A recent Forbes article covered how marketing strategy in mature organizations is “moving from communications leadership to growth accelerant.” That might sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to some of you. And like some pie-in-the-sky idea to others. So let’s break it down for the entrepreneurial-minded leader, shall we?
As a small service-based business leader, you’ve probably focused your marketing investment (time AND money) on how you talk about your offer, who you talk to, where you’re doing the talking, and what visuals are backing up your story. That’s a “communications leadership” focus–and if that’s how you’re operating, you’re only promoting your services.
But exploring the customer experiences and improvement of them is where marketing strategy becomes fuel for growth. This is the shift that McKinsey’s Brian Gregg is talking about. Tapping into how customers are interacting in ways that are working and that are not is an important, often missing, investment area for smaller companies who do not have CMOs, Growth Officers, even Marketing Managers. McKinsey’s research shows that high-growth companies are seven times more likely to have someone at the helm who understands the importance of bringing together the various customer experiences with the communications functions of Marketing. But when strategy is all on your shoulders, marketing is a big black mystery, and there’s a content beast to be fed, how do you apply the wisdom of this shift and put yourself on the high-growth trajectory? Having a creative partner is a start.
At Money Month 3.0 this past weekend, where entrepreneurs came together to plan for intentional growth, two marketing-related paths to growth were illuminated: (1) developing new services or (2) selling more of the existing services. Either way, starting with the end in mind and thinking strategically about your services instead of focusing on “marketing” them, is where the gold–the growth accelerant–lies. Consciously developing and improving services–what I call Service Experience Design–is a critical factor for entrepreneurial success. More so than advertising and ahead of brand. I advocated fiercely for better feedback loops to this end.
A participant asked me, “What are some of the feedback loops your clients are using?” I said that it is always customized based on their customer journeys and interactions. (Not a popular or desired answer in a culture where a template/quick fix is what wins the hearts and minds.) Gregg gives more specific examples although not necessarily for small, service-based businesses: “call centers, front-line associates, and others closest to ‘in-journey’ experiences.”
There are metrics/measures that can be used and, again, this depends on what’s already in place and what makes sense for the business, its people, and its budget. (Hopefully by now some of you are thinking about shifting budget away from “communications” to growing via strategic services development/improvement.) One easy measure that a communications-focused leader would turn to is how well a campaign performed. In some cases, maybe even just one marketing activity (an email, for instance). But this is short-sighted and not really worthy of being a foundation for growth. Instead, Gregg advocates adding “the insight and foresight that comes from external trend scanning, longitudinal consumer studies, and qualitative/observational approaches that ensures marketing has a clear view of where the growth is and how to get it.”
- If you’re growing an existing service, get a system in place to uncover what customers are going through based on real research and prioritize the areas for improvement that are preventing clients from saying yes, staying with you, and telling others about you.
- If you’re building a new service, proactively capture–with real research–what the market is doing wrong and what the people really want (while staying aligned with your values) so that you can strategically enter the market as the solution they’ve been waiting for.
There’s really no better marketing investment than developing an experience that your ideal clients crave. That’s what Service Experience Design is all about.