- Step #1: Start by recognizing and believing that you don’t have all the answers… no matter how long you’ve been in the business.
- Step #2: Learn how to really listen
- Step #3: Stop ignoring your greatest source for more profitable new growth
Is there hope to grow right now? You bet. So get growing!
One company I am working with is in the midst of their best sales month ever. It’s in an industry that is hurting badly. Many of its competitors are closing their doors. The difference is that this company is using Alpha innovation to drive growth.
What is Alpha innovation? It is the process of discovering what people really want to buy both in function and in ego-satisfaction, how they want to buy that, and then providing that to them.
Truth is, almost any company in almost any industry could be growing right now, no matter what the economy seems to be doing or what prospective customers believe about their futures. There are real needs among all customer groups. You just need to understand better how to discover what they want to buy and how they want to have it presented to them.
I’m not going to take you through the entire Alpha Factor model, which provides you with the template for finding such growth opportunities. But I will share the core tool that will determine whether or not you even have a chance to become an Alpha. I will also share three steps to making yourself more capable of becoming an Alpha.
The #1 secret to creating sustainable growth in any economy at any time is to create a “culture of research” in your organization. All Alpha companies use market research to define growth opportunities. So do many non-Alpha companies. Understanding the difference between effective research that leads to (and sustains) Alpha dominance and typical non-effective research is key to making your organization self-sustainingly successful.
The biggest barrier to becoming an effective “learning” organization is the self-delusion that you know how your market works. Here is the truth: you may know how it has worked in the past; but you have little or no idea what tomorrow is going to look like. I know, that’s hard to hear. But here’s why it is true: tomorrow will be created by someone you don’t know, using information and insights you don’t know. That is how industries are revolutionized and real sustainable, disruptive innovation comes about.
If you can recognize and admit your own inability to think beyond what you currently know, then you have a chance to really find new answers. I have been doing innovation-focused research for more than two and a half decades, and I still am surprised at what I discover in our research that neither I nor my clients knew or, in many cases, even guessed. Customer needs and expectations are constantly changing, adapting, and being transferred from one part of their lives to another. What was a critical driving factor last year may have little impact after new expectations are created. Those new expectations could have come from the efforts of a competitor or from a completely unrelated area of the customer’s life.
You will only discover these new insights by constantly listening to people who may someday buy what you wish to sell. You won’t discover these insights from within your company’s walls. They aren’t going to be found in a conference room. Your employees don’t know. Your suppliers don’t know. Your distributors don’t know. The answers are outside.
The next time you have a meeting to figure out what to do, call off the meeting and go outside. Talk to prospective customers.
I don’t just mean to stop talking; rather you also need to eliminate the self-talk that convinces you that you understand what prospective customers are saying or meaning. Most market researchers (and their clients) hear through their own filter of how they believe decisions are made, which is often far different than how their target customers actually make decisions. I am continually amazed that most research into drivers of buying decisions still comes up with function or price factors rather than the self-image factors that truly drive decisions.
When you think you understand what prospective customers are saying and why they say it, make them explain it to you so clearly that you can repeat it back to them in different words and they agree that you understand. Then go further and prove that both you and these potential customers understand how they make decisions by suggesting different ways someone could address the things they described until you hear them agreeing that you really have it.
But don’t stop even there. Go beyond that to understand what the next step might be in the continuum of needs and expectations. No one ever stops at the current needs or expectations described. They will always change those needs and expectations over time. While you can’t always define what will change as a result of another marketer’s efforts or changes in the economy, you can better understand where these customers think they are going with their expectations and what the logical end result might be. Understanding this can provide far greater insights into longer-term strategic considerations.
This is one that always amazes me. Most companies spend far too much money talking to current customers. The real growth opportunity is among those persons who currently won’t buy from you.
Non-customers who are either buying from a competitor or who don’t buy at all (but have the potential to buy) are the fastest way to create dramatic new growth. In fact, the most spectacular growth I’ve ever seen always comes from attracting completely new customers. And when using the Alpha model to drive higher expectations that in turn drives higher price leverage, profit also skyrockets.
The huge trend toward driving “organic” growth by major marketers has even further blinded most companies to the opportunity avaialbe by talking to non-customers. Even a company with 30% share of customers has a pool of 70% of the market as potential. Even eliminating the 10% (approximate) of people who say they are committed to buying low price (even though I have proven many times that most of them are lying), there is obviously a monstrous potential for almost any company to grow.
I am always surprised that I have to convince a marketer who wants to grow to include non-customers in our market research. Yet, it is typically from those non-customers that we discover the biggest opportunities for creating new growth strategies.
So, can you grow now? Absolutely. Can you do it by sitting in your offices? No. Can you do it by listening to your self-talk. No. Can you do it “organically?” Probably not. Use the Alpha model to understand what people really want to buy, how they want to buy it, and how you can address those opportunities. You will find yourself leading the way out of this recession… no matter what the rest of the economy is doing.
Get your copy of The Alpha Factor at www.thealphafactor.com. Visit www.ballgroup.com and discover research toold you can use to apply the Alpha model to your business to grow right now.
GO AHEAD… DOMINATE YOUR WORLD!