Taking your business through growth

I was recently invited to speak at a tech entrepreneurs’ lunch.

In the audience were entrepreneurs just starting out sitting alongside those a number of years in who had successfully navigated the stages of early growth to something more sustainable. We were also lucky enough to hear research presented by Cameron Research Group on key growth inflection points for SMBs.

There were a number of insights gained through the research and the discussions that followed:

1) Focus and commitment to success

Many had chosen to do their own thing not just because they were driven to harness an opportunity and to create a new future, but also because they liked the control it offered. Entrepreneurs felt they could live the life they wanted, and the more time spent on forging their own way, the less likely they could ever work for anyone else again. The result? Total focus on making their venture successful.

2) Managing growth through key inflection points

The way someone was able to run their business in the early days could only get them so far. That point seemed to be at 20-30 employees, at which point entrepreneurs needed to think about switching from a control model to an empowerment model, from an authoritative leadership style to more democratic style of leadership. This meant hiring differently, bringing in new systems, enhancing leadership capability, and formalizing HR and marketing resources and programs.

The next growth inflection point was at 70 employees, where the audience again recognized that what had been built to get them to that size would need to be revisited again, particularly in terms of systems, leadership and culture. The main concern each entrepreneur had was on how to keep and protect their company’s culture and the way they wanted their business to run when they could no longer be personally involved with, or connected to, every decision.  An emphasis on investing in building a strong culture based on values, trust and empowerment was key to those who were successful.

3) Four main growth pain points

This seemed to be universally agreed upon. To grow their businesses from startup to success, entrepreneurs needed to:

  • focus on cash flow,
  • scale recruitment and performance management
  • scale sales and marketing,
  • control costs.

Everyone agreed that all of these were challenging, especially when gearing up for sustainable and often accelerated growth. This has certainly been our experience at Digivizer and we have put much investment in each of these areas.

What was particularly insightful for me was the number of businesses that had realized they had to switch their marketing models from doing it themselves to recognizing they needed external solutions.

And it was especially interesting to hear that once businesses grew to that 20 employee point, they needed to save time and become better at seeing and understanding what was working for them. In particular, it was time for them to invest in solutions as it was important for them to easily and quickly know the ROI of marketing expenditure. They needed to be able to easily measure what was working for them, and to focus resources there ie do more of what works and fix or stop doing what was not working. Data matters and tools could help over manual options.

This resonated with us, given that at Digivizer our focus is on helping businesses create better experiences for their customers by knowing more about them and what they care about in order to help them generate leads and sales from digital.

All of which makes me even more focused and committed to rolling out our technology and solutions in an affordable way for every business.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Brands and CMOs: don’t compete with creators and storytellers. Instead: inspire, invest in, and support them

Marketing has always been about achieving the best results by getting the right message to the right person at the right time using the right channel. That mantra remains as true as ever, but the techniques, long-accepted and built on the now-crumbling foundations of broadcasting messages at anonymous audiences in sufficient numbers that some of these messages eventually stick, are increasingly redundant.

What’s changed is the consumers. They are to be found on their mobile devices, managing their everyday work and personal life commitments, making choice about who to like or engage with, and to turn to, every waking minute. Overwhelming consumers with mass-market branded messages is increasingly ineffective, often prevented by ad-blocking technology, becoming expensive quickly, and still often misses the individual and their context.

The consumers are in control. And the secret to engaging with them lies with the true creators and storytellers.

Last night Digivizer supported Thom Whilton and Lisa Teh, natural storytellers, entrepreneurs and creators with whom we’ve had a long partnership, at the launch of their new book Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion.

The book builds on Thom and Lisa’s on-line content and editing success, and celebrates Australia’s fashion industry innovators, leaders who create Australia’s leading designs, and those who tell their genuine stories to the industry and to consumers.

I joined a panel alongside Daniel Watts, managing director of Thames and Hudson Australia, Janice Breen Burns, former fashion editor of The Age, Lisa Teh, and blogger and influencer Lana Wilkinson as moderator. Despite our different backgrounds and careers, early consensus appeared:  a brand telling its own story no longer holds the same equity and interest for consumers. Consumers want a new and different story to be told by someone they trust, one that is entertaining and informative, and that aligns to their passions and values.

Thom Whilton & Lisa Teh, co-authors of Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion

The evidence is in the data. Digivizer’s analytics show that those brands that work with great creators and storytellers gain greater consumer engagement, loyalty, interest and sales. They outperform those trying to control the branded messaging and solutions.

Brands must understand that to win, they must deliver the best experiences and provide great reasons for individuals to engage with them. One of the best ways to do this is to work with the people consumers already turn to for information and inspiration: the creators, the innovators and the storytellers who have already earned and built engaged communities of like-minded individuals sharing common interests, passions and values.

Consumers are savvy. They know who is being authentic and what is contrived, and they spot undeclared paid-for influence or comment. Even ahead of increasing regulation around declaring paid-for comment, brands should look to earn consumers’ respect for what they really help create, rather than look to trick or mislead. This comes through investment, inspiration and collaboration of these exciting possibilities via this new generation of creators and storytellers.

The process of engaging with individuals starts with great stories, but consumers quickly vote with their thumbs on their mobile devices. As they do, they leave clues about their intentions, connections, needs and preferences, many with the expectation that brands will act on these clues and engage with something of interest and relevance.

The opportunity sits in the precision of being able to act on these real-time actionable insights intersecting with the actual conversations and content engagement taking place on the social web.

The choice for brands seems clear: embrace the new role that supports, commissions and inspires the storytellers and creators to deliver genuine and inspiring collaborations that in turn fuels real Australian and global innovation.

Brands need to invest in, not compete with, the creators and storytellers.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.
Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion was launched Wednesday 8 March in Melbourne, as part of the 2017 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival IDEAS program. Follow the social conversation at #australianstylebook #vamff. Digivizer was the primary sponsor of the event.