Leaders are often hyper-focused on growth, but growth without clear strategy is a recipe for disaster. In its early days, KIND Snacks’ founder Daniel Lubetzky tried to expand the company too quickly. He would take on large orders that were hard for him to fill and had trouble turning a profit.
Since then, Lubetzky has learned from his mistakes and says he won’t betray the company’s values by rushing an inferior product to market. When his company was acquired by Mars, Incorporated last year, it was valued at $5 billion.
If you’re looking to grow your company, it’s important to focus on the fundamental value your business offers and keep that top of mind. Here are five ways to strategically grow your business without compromising quality:
1. Identify your unique competitive advantage.
According to Michael J. Mazzeo at the Kellogg School of Management, it’s not enough to do something differently than your competitors. You must do something fundamentally better.
“When businesses start to think about growth opportunities as relating to capabilities, then it opens up the possibility of them crossing into much different product or customer dimensions,” says Mazzeo.
Ask yourself what you do better than anyone else that can’t easily be replicated. Take Zappos, for instance. When Nick Swinmurn started the company in 1999, the idea of selling shoes online at a massive scale was virtually unheard of. But if bringing a giant selection of shoes online was where Zappos’s strategy ended, the company wouldn’t have survived the e-commerce boom.
Instead of coasting on a good idea, Zappos decided from the beginning that it had to control the entire customer experience. Outstanding customer service became its key differentiator — even when it cut into profits. Soon there were lots of companies selling shoes online, but none of them could replicate Zappos’s level of service.
2. Gain expertise in-house to supercharge growth.
Sometimes growing the business means broadening the scope of what you do. This could include expanding your offerings or in-sourcing a key business function so a third party can’t stymie your growth.
For Florida-based personal-injury law firm Anidjar & Levine, that meant bringing its advertising in-house. Not only did this make it easier to control the firm’s second-largest expense, but it also helped propel the company’s growth. When the firm began expanding into other areas of law, it treated each area as a separate stream of revenue. The firm discovered it could market from several different angles while building brand awareness, and handling its advertising in-house meant it could implement new strategies faster.
3. Consider what your customers might be missing.
When it comes to growing your business, it’s important to think about what your customers want and what they might be missing. Yogurt giant Chobani was founded by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya, who thought that yogurt produced in the U.S. was inferior to the rest of the world’s yogurt. Ulukaya holds a core belief that’s helped the company become the No. 1 yogurt brand in America: “If we can’t make something better, we don’t make it at all.”
Chobani’s customers expect nutritious, all-natural products at a good price, but making all of its yogurt with cow’s milk shut out health-conscious consumers who were vegan or lactose intolerant. Now Ulukaya is applying his core business ethos to the company’s most recent product line: non-dairy yogurt and milk. Chobani felt that consumers deserved better options in that category, so it created a line of plant-based products to serve this niche.
4. Find the people who can amplify your message.
If word of mouth is the spark that helps your company grow, influencer marketing is like throwing gasoline on the fire. By getting people with large audiences to talk about your product or service, you’re essentially making word of mouth scalable.
Influencer marketing isn’t just about the “cool factor” — although this can work wonders if you’re a fashion or lifestyle brand. Influencers can also give your brand added credibility and an “in” with their audience.
Take KiwiCo, for instance — the STEAM activity subscription box for kids. Marketing products for children is all about reaching busy parents and convincing them that a product is worth the investment. So KiwiCo partners with influencers like YouTuber Jessica Hover to reach her audience of parents with young children.
5. Align with companies that share your customer base.
Influencer marketing can work wonders for consumer brands, but for many B2B companies, affiliate marketing is a better fit. Affiliate marketing allows you to tap into another company or individual’s audience by offering them a percentage of every sale. This works best when you and the other company share a customer base but are not direct competitors.
Even well-known companies like GoDaddy and Squarespace use affiliate programs to drive sales, and it’s a win-win. The companies get thousands of professional bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers talking about their offerings. Those creators get a cut every time someone uses their affiliate link, and they get to add value to their audience by recommending relevant products and services.
Growing your business isn’t simply about expanding into new markets or ramping up your advertising. To grow strategically means identifying what makes your company unique and doubling down on that advantage. Sometimes that means expanding your offerings or simply partnering with people and organizations that can amplify your message. No matter which tactics you use, never lose sight of why your customers chose you in the first place.