend an Inc. Conference on Growth…

Why not download free online radio shows onto your iPod to take to the gym? Take shows featuring interviews with your peers on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held companies who are sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. 

Most of you, the readers of my blog and Twitter tweets, know that I have been hosting a peer-to-peer-to-peer online radio show The Growth Strategist™ for 5 years now. We rotate through various geographic locations, industries, and growth strategies.  One week, my show might feature an interview with the President of a Singapore-based retail company that has grown through franchising. The next show may be with the CEO of a Kansas City-based manufacturer sharing success tips about how they’ve grown through acquisitions.

Many of the guests on my show are on the Inc. 500 (or at least the Inc. 5000) list of the fastest growing privately held companies. They are bright, ambitious, somewhat intense, fabulous leaders….just like you. The show is #2 in its category and attracts over 180,000 listeners.

I have LOVED hosting the show.  How can the discussion of growth strategies between people who actually live the journey EVER be boring?!

I open each show with some tips on the growth strategy-of-the-week gleaned from my 30+ years of experience as a growth strategist helping midsized companies earn and keep their spot on the Inc. 500 while increasing their profitability. Many of you know that I have also won over two dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth across 3 recessions of my own midsized businesses. So I share examples from my own journey as well.

It’s been 5 years so my website, www.TheGrowthStrategist.com, and the station’s website (www.business.voiceamerica.com) now have over 200 downloadable shows (podcasts if you prefer) available for you to download onto your mp3 players and take to the gym.  Our research shows that most listeners do that or they listen to the show between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am as they do their last round of email “after the spouse and the kids have gone to sleep for the night”. The only reason you would break from an important meeting to listen to the live broadcasts each Tuesday at 11:00 am EST would be if you wanted to ask a question.  Most listeners send emails with questions to me and my guests following the shows. It’s NOT like traditional radio broadcasts where listening at the exact time of the live broadcast represents your only opportunity.

Why wait for teleseminars when you can download 5, 6, …sometimes as many as 10… timely peer level radio shows focused on a growth strategy you are using or have been considering, including

  • specialization
  • diversification
  • acquisitions and mergers
  • franchising and licensing
  • new products/new markets
  • joint ventures and strategic alliances
  • equity deals and IPOs
  • several others….

I did a series of shows earlier this year about ‘HOW TO CHANGE YOUR BUSINESS MODEL” and another on “THE CHANGING IMPACT OF REAL ESTATE ON STRATEGIC GROWTH DECISIONS”.

You can suggest topics, offer to be a guest, or recommend someone else you think might be an interesting guest.  The toll free number is 1-888-Aldonna and the email is Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

Thawing Second/Third Generation FREEZE

You are bright, well-educated, experienced, and you are now the primary leader of your family’s business. If that is your circumstance, congratulations on getting through the often difficult succession process. Hopefully, you are in charge because your parent(s) are happily retired or have moved on to another venture rather than being forced to step back due to illness.

While this opportunity is exciting, it is also a HUGE responsibility.  Every President of a privately held business feels the weight of his/her office.  Phrases like “lonely at the top” come from somewhere. But if you have a deep respect for what your grandparents and/or parents have done, you feel an even deeper sense of responsibility.  The phrase many of the Presidents of my family-owned business clients have used is “a sense of stewardship”…and it has FROZEN many of them. How can you be an effective leader if you don’t want to take a chance, risk failure, or disappoint anyone?

One of the techniques to get UNFROZEN is to build your strategic growth plan one “chunk” at a time. Invite your management team to help you figure out how to incrementally grow and protect the company’s core/legacy products. That helps you breathe. No matter how bright you are, you need all of the oxygen you can get. Then move on to the discussion about how to add more vitality to the innovation process so new products can be provided for your company’s best customers.  Next, move on to improving your company’s capacity to identify, analyze, and select new markets for you to provide the legacy AND the new products. You guessed it.  The next discussion would be about ways to sell new products to the new customers.  This is one of the classic approaches to portfolio management/strategic planning.

The second technique is to identify an optimum size for your business.  At what size would your company need to be to become more resilient and be able to hire talented star performer(s) who could lift your company to a whole new level?  Would that kind of change require 30% growth? 40%? 100%?

Now combine the two techniques.  What percentage of the desired growth should come from existing products sold to existing customers? From new products sold to existing customers? Etc.  Get the buy-in of key members of your management team and that FROZEN feeling is behind you.

One Benefit That Could Take the Lead in Your Sales Pitch!

When we look at market studies about buying trends worldwide, it is obvious that the overwhelming majority of businesses must make the shift to appeal to younger and younger customers. Even companies that provide vacations, housing, and healthcare for senior citizens must have excellent on line marketing because the children of the senior citizens are involved in the purchases. I just purchased Jitterbug® mobile telephones for my 87 year old parents.

Example: Imagine that your business provides mobile digital billboards. Great idea, right?  If you are a “techie”, you might be tempted to promote the number of pixels, the variety of available colors, or how quickly the billboard advertising can be changed. That would be the classic problem of leading with features and not talking about benefits.  If you understand the value of leading with benefits, you might point out that more prospective customers will see their advertising messages on a mobile digital billboard.  You might even share how you match the advertising messages and your travel routes to put your customers in front of people who are most likely to purchase their products.

But, think about how many businesses are still using traditional terrestrial radio advertising or the same old display advertisements in newspapers that are being read less and less each day. Auto dealers. Grocery stores. Medical facilities. Restaurants. They seem so old fashioned…and that image costs them customers. Just taking the one step to place their advertising message on your new attention-getting colorful mobile billboards would convey that your customer is current and forward thinking. Young people are more receptive to buy from companies that embrace new technologies. The public would draw the conclusion that your customers must also be investing in improved customer service and new products.  That assumption leads to increased sales for your customers.

If your product/service helps your customers seem more current and forward thinking, that one benefit could lead your sales pitch!

Growth Strategy Tip

Testimonials

Over the 21 years that I’ve been in business, I’ve worked with several individuals and organizations that professed to have the skills, knowledge, and insight that would make my business strive. None performed like or better than Aldonna Ambler.

Greg Williams
The Master Negotiator

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