Business growth should never be taken for granted. Even when things look promising, your business could still be at risk for falling into a slump, or worse, taking a dive. It’s impossible to deny that the market is volatile and unpredictable. Competition is abundant, and all businesses lose market share at some point.
When revenue hits a speed bump, it’s common for leaders to anxiously ride it out. But when business growth really slows down, denial isn’t going to get you out of the rut. Leadership may react with a mad scramble to redirect the sinking ship: new products, new markets, or new acquisitions can transpire overnight. But if these changes occur in a C-suite silo there’s a high probability your employees and core customers will feel left in the dark. And employees with varying ideas about the future and customers who no longer feel connected to your business can easily derail a growth strategy.
Misalignment only leaves more opportunity for your competitors to encroach on even more of your space. And when that happens, employee morale can sink deeper, recruiting becomes challenging, and share prices may plummet as investors abandon ship. At this point your options are clear: execute a thoughtful, agile turnaround strategy or risk becoming obsolete.
Some of the most common approaches to a turnaround strategy include increasing growth through new market penetration, tapping into new markets, pursuing alternate sales channels, developing new products, or expanding your customer base. Regardless of which avenue you follow, transforming your business without preparing your brand to adapt alongside it can jeopardize your plans for growth.
Consider the recent news of Tesla Motor’s offer to acquire SolarCity. With Tesla shares dropping 16% over the last year, Tesla turned to the acquisition as a business growth strategy. They could no longer afford to burn through the $2.2 billion dollars of the last 4 quarters. The acquisition was an obvious attempt to turnaround Tesla’s business. The problem was that Tesla took the leap into solar energy without fully considering the consequences of the brand, and more specifically the people the brand matters to. And shares have plummeted even further since the deal announcement. What’s the cause? Apparently, investors aren’t on board with the idea of buying solar panels. Tesla misunderstood its target audience and will now have to backtrack to renew brand loyalty. Although this example shows long-term vision, business growth without a parallel brand strategy may have insurmountable long-term consequences for Tesla and SolarCity.
Aligning your brand to your business as it undergoes a transformation is the best way to create a road map that is tailored for business growth. The vision for the business needs to guide all business decisions. By bringing your brand and business together, you’ll ensure that your business stays true to who you are, what you do, and why you matter. As you position your business to grow, respecting the underlying vision of the company will ensure that the growth is in line with what the brand stands for.
Brand strategy will address your key target audiences, your value proposition, your positioning, your narrative, and your go to market strategy. With these elements adjusted to reflect the business transformation, your brand will be prepared to roll out a strategic marketing plan. To really change the tide of business growth, the strategy needs to incorporate long-term goals with a short-term action plan. It needs to be measurable, too. Identify the key indicators of business growth and hold the business accountable as it transforms. A turnaround that shows improvement to employee engagement, brand perception, NPS, and customer loyalty will ultimately affect sales. And increasing top line revenue increases market share and for some, stock price.
But that’s just the plan. Executing the brand strategy as the business shifts requires agility in the changing market. Too often, companies take a year to develop a strategy and by the time they’re ready to implement it, the market has shifted. Testing and iterating in real time will allow your business and brand to adapt quickly so that it remains relevant. It’s critical to develop a flexible strategy with participation from your sales and marketing team. Sales and marketing will provide necessary, immediate feedback from the people on the front line of your business. Their buy-in and shared responsibility creates alignment from the top-down. As the business turnaround happens, the sales and marketing team drive the messaging to make sure your target audience is on board too.
Growth strategies are never achieved without a brand that is strong enough to weather the tides of change. Whether you’re looking to grow through market penetration, market development, alternative channels, product development, or expanding your customer base, your brand needs to lead the way. And change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. An agile, measurable approach that stays true to the long-term vision is key to turning around your company’s trajectory. Grow your brand and grow your business.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy agency.