In Change, Focus, Strategy

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” – Ellen Glasgow

During 2014 we’ve spent a lot of time working with people around the idea of growth.  After several years without much growth to speak of, people want to grow.  Growth is fun to talk about & it energizes people.

Unfortunately, a lot of organizations approach growth with the idea that all of it is good – in other words, any growth is “good growth” or “the right growth”.  One of the side effects of that belief is that rather than plan for growth, organizations end up running in a hundred different directions at once.  The result is inefficient, unsustainable (and disappointing) growth.

If growth is part of your vision for the future, try thinking about it in one of the following ways:

  • Market Penetration (Existing Products in Existing Markets) – while not necessarily easy, this is often the easiest way to grow.  It’s about selling things you’re already selling to people you’re already selling to.  You know how to produce the product or service already.  You don’t have to establish credibility with potential customers because you already have a reputation.  If I currently sell bicycles to people in the United States, then market penetration would be about selling more bicycles to people in the United States.
  • Market Expansion (Existing Products in New Markets) – a little harder than the first option.  You are still producing something you know & understand, but now you’re trying to sell to people you haven’t sold to before, who probably don’t know who you are, who maybe already have options in their marketplace that they’re familiar with.  To use our original example, now perhaps I’m trying to sell bicycles to people in a different part of the world, say South America.
  • Product Expansion (New Products – Existing Markets) – Perhaps I’m staying in the same market, but now I’m also trying to sell bike helmets, clothing, water bottles, etc.  It might be related to bicycles, but I haven’t produced or sold it before.  I don’t have the same skill level, nor do I have a reputation for producing or selling it.
  • Diversification (New Products – New Markets) – the hardest of all, and yet quite often the first thing people think of when they think about growth.  Now you’re trying to produce & sell something you haven’t before (bike helmets, etc) to people who don’t know you at all.  Developing new products is hard; developing new markets is hard; trying to do both at once is the hardest and most risky way to grow.

I’m not suggesting any of the above are “good” or “bad”.  But think about each of those as you think about growth.  Ask yourself:  Where can we sell more of our existing products in existing markets?  What growth opportunities do we have for existing products in new markets?  What needs do our current markets have that we could fill but aren’t filling right now?  What opportunities for new products and new markets exist?

Take time to think through growth.  If you just run off and do it, you won’t be satisfied with the results.  You may get some growth temporarily, but in the end it probably won’t be sustainable or consistent.  Don’t set yourself up for disappointment – grow smart.


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