For the first couple of decades of their existence, most businesses grow quite strongly. They acquire new customers, get new leads, and eventually come to dominate their respective industries.
Unfortunately, though, growth has an annoying habit of coming to an end. It doesn’t seem to matter how advanced the company is or the power of its technology — there’s a limit to what any market can support.
Take Google, for instance. The search giant is right at the top of the search market and controls nearly nine out of ten queries people type into the internet. But the company is struggling to grow its advertising revenue. The rest of the economy is still catching up and only has so many resources that it can dedicate.
Amazon is another company that has been doing its best to avoid hitting the wall. The e-commerce giant saturated the online bookselling market pretty early on in its history and has had to expand into all kinds of other areas to continue its expansion.
The data in growth stalls among companies is pretty unkind. It seems that most enterprises have a growth phase and then it comes to an end — permanently. Firms like Amazon are very much outliers. Data suggest that once a brand hits the wall, there’s only a 10 percent chance its growth will resume.
A lot of companies don’t want to go through this process. You may be among them. So what can you do to reinvent your brand before you go out of business? Check out these ideas.
Deconstruct Your Business
If you’re going to reinvent your enterprise, you first need to deconstruct what your business does. That involves finding out your unique value proposition, the channels you use to communicate with customers, your key activities and resources, revenues, costs, and partners.
Once you have these, write them down in a list so that you can refer to them later. If you can think of additional elements, please do.
Reimagine Each Element Individually
The next step is to rethink each element individually to figure out whether you could potentially do things differently. Sometimes you’ll find that there are obvious changes you can make, while others are subtler.
During your brainstorming, you’ll often find that you stumble upon multiple methods for improving on a given solution. For some business owners, this can be a little confusing. Two compelling alternatives are both an opportunity and a potential issue.
Where possible, try to choose the solution that best fits the strategic requirements of your enterprise. You might, for instance, be looking at ways to cut your costs. There might be two ways to do this. You could either change your suppliers or build your own fabrication process from scratch.
Which is best depends on the needs of your business. If your internal manufacturing expertise is limited, then outsourcing is the obvious way to go. But if you have the knowledge and want more control over the quality of your output, then in-house fabrication could be the better option.
During the brainstorming phase, try to avoid the assumption that any particular idea will work best. There are usually good reasons for why you are using your current approach. And so any changes you make should be done with caution.
Test Your Ideas
The reason the scientific method is so valuable is that it prevents us from assuming our conclusions or inserting our bias. Instead, it attempts to assess the external world in a logical and consistent manner that allows us genuine insight into how it works.
That’s why it is so critical to test your ideas after you begin implementing them. Don’t just assume that because other companies in the industry are using them that they will automatically work. Usually, there’s a substantial learning curve. And you may be operating in an entirely different ecosystem from your rivals.
When testing, try to change one thing at a time and then collect observations. If you change too much all at once, you’ll muddy the waters and cloud the results.
Sometimes, you’ll want to introduce a raft of additional changes to your company. If you go down this route, you can still test your performance before and after to make sure that you’re improving and not going backward.
Be very careful when choosing your metrics. The yardstick you select matters a great deal.
Try to pick endpoints that really matter to you as a business. So, for instance, if you begin a new marketing campaign, you might decide to measure the number of impressions you get. The results could show that the number of people interacting with your brand across touchpoints has gone up by more than 100 percent which seems like great news.
However, you need to be careful. Even if raw numbers are up, your sales — the thing you really care about — might have gone down by 50 percent, undermining your business.
When testing your ideas, be sure that you do so independently. Check to see if they work individually before you start twiddling with different parts of your organization.
Remember, if you’re making multiple changes, you won’t be able to compare every combination individually.
The next stage is to create prototypes.
Prototypes don’t have to be physical products in the traditional sense. They just need to be simplified or small-scale versions of the changes that you intend to make.
For instance, if your supply chain was the issue, you could do new micro-arrangements with alternative vendors to see whether relationships with them work out better.
You could also begin trialing a new service on a small scale with a subset of your team. This way, you can build trust while avoiding dedicating your entire payroll to a task that might not generate any real returns.
Fundamentally, prototyping is all about feeling your way to success and working out whether your ideas actually have legs. Sometimes, you’ll find that an idea that sounded good on paper doesn’t actually pan out the way that you’d like in practice. Prototypes can also give you insights into the strategies that will really work and deliver the most value to your customers.
When looking for small business help, always focus on methods that use evidence. You’ll notice that the entire approach in this article centers on observation and collecting information. In that sense, it is very scientific and similar to the scientific method.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t rely on your instinct alone to reinvent your company. Instead, you should follow a scientific process of trial and error, trying out new things and seeing if they make a difference to the overall performance of your enterprise.
Collect Data from the Market
Your customers want you to meet their needs. But they’ll often become quickly disgruntled if they suspect that you’re taking shortcuts.
That’s why it’s so important to collect data from the market. Consumers want you to meet their needs, but you can only do that if you collect information on what’s important to them.
In many cases, this process can actually save you a lot of money. You can find out, for instance, that people don’t want certain expensive features and would prefer you to build a narrower, but more robust product. Thus, it can take the pressure off.
Change Your Technology
Part of your brainstorming session should include a conversation about “what your business really does.”
It might seem like an obvious point, but it’s anything but. A lot of companies don’t fundamentally understand the services they provide.
Take Blockbuster movie rental, for instance. Back in the 2000s, the company believed that it was in the business of renting out movies to its customers. After all, that was the physical reality of its business.
But by 2010, it became clear that that wasn’t what customers wanted. Instead, what they really wanted was novel movie content. So the moment streaming services offered a more convenient way to get it, Blockbuster went out of business.
Take some time to think carefully about what your brand really sells. It is selling a product, an idea, a service, or a convenience. Consider the root motivation for consumers to choose your business.
Once you have that in mind, you can then think about how you could use modern technology to deliver it. Sometimes, your business doesn’t require any changes at all. Other times, though, you find that your current practices don’t make sense in the context of modern technology and you need to update them.
Eventually, all businesses run out of runway. It’s just the nature of the beast. Far from being a sign of failure, a lack of growth means your enterprise has probably enjoyed remarkable success.
Mostly, though, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. Eventually, somebody will develop a superior business model, and you’ll be left with a dwindling customer base.
Use the ideas presented in this article to periodically shake up your enterprise and ask whether you could be doing something fundamentally different. If you’re stuck on ideas, try consulting with your team about what they think you should do to improve the company. Being close to the ground, they usually have some concrete suggestions.
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