> What it is
> How to think about it
> Four elements of a good growth engine
“Growth Engineering” is an approach to business in general and marketing in particular that systemically leverages available resources. Today we’ll look at what it is and how to tell a good growth engine when you see one.
Growth Engineering is a discipline that emphasizes the creation and on-going enhancement of business infrastructure that produces streams of revenue, profits and new customers in a way that steadily fuels brand equity, competitive advantage and, ultimately, shareholder value.
OK, that’s a mouthful. But it comes down to this:
Rather than viewing marketing as an amalgam of campaigns that get produced, implemented and retired, think of it as the design and production of a set of growth engines — systems that spawn growth individually and (if you’re an ace engineer) synergistically.
The mix of growth engines most appropriate for your business vary by business model. The common denominator is that they effectively address the entirely of the customer’s buying cycle. Some growth engines focus on maximizing prospect quality, some focus on minimizing attrition and others (the best ones) seamlessly accomplish both.
In most B2B settings, the better growth engines deal with generating quality leads and then systemically nurturing them until they’re sales-force-ready. There’s a lot of very interesting work going on in this space (checkout www.leadmaker.com as a prime example).
The e-commerce space (including multi-channel retailers) requires a mix of many interconnected growth engines:
- Google page dominance (if you’re still thinking in terms of SEO, paid search and Google products, you need to catch up)
- Amazon and/or eBay efforts
- Loyalty and retention systems
- Retargeting programs
- User-generated content
- Testing new customer acquisition channels
- Never-ending user experience improvements
- Social media outreach and engagement efforts
- Mobile and video strategies that blur the distinction between the in-store and online brand experiences
Multi-channel retailers build on that list to integrate brand-merging mobile and video strategies. This is a VERY exciting and dynamic space.
The Elements of a Good Growth Engine
You know you’ve built a good growth engine when if it has these four characteristics:
- A good growth engine makes maximum use of the resources at hand.
This is more than just improving the efficiency of existing programs or processes — it usually involves a healthy dose of invention and entrepreneurial zeal.
My favorite trick is leveraging hidden resources, something most commonly accomplished by identifying a wider field of stakeholders and then dreaming up new or unexpected ways of aligning their interests. That’s a sure-fire way of channeling more resources into your domain.
The corollary to leveraging hidden resources (or perhaps I should say “in tandem with that”) is the redeployment of existing resources…think people, program dollars, agencies, vendors and technologies. Putting everything on the table has a tendency to unleash your creativity.
Sometimes there simply are not enough resources, so you just have to resort to guts and guile. A few years back we launched Crayola’s first kid’s software with barely two nickels to rub together. (Another classic example of a company funding product development but not marketing.) As it happened we quickly displaced the two market leaders based on a campaign that was nothing more than a head fake to the retailers. I’ll blog that story separately.
- A good growth engine systematically removes self-imposed impediments and constraints.
One of the universal truths I’ve observed is that every company is its own worst enemy. The growth engineer has to overcome all manner of internal obstacles. A very incomplete list includes:
- cultural inertia
- bad products
- bad customer service
- lack of money
- lack of talent
- creaky IT systems
- poor pricing
- market invisibility
- and the worst of all: a flawed or narrow definition of the business or the customers
- A good growth engine supports progressive performance as opposed to postponed perfection.
This is the old “crawl/walk/run” chestnut, but it really really matters. Building anything takes time, so engineer it to produce some level of positive results early.
That gives you the time, resources and (frankly) the credibility to continue building it out and scaling it up.
- A good growth engine is flexible and adaptable.
Software people talk about “brittle” systems. Don’t build anything that easily breaks down or can’t be adapted to new realities as they arise. It’s OK if there’s work involved in adapting it, but you never want to face a rip-and-replace scenario unless there’s absolutely no alternative.
Nothing makes a CFO question your wisdom quite like undoing your own handiwork before the ROI shows up.
I hope you found this introduction to growth engineering in some way helpful. Please feel free to comment or contact me with feedback at scott @ growthagent dot biz.