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From Chaos to Clarity: Simplifying the Path to Business Growth

Small Business Growth Assessment Photo

Business growth is flat, and your leadership team is stuck.

The well of new opportunities is dried up. Business-as-usual mode is now crisis mode.

If you are, you are in good company. I’ve been there too.

My crisis situation came after a prolonged product development phase. My team and I were confident we had a solution to a nagging market problem. We believed we understood the voice of the customer and that our messaging was clear. Our brand was strong, and we had incredible partners.

After launching our product, we experienced a few early wins. This emboldened us. (Cue the creepy horror music)

Sales grew. Slowly. Opportunities that seemed winnable were not. We were not closing deals and customers…especially the customers who we built the product for…were not returning our calls.

Certifiable crisis. We all felt it.

Everyone on our team, even senior leadership, embraced failure. It is always an opportunity to learn. We had to evaluate new possibilities – we had to admit that one or more of our business assumptions was wrong.

Our curiosity was our super-power. We knew our future was at stake, and we committed to pragmatically questioning everything – product user requirements, ideal customer profile, messaging, and even our team's understanding of our core values.

Here is the bottom line. A lot of hard work initially went into developing a business solution for a problem we thought should be fixed. The customers felt they were already addressing the problem. They didn’t appreciate the incremental value we added. Our messaging didn’t help. We focused too intensely inward.

Fast forward 18 months. After evaluating our business practices, we gained actionable insights. We prioritized the insights that would create the greatest impact. This was the calibration we needed.

We gained 20/20 clarity on our ideal customers. Heck, we even had our ideal customers cheering us on for listening and implementing their feedback.

With the increased clarity on our ideal customers, we were able to adjust messaging. This led to better marketing communication. Not only did our messaging improve, but our customers were also happy to tell others about their collaboration with our brand. Customers were standing alongside us.

New customer acquisition was gaining traction. Because we were so clear on our ideal customer, we experienced a reduction in leads and a growth of closed-won deals. We effectively recreated the buying journey and sales funnel.

Looking back, I now see our team was so deep in the weeds that we couldn’t see our target. We were passionately marching towards on the wrong compass heading. Making great time and lost as hell.

My crisis situation may sound familiar. If you feel stuck, I want you to know you don’t have to travel alone.

Five Recommendations for Conducting a Business Practice Assessment:

  1. Define the Review’s Purpose and Scope – The goal is not to cover everything. Use a clear intent statement like, "By the end of the assessment, we will determine why customers visit our website but don't respond to our calls to action." This sets limits on the issues to address. Consider conducting multiple evaluations to cover more ground. The main point is to keep the team focused on the question.
  2. Create a Positive Review Atmosphere – Avoid the stress and anxiety of a high-stakes inquiry. Cultivate a culture of accountability without fear. Co-create ground rules with the team to outline how the team will address failures, conflicts, scope drift, and differing opinions. Also, assign a timekeeper and note-taker for a smoother experience.
  3. Benchmark a Standard – This could be an internal SOP or process. If your internal documents are dated, you may look to trusted sources for current best practices. An often-overlooked benchmark source is the voice of your actual customers. Review your customer personas, and if you don’t have personas, this is a good opportunity to commit to creating them.
  4. Use a “Define | Assess | Discuss | Prioritize” Discussion Framework – Here’s an example of what this sounds like. [Define] “OK, we are now assessing our campaign landing page against our process” [Assess] “Please rate the landing page using the five components of our objective scale.” [Discuss] “Who has a perspective they’d like to share? [Prioritize] “Is this an area that we need to fix now, next or later?” Have a clear agenda and be disciplined to accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
  5. Create an Action Plan – Outline steps for implementing improvements. Set clear objectives, define responsibilities, and establish realistic timelines. Communicate the plan to stakeholders to ensure clarity. Monitor progress, adjust, and celebrate milestones regularly.

Looking for additional resources?

I created the Small Business Growth Assessment. It consists of 15 questions where you rate your organization on a scale of 1-5. You are welcome to use it to begin a conversation with your team.

David LaCombe is the founder of Imperatives Delivered a fractional chief marketing officer service for small businesses. He helps businesses grow by tailoring strategies and data driven solutions. David has extensive leadership experience in product development, marketing, sales, and user communities. Contact David to speak with him about your company’s growth imperative.