How to Create a Sustainable Growth Plan in Today’s Economy

By Nathan Denny and Scott Axelrod

Got growth? Or, hey — got a plan for growth? In today’s economy, that’s not such a simple question, and creating a long-term (or even a short-term) plan for strategic growth has rarely seemed more daunting.

In this Private Advisory Board session, a group of executives hash out some issues related to creating a sustainable growth plan in the new economy. The recap:


How do I develop creative solutions to drive sales and stand out in a competitive market?

Why It’s Important

How to Create a Sustainable Growth Plan in Today's EconomyThis company started as a subsidiary to take advantage of technology to undertake more sophisticated online marketing at a local level. In the last 60 days, company leaders have hired a GM to oversee sales efforts, created a new brand position and voice, hosted bi-weekly webinars to drive leads, attended local networking events, performed a wide range of online marketing, and built out target lists of key vertical markets.

In year one, this business leader is trying to:

  • Figure out creative solutions to drive sales, define voice and brand, and stand out in a competitive market, and
  • Understand what makes a successful sales organization work in a new market/start-up environment.

The new model requires a sales price that is ten times the current spend. So, the leader is looking to hire a team that is more sales and developmentally focused than technical (and this is a challenge for them).

Estimated financial value: $500,000.

Re-stated Issue:

This business leader is looking for help to build a sales organization and/or new arm of the company from the ground up. What are some tips, tactics and strategies?

Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • Have you identified your potential client(s)?
  • Is your issue obtaining leads or closing leads?
  • Where are you at compared to where you want to be?
  • Do you have the people required to get where you want to be?
  • How quickly do your customers understand the benefit of working with you?
  • What are the top three reasons why someone would buy from you? Would all your employees agree with these reasons?

Suggestions (Solutions)

  • Hunt down former Yellow Pages reps. They know local businesses. They know the players. They have networks and may be willing to work off straight commission.
  • Brainshark was recommended as a company that can create an online video to educate people in a simple fashion. This helps to alleviate the time needed to train potential clients on your value.
  • Put your value proposition in a visual form; present three reasons why someone would buy from you. The entire workforce must understand and agree with this.
  • Offer a 30- or 60-day trial so members can see the value and gain trust.
  • Pick one vertical and work to succeed there before taking on “everything.”

Action Plan

A concrete action plan was not defined; however, the CEO has committed to:

  • Identify the top three things his product offers a client;
  • Consider a visual presentation of product description;
  • Consider reaching out to ex-Yellow pages reps; and
  • Consider a telemarketing strategy for potential smaller clients.


I’d like to add a new piece of technology to my business. How do I market and finance it effectively and profitably?

Why It’s Important

  • This technology costs between $10k and $15k.
  • It has the potential to produce between $500 and $1,500 per month.
  • The technology is cutting edges; no one else in the region has it.
  • The vendor of the technology would benefit as much as the CEO’s company.
  • Currently, the CEO has considered financing the equipment or selling shares to raise capital. He’s leaning towards financing but does not want the debt load.
  • Estimated financial value: $12,500

What’s the smart move, here? Should he do nothing? Should he wait out the market? How does he figure in long-term costs and market costs?

Clarifying Questions (Background/Understanding)

  • Are there any other applications for the device, besides its primary use?
  • Have you spoken to clients or done a marketing survey to figure out if customers would be eager or even willing to use the technology?
  • How close is your closest competitor (that uses this product)?
  • Is it a cash flow problem to lay out the cash up front?
  • How confident are you of your ability to recoup your investment?
  • Is there an opportunity to a trial or a time period that you can demo the product?

Suggestions (Solutions)

  • Talk to your nearest competitor and ask them about the product. Do people use it? Do they like it?
  • Can you drive traffic to the question: Are you interested in this product?
  • One session member suggested the possibility of getting the CEO in touch with some people that might be interested in a bridge loan, and who could perhaps help market the product.

Session date: Jan 27, 2012
Originally published: Jan 27, 2012

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