Throughout my career working with executives and stakeholders of mid-market companies, I’ve consistently heard people express their frustrations with their company’s growth (or lack thereof).
Creating profitable, transferrable growth is a key driver of private company value, and a top concern of most mid-market company stakeholders.
Some are very direct and say things like:
- “We’re not growing as fast as we should be.”
- “I feel like we’re treading water.”
- “We’re stuck.”
- “We’re getting beaten by _______ (insert name of the main competitor)”
Others focus on fixing a symptom of the problem, by doing something like:
- Retraining their sales team
- Building a new website
- Starting a social media campaign
- Designing a new logo and color scheme
In most cases, these are attempts to solve a greater problem – being “stuck.” Most private mid-market companies hit specific plateaus in their lifecycle; there are natural barriers that prevent them from moving to the next step. Breaking through these barriers is rarely achieved by completing one of the tactical exercises above. Don’t get me wrong – all can be very valuable. But the trick is to sequence these tactics properly.
And put the strategy before the tactics.
The most common strategic challenge that causes mid-market companies to get “stuck” is a lack of understanding who they really are and clearly communicating it.
The market is noisy. Everyone can recite their products and services, discuss what the company does and dive into granular features and benefits. The marketing team builds their messaging around this, and thinks that the market hears the same differentiation that they hear.
But does it? (Studies show that this is rarely the case. Click here to read more.)
Think back to when your company was founded. What was the message?
Most companies were founded with a clear understanding of who they were and they communicated it clearly with the marketplace. That’s how they achieved success.
But it’s easy for that message to get muddied over time. Companies add new products and services, expand into new markets and increase the size of their executive team.
Has your message gotten muddied? Consider these questions:
- “What are the real reasons that your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?”
- “Why are you unique? Why should your customers care?”
- “What does your company stand for? What is your true purpose?”
- “What inspires your people to come to work each day?”
If you’re not growing as fast as you think you should be, ask your executive team to answer the above 4 questions. If their answers are identical, and they truly represent you, then focus on the tactics of communicating it consistently with the marketplace.
If they’re not identical, or not clarified and strong, then work on your strategy until they are.
Clarifying who you really are will be one of the most important things you do over the next 5 years.