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VOL. 129 | NO. 87 | Monday, May 05, 2014
Graber Atkinson

Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

Running on Autopilot?


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With the first quarter behind us, it is time to evaluate your business performance and start assessing the effectiveness of the tactics in your growth strategy. At the end of each quarter it is imperative to run a series of diagnostics to attain a deeper understanding of why the results are what they are, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.

This evaluation and fine tuning helps you stay in touch with the subtle changes of the market and actively road test your strategies. Consistent iteration and fine-tuning will drive better and better results, heading off flat or declining revenue.

Finishing the first quarter and realizing your company is not tracking toward your annual goals is unsettling. Here is some advice for performing up to expectations, before too much of the year has passed.

1. Diagnose – Review your data to identify the problem: are you experiencing attrition, low levels of acquisition, both? Sometimes your best opportunity is re-selling former customers. Find out why they left and what it will take to get them back. Also, take a detached look at marketing investments and ROI to evaluate those customer acquisition efforts.

2. Learn – Survey existing and lost customers to understand the value the believe you offer, why they chose you initially, if your delivering according to expectations and other services they would like you to provide. Audit the competitive landscape to find new players or innovations that may be eroding your market share.

3. Adjust – Review your value proposition to adjust your sales and marketing messages to respond to survey and competitive revelations. Revise your offering or begin developing new products to meet demand and secure a competitive advantage. Prioritize market opportunities and laser focus on the segment with greatest opportunity. Lastly, adjust marketing mix to improve ROI – keeping a vigilant eye on marketing spending allows you to swiftly reallocate investments when metrics drop.

In our experience, setting the strategy and then running the company on autopilot usually does not end well. For one, you need to translate your high-level growth strategy into a tactical action plan, complete with measurable milestones by quarter. These milestones can be events, goals or metrics but the idea is that they give you tangible targets to shoot for outside of just tracking revenue and profitability.

The company and its strategies are like a living organism that needs to adapt and change to the unexpected fluctuations in the market. If your team is not nimble and does not adapt in real-time, the company can quickly lose momentum. When this happens, the first symptom may be lagging revenue, but later this can develop into some of the more serious growth diseases we’ve discussed previously – obsolescence, commoditization and limited innovation opportunities.

Give the company a quarterly physical and then prescribe the actions needed to gain optimum health and success.

Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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