“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation…” —Saint Augustine

Civilizations rise and fall — and so, too, do companies. Why do the Facebooks and Apples of the startup world rise to fame, while others are left in the dust?

Starting from the bottom

You’re not going to fail because of what you’re doing to grow your business. If you’re going to fail, you’ll do so because something else is broken. Maybe it’s poor product-market fit. Maybe your business model has holes. Maybe your co-founders fight all the time.

Growth failures are about crumbling foundations — shaky key processes, poor allocation of capital to your channels and not understanding your customers. Can your sales cycles handle rapid growth or are they highly inefficient? What about your acquisition model or your user experience? How can your company stand the test of time?

1. Hook, line and sinker (and understanding your customer)

“It’s not about getting people to do things they don’t want to do. It’s about creating products that help people do what they WANT to do.” —Nir Eyal, author of Hooked

Do you understand what your customers are looking for and how you will convince them to come back? If your company involves any form of repeated engagement or behaviour from your customers, you know exactly what I’m talking about. With the increasing importance of customer referrals and word of mouth, how will you present your value effectively to your customers?

Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked, presents a simple framework for reaching your customers by building your “hook” in four stages.

  1. Trigger — what reminds me I should take an action?
  2. Action — what do I need to do to get a reward?
  3. Reward — did my action fulfil a need?
  4. Investment — what is my future benefit?

However, none of this works if you do not understand your customers. Do you know what your users’ needs —
their internal triggers — are? Do you know what moves them?

2. Stop repeating, repeating, repeating yourself

You want to scale, right? Well, doing things over and over and over again certainly won’t help. That’s where automation — and a reevaluation of the efficiency of your processes — comes in.

Some key words to keep in mind when you’re evaluating any of your processes are:

  • efficiency;
  • consistency; and
  • shared vocabulary.

Don’t try to create new methods for every team member you bring on board. Automate processes and stick to them. Facebook didn’t focus on what their sign-up button looked like. They focused on making it as easy as possible for users to sign up — by taking away clutter and putting their sign-up form directly on the home page.

In terms of designing for scale — sure, when it comes to the process of designing your product, each individual element of the product is important.  But rather than obsessing over minute details that don’t overly influence the user, you should focus on the user experience.

Speaking of user experiences…

3. Design is love, design is life

User experience (UX) design is fundamentally about understanding your customers.

UX is a mindset, not a product. It is all about continually learning.  Rather than being the responsibility of a single person, UX is a mentality that should permeate the entire organization.

To grow, the process of design thinking should be the basis for every project in your company. This will allow you to identify gaps and uncover new opportunities — especially when it comes to discovering customer needs.

4. Armed to sell

There’s nothing more critical than ensuring you’re reaching your customers and demonstrating your value. The key question is: What tools are you giving your sales team to build your customer base?

“If you’re training your sales team with brochures, sales decks and throwing them right into your funnel, you’re doing this wrong.” —Melissa Madian, TMM Enablement Services

Sales enablement for growth is about considering recruiting and onboarding as ongoing processes. You want to ensure your sales team has the path of least resistance to learn, practise and execute — and bogging them down with slide decks will only slow them down.

In building your marketing and sales processes, it’s important to note that the two are, in fact, related (what news!). There should be a continual feedback loop between the two, where your marketing strategy feeds into your sales and where your sales dictate how you market.

To build the foundation of your marketing and sales machine, take note of these things.

  1. Who you are marketing (persona)
  2. Where they are (channel) — test and see what resonates
  3. What they should learn (content)
  4. What action they should take (goal)
  5. What to do next

And the quickest way to crumble? Think of yourself.

It’s easy to think you have the perfect product, that your product is poised to disrupt an industry and change life as your users know it. But it’s not about you. What’s more important than your own beliefs is what your users think.

It’s not the best product that wins

Get to know your customers, and build customer personas. Above all, validate these personas in front of your users. Do the profiles resonate with your customers? As in, do your customers feel like they are your customers?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good you think your product is. What matters is whether your customers think of your product in their times of need.

It is therefore critical for you to create solid, efficient and consistent processes and mindsets that allow you to continually iterate, design and improve your product with the feedback of your customers. By ensuring there are no holes in your foundation, you can make sure you grow your business along with your customers, rather than sink. To rise, you must have started from the bottom.

In the words of our favourite Degrassi actor and musical wordsmith, we started from the bottom — and that’s why we’re now here.

Tannya Cai

Tannya is responsible for the planning, execution, marketing and development of experiential programs and workshops within Regional Innovation Centres and Campus Linked Accelerators in the province of Ontario. See more…