Want to break through to the next tier of growth? What got you here won’t get you there.
Growth plateaus. Every firm hits them at various points on their journey. The first one frequently happens around the $5 million mark. Leads take a dip. The pipeline turns into a drip. Targets are missed. But your once-successful strategy hasn’t changed much. So what gives?
Unfortunately, relying on your initial growth tactics won’t get you to that next tier of growth. After a certain point, the relational selling and referrals that brought your firm to the first tier of growth eventually max out. At the same time, your firm has evolved. So it stands to reason your growth targets — and the strategies to hit them — must follow suit.
The key to pushing past a growth plateau is to develop a purposeful strategy that fits where your firm is going — not where it’s been. It also takes a deep understanding of what your firm is uniquely positioned to do, so you’re able to set and hit a realistic growth target.
WANT THE RIGHT GROWTH STRATEGY FOR YOUR FIRM? SHIFT YOUR MINDSET FIRST.
It’s typical for referrals and word of mouth to lead to a firm’s first $5 million in revenue. But getting to that next tier (let’s say $25 million) requires a different approach. Developing strategies for the next tier of growth start with an understanding that:
- Growth targets aren’t one size fits all. Too often, firms set an uninformed goal, usually basing it on an industry benchmark or what their peers are doing. It’s either too ambitious or not ambitious enough. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry; it’s an easy trap to fall into. Just like playing against your über competitive golf buddy, you must ignore what he’s capable of and play your own game. Focus on why your firm wants to grow and how that growth will move your firm and your clients forward — and go from there.
- Growth isn’t uniform. If it were, you’d be enjoying retirement right now and wouldn’t need this article. Look what happened during COVID: The market for digital transformation services exploded over night. IT services firms were maxed out facilitating the digital migration of, well, everything. But now much of that’s leveled off a bit. Firms focused on driving efficiency or data-informed decision-making are having a field day. Bottom line: Make sure your growth strategy fits within the context of what’s happening right now and what you expect will happen in the next 24-36 months.
- Growth starts with how you help your clients. Everything starts with your client, first and foremost. Your growth plan should start by anticipating the most pressing problems your clients face right now and the ones you expect them to face over the next two to three years. Everything you do, from thought leadership strategies to marketing and client relationship development approaches, should stem from there.
DETERMINE HOW AND WHERE YOUR FIRM WILL GROW NEXT
If you want to hit that next tier of growth, you need to be adaptable in your approach. Client needs evolve. Markets and services mature.
Often, breaking through to the next tier of growth involves identifying areas of potential where clients don’t even fully recognize what they’re buying yet because it’s still so new. Nascent and emerging technologies, like AI, often create new client problems. As a result, they tend to represent less saturated areas of need where you can develop deep expertise quickly.
If leaning into a new area of expertise doesn’t feel viable, look for adjacent markets with similar problems you already have the resources to solve – new buyers with similar challenges to the ones you already serve. Or, consider new technology partner relationships. Some of the fastest growing firms right now are driving growth by becoming indispensable to the account teams within the channels of large or growing software companies.
Once you’ve got an idea of where to grow, it’s time to consider the how. Relationships and networking drove your first tier of growth. But you’ll drive the second tier with:
- Thought Leadership. Because the market is saturated with experts it’s paramount you rise above the noise. This means leveraging your expertise to share insights and ideas that advance the conversation in your space. Developing a POV is critical to the next tier of growth. That’s best done by bringing forth proven solutions to pressing client problems other firms don’t see. While insights like these sometimes draw from the wisdom of your experts, frequently they require investing in new, original research to uncover unseen best practices.
- Marketing. You have a well-honed point of view, now you need to build a reputation in the market for it. Reaching beyond your network to clients you don’t yet know requires getting your thinking into places they frequent. This often means expanding your promotional efforts beyond just owned media into earned media (getting articles placed in high profile business publications), and paid media (lead generation campaigns and other digital advertising).
- Pricing. Ditch any preconceived notions of how your firm should price and sell its services. Forget time and materials and cost-plus models. Clients are becoming much more used to seeing subscription-based pricing and surge-based pricing in their daily lives. They’re much more open to new approaches to pricing. In fact, many actually welcome it. Adopt value-based pricing and value-based selling. What’s worked for your pricing model in the past will not make sense in the future.
By embracing change and purposefully pivoting both your strategy and your marketing approach, you can position your firm for long-term success and continued growth.
YOUR GROWTH STRATEGY ISN’T COMPLETE UNTIL IT’S DOCUMENTED
Simply having a broad idea of what your growth strategy looks like is not enough. Like a roadmap, you have to plan what each step of the journey is going to look like. Your growth plan should provide clear answers to questions like these:
- How much growth do we require given the needs of our clients, our partners, and our people?
- Where do we expect that growth to come from? What industries? What types of clients? What types of buyers?
- What issues and client problems will we own in the market?
- What investments do we need to make to develop a compelling POV on those issues?
- How much do we need to invest to promote that POV and any related new services?
- How are we going to enable our practice leaders and relationship leaders to have more productive conversations with our clients?
- How will we know we’re on-track?
Remember, you have a point of view on how to solve problems. It is differentiated and unique and compelling (see thought leadership). To jump to your next tier of growth, you need to know what it will take to establish that point of view as the best-in-class standard in the marketplace.
You may view your growth plateau as a barrier. But it’s really a jumping-off point to that next great tier — the one where you are known for your point of view and expertise beyond your network. Where you aren’t afraid to offer something new, and you know where your true value lies. That kind of growth is the real game changer.