Getting to Hockey Stick Growth — and making VC funders smile : )
VCs dream of big growth graphs moving aggressively up and to the right – and in the best of all worlds, straight up like a hockey stick. I have never met a founder for whom this not-too-subtle demand did not terrify because by most business standards it is extremely difficult to achieve.
However, over the last three years we have seen that aggressive growth has not only become possible, it is repeatable. Changes in B-to-B shopping habits and a comprehensive response make it possible. We have seen 600% to 850% ROI on marketing programs and growth to match. But certain conditions must apply and specific tactics must be executed. Here they are:
Product Price Point
The price point of the service or product must be high enough to absorb the ever increasing cost of customer acquisition. In the last decade, the cost of customer acquisition has risen so high that your average sales value (ASV) must be well into the thousands. This can be achieved through bundling hardware with service wrap arounds for example. Or, by finding a way to sell your product or service using a monthly recurring revenue (MRR) model and annual contracts. Under these conditions there is enough revenue to balance the cost of customer acquisition.
Death of a Sales Team
Pre-shopping online – a common practice among consumers – has invaded the B-to-B space. A recent Google/CEB study showed that shoppers are up to 70% through the shopping process by the time they want to speak to someone from your firm. That means that your web site must work very hard for you. It must quickly telegraph your differentiation and attributes. And it also means that the prospect does not want to waste time with a glib salesperson. They have tougher technical questions they need resolved before moving forward. So fire your salesforce and hire a few good sales engineers who can work in pairs with skilled sales closers.
Then hold expectations high. Today the freshness value of a lead expires within hours not days. Your sales team must jump on that lead within 30 minutes — for better success within three minutes. Like a mental-health hotline, some companies create 24/7 on-call schedules, rotating sales engineers to off hours and forwarding calls and emails to mobile phones.
Dig Deeply Into Your Prospects’ Brains
If your firm meets those conditions, then it is worth investing in a comprehensive online presence and lead-generation program to match. We call it a “stra-tactical” approach. The strategy was developed over years of practice but it is otherwise executed tactically.
Many companies attempting to achieve aggressive growth are also aggressively talking to themselves, repeating their sales mantra to prospects over and over like a jackhammer. That’s old school and no longer works. Reverse the process:
Come to understand your market’s inflection points. That is, the moment when a prospect perceives the need for your product or service. The question is no longer “how did you find us” but rather, “what preceded your search for us.” A finely-tuned ear is key to success.
Once you have cataloged their inflection points, consider how the prospect articulates their search. Here is where program complexity increases exponentially. The search is articulated differently by market, geography and even within organizations: the person in pain will search differently from the person managing the person in pain, from the guy signing the check. Or simply put: one person’s green eggs in ham, is another person’s chartreuse eggs and pork. Your program must address each and do so with great specificity. Achieving specificity requires building comprehensive libraries that align to your inflection point catalog, then building a web presence with multiple aligned architectures: backbone, paid search, social and to a lesser extent SEO.
Lead-generation programs based on search articulations are then rolled out over the architectures. Your firm will now be presented in the right place at the right moment when your prospect needs you: be it via paid search ads, social media platforms or at the right face-time conferences.
Take an Agile Approach
A few leading edge marketers have moved Agile into the marketing discipline. In 2011, Anthony Freeling from McKinsey UK published Agile Marketing. Our team had already developed our own Agile framework called ZebworksTM in 2009. Our objectives were the same: drive out risk, drive in results. Agile marketing requires measurement and reporting, which is possible leveraging Google Analytics and CRM data.
For example: Google Paid Search is very Agile: sprinting out a program that leverages your comprehensive architecture, your advanced sales team delivering urgent response, then measuring, adjusting, pivoting and sprinting again. Similarly this can be applied to all lead-generation efforts even conferences and networking events.
Aggressive growth is achievable (and repeatable) under the right conditions, when comprehensive groundwork is laid and an Agile approach is taken to adjust in real-time.