Adopt a Growth Mindset for 2019

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For this topic, I can think of nowhere better to start than with a story I recently learned. The following comes from Avinash Kaushnik, via his excellent Marketing <> Analytics Intersect Newsletter (subscribe here):

One day a group of Google engineers walked into Larry Page, co-founder of Google and current CEO of Alphabet. The group wanted to show off their latest idea.

“It’s a time machine,” they told him.

The thing they brought in was roughly the size of a small refrigerator, about one foot wide, with a sleek metallic exterior. One of the engineers looked for a place to plug it in.

“Why does it need electricity?” Larry asked.

What I love about this story is how well it illustrates Larry Page’s mindset. He wasn’t thrown by the fact that his team was working on a time machine. What he wanted to know was why they hadn’t created a time machine that ran without electricity.

And although you are not likely to be working on anything quite so ambitious, it is the mindset that all of can set out to adopt.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Growth mindset is a psychology term coined by Carol Dweck to describe the difference in outlook between groups of people. Those with a growth mindset see things as changeable over time, whereas those with a fixed mindset believe in the inherent nature of things.

When we apply that concept to our businesses, one can see how Larry Page’s mindset might be different from other people. He wants his team to push the limits on what they think is possible. He wants them to ask “why not?” rather than “why?”

A growth mindset is critical for success as a marketer, because growth is our responsibility.

How to Adopt a Growth Mindset for 2019

The business as usual approach would say you should measure your growth in 2018 and forecast 2019 accordingly. Perhaps your revenue grew 5% this year. Okay, so let’s aim for another 5% next year. If the business grows 5% every year, things are pretty good. Right?

Enough with the business as usual approach. If your business grew 5% last year, the Larry Page mindset would ask, “why not 50%?”

And yes, 50% growth might seem unreasonable. But it’s not as crazy as you might think. Because if you aim for 50%, while you might not get there, you might get somewhere closer to 20% or 30%.

So force yourself to be unreasonable. Setting unreasonable goals forces you to adopt a growth mindset. If forces you to think about your business in new ways. And only when we think about things in this way will we be able to see the strategies and opportunities available that we might otherwise miss.

Business as usual is boring. Don’t be boring.

Scale Your Marketing

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What’s working and can you do more of it?

Those are the questions that you need to know the answers to if you want to create marketing campaigns that scale.

What’s Working?

A simple ROI analysis should tell you which marketing programs are outperforming the rest. The companies that are able to grow effectively year in and year out have figured out how to do this consistently. They know what metrics they need to watch and when to pull the plug on a marketing campaign that’s not working for them.

When you find a campaign that is working, that means it’s making you money. It is bringing in more in sales than it is costing you to advertise. And when you find those campaigns, you have to determine whether or not you can grow them.

Can You Do More of It?

Not all marketing programs are scalable. Some channels are just too small to make a significant difference for your business over the long term. Others may work on a small scale, but as soon as you pump more money into them, all you see is your costs go up.

For example, your company might be working toward a social media advertising program. You might test the waters with ads on Twitter and LinkedIn, Facebook or Pinterest. And you might find some early success there, based on your targeting and creative assets. But just because it’s working at that level, does not mean it will work when you start adding to the budget.

The only way to know for sure is to test. Identify those channels or campaigns that are working, and slowly add to the budget over time. If you see that your acquisition costs are relatively steady, that means you have found something scalable.

Scalability is the Key to Growth

The companies that succeed in a growing market are the ones that are quick to identify opportunities to scale their existing programs. It’s too hard – taking up too much time and money – to continue to find small pockets of growth here and there. So it becomes critical to your success as a marketer to seek out and execute the biggest opportunities.

Whether it’s search or display, social or content, television or outdoor, discounts or referrals, or any of so many other marketing efforts, the key to growth is to find out what works and scale it up as quickly as you can.

Finding Customers with No Brand Loyalty

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For small or growing companies looking to take market share away from larger incumbents, it helps to find the customers in the market with no established loyalty. These are the customers that may have purchased from your competitors in the past, but there is nothing keeping them from jumping ship and trying something new.

The key question is, how do you find these people?

  1. Check online reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook for your competitors. Find the things that people are complaining about. That will help you determine where your company has an opportunity to better meet consumers’ needs.
     
  2. Consumer data providers can help you identify customers in the category who shop around and are more susceptible or offers and price. They will help you exclude customers with branded credit cards or on loyalty programs.
     
  3. Search Twitter, online forums, and discussion boards to find sets of customers unhappy with their current solution and make introductory offers to get them to switch.
     
  4. Research where your competitors are advertising and make sure your brand is showing up there as well.

The key for any new or small company trying to battle a larger incumbent is strong word of mouth. Once you find those initial customers who are willing to give your offering a try, do everything you can to wow them. They will be your greatest marketing resource going forward.

Achieving Consistency in Customer Service

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It is important for companies to consider the following alternatives when it comes to customer service. Is it better to…

A) Achieve a standard level of consistent, quality support using canned answers and clearly communicated policies that are always adhered to, or

B) Let each individual customer service team member have the freedom to win customer loyalty through whatever means necessary.

Effective arguments can be made for both options. Neither one is wrong, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service.

But let me argue to for what I see as the natural progression that companies should aim for.

When a company is in the early stages – from startup through say 20 or so employees – it makes more sense to give customer service a little more freedom. Early on, it is better to focus on making everyone happy. Since you are still learning what kinds of issues your customer service team will be dealing with most frequently, you want to fully-incorporate their feedback into marketing and product development. Option B makes more sense than option A above.

But as you grow into a more efficient organization, and your business model stabilizes, and you aim for consistent growth, you will get to a point where it makes more sense to standardize the customer service role. At that point, you can use all the experience your service team has built up to create a set of policies to be adhered to. You can flesh out clear and effective answers to all of the most common questions they are likely to get, and aim for consistency.

This way, as the team grows, the time it takes to train new people diminishes. Your customers are likely to get the same answer, the same level of service, no matter who they talk to. For a larger company, this should be the goal.

New Markets or New Products

Most businesses will hit a point in time when they have to make this decision. Things are going well with the existing product or product line. You are profitable and ready to take the next step and begin to grow and expand beyond what you are already doing.

You have two key options:

  1. Expand your current product offerings into new markets, or
  2. Develop new products for the market you are already in

Most companies at this stage don’t have the money or resources to do both. And so the decision becomes an important one that sets the stage for the future prospects of your business.

Let’s look at each option in a little more detail.

Expand to New Markets

The appeal of option #1 is that what you have already works, and there is a huge swath of the market you’ve yet to reach with it. This isn’t always true, so it’s important to be truthful with yourself. If you’re already reaching everyone in the market, this option is likely not right for you.

New markets can include a number of different things. It can mean new geographical markets, states, regions or countries that you’re not currently advertising or selling in. This is the most obvious interpretation of new markets, and the one most people will think of first.

But it can mean new audience segments which your messaging is not already aimed at. For example, a company offering an online high school diploma might advertise to parents of school age children in order to get them to sign up their kids. To reach a new market, they might then advertise to adults who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent.

The advantage of the new markets strategy is that you are able to leverage a strong, proven product. Your existing business model works, and you have satisfied customers who will vouch for you. But the test is whether or not your marketing team can find the right strategy in the new markets, because it likely won’t be the same strategy that you’re using today.

Develop New Products

The appeal of option #2 is that you know your customers better than anyone else does. You know what needs they have because you are already filling at least one of them. And so you know what other solutions they are looking for.

With a new products strategy, you can do one of three things. First, you can create ancillary products that you can upsell and cross sell to your existing customers. The best example of this is Amazon’s “Customer who bought this, also bought this” feature.

Second, you can create different versions of your existing product. Perhaps you want a slimmed-down, lower cost model that appeals to a more price-conscious consumer or a feature-rich, high end model to appeal to a luxury consumer.

Finally, you can create a new product that leverages your company’s knowledge in an entirely new direction. This is the riskiness, and has elements of the new markets strategy as well since you are targeting a new audience.

Which is right for you?

That’s a decision I cannot make for you. You need to fully understand your industry and your customer base. Do the research to find out if there are, in fact, other markets out there for you to tap or other problems you can solve. And if you can test your way into one or both options above at a low initial cost, you can prove to yourself which option is best.