Is your company or organization slowing down? When growth becomes sluggish, it is important not to panic – know that many companies like yours go through distinct stages of fast, and then slower growth and that you can overcome the challenge. Like any doctor assessing a patient, it is critical to first accurately diagnose the problem so you can develop a strategy and plan that make sense. For an accurate analysis, you will want an objective perspective from outside the organization that has not been influenced by the internal views of executives and is open to fresh ideas. This is where a growth strategy consulting firm can really help.
Growth strategy consulting is a segment of management consulting focused on top-line revenue growth. While growth strategists will take constraints like investment capital, profitability, and talent into account in developing long-term strategic plans, they are most focused on how to create a plan for growth that leverages your available resources and strengths. Most reputable firms employ strong ethnographic researchers and business analysts who can identify key insights from current & former customers, target prospects, industry experts, key competitors, and market segments. They will then leverage these insights to pinpoint areas of sustainable strategic advantage. After all, if your strategic plan is not built on a strong foundation, it is destined to fail. From there, the consultant will build a growth strategy that targets prospects who are most interested in what makes your company or organization unique. Finally, the consultant will build an actionable, go-to-market plan that serves as a road map over several years.
With this understanding of the role of a growth strategist in mind, you are probably asking yourself: when does it make sense to hire one? Before answering this question, reflect on how you got into your current position of declining growth. There are many possibilities:
- Did the company recently undergo an organizational change? A shift in company leadership or a new hire, along with buying or selling a piece of the business, can cause temporary stagnation.
- Has the business recently expanded? After a business expansion, companies often struggle with launching new concepts or growth platforms. An outside firm is an especially good choice for those companies wishing to enter a new market but may be lacking in-house expertise.
- Does the company suddenly lack a competitive advantage? Products and services often lose their differentiation over time as new competitors enter the market, or the playing field changes with breakthrough innovations. A brand position that resonates with customers and is true to your organization’s strengths can make all the difference.
- Has there been a change in the market? Industries consolidate quickly and companies can easily lose their market share in the process. Sometimes your sales and marketing efforts simply lose their effectiveness and you need to find new channels offering a higher return on investment.
- Is the company unsure of where to invest? When faced with many competing investment opportunities and limited capital, it can help to have an outside analysis to validate and prioritize each opportunity.
- Does a sales-driven approach no longer pay dividends? Perhaps your company grew with a strong sales team based on a strong market need, and has now satisfied most of this pent-up demand. Where a growth strategy wasn’t needed before, it is suddenly required in a company that is probably unfamiliar with the strategic planning process and in need of an expert. Even if you have had a plan, it is usually a good idea to stress test your growth plan with market research.
- Does the company have difficult understanding its customer base? Customers and their needs change over time and your company may have lost touch with its customers. If so, it can be helpful to bring in an objective third party to better understand the customer point of view for insights into new needs and their preferred experience.
Clearly there is a wide range of reasons to work with a growth strategist, but do you really need to hire an outside firm or is it better to hire an in-house strategic planner? Both options can make sense, but there are several reasons why a consulting firm may be best. First, it is important to note that strategic planning is not a core skill of many tactical, execution-focused marketing teams. Second, strategic planning is typically a cyclical, rather than ongoing, process so it often does not make sense to have someone on your payroll year-round, who is most useful in finite periods of time. Finally, even if you can afford an in-house strategist year-round, your company would probably still benefit from fresh, outside thinking to avoid the groupthink that led to your current predicament.
After deciding to hire an outside growth strategy consulting firm, you still have to decide: which growth strategy consultant firm is best for your company? Finding a qualified and reputable growth strategy firm can be challenging because consulting is typically measured qualitatively. Before the engagement, clients should ask firms for a history of past successes and failures as well as a list of references and testimonials. The client should consider whether the firm has a history of working within your budget, factoring in the scope of the engagement. Finally, you should investigate the consultant’s expertise in your industry. All of these factors will lead you to the right growth strategy consulting firm for your organization.