Over the past 10 years I have worked with companies of all kinds. At Google, first, and as an entrepreneur and consultant, later, my main goal has been to try to understand the dynamics that determine the success and failure of an online business.
In this article I want to share with you the key lessons I have learned over the years, in the hope that they will help you to Accelerate the Online Growth of your Business.
When I began studying successful companies, I soon came to a conclusion, which I believe you have come to as well: there is no Formula for Success.
Although many “gurus” try to make us believe this, there is also no one-size-fits-all system that works for all businesses.
There are too many variables at play, and even companies in the same industry, with similar products and employing similar promotional strategies can sometimes achieve significantly different results.
Over the years, however, I have realized that focusing on variables is often not the best way to go. To best understand the Keys to Success, it pays to focus on the Constants.
Yes, because while it is true that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success or “One Size Fits All” system, it is also true that companies that are successful, especially online, have certain traits in common that are constant in major success stories.
What I have experienced with my own businesses and companies, however, is that these elements must work in synergy to be effective, and this is often a problem.
In fact, it has happened to me several times to speak with colleagues and consultants verticalized in a single area about why a promotional strategy was not bearing the desired fruit. The strategy they had proposed seemed right, but the results were not coming.
In 80% of cases, the strategy was actually right. What was missing were the other pieces of the puzzle….
When you talk to specialists, in fact, the strategies in their target areas are often correct, but they are still ineffective in the grand scheme if not supported by the right synergies.
If you talk to a consultant who is specialized in Social Media or SEO, they will tell you that the secret to online success is Content.
Content. Content. Content.
If you talk to a consultant who is specialized in Media Buying, they will tell you that the secret to online success is having a Funnel and buying the right ad spaces with the right creative.
If you talk to a consultant who is specialized in Email Marketing, they will tell you that the secret to online success is to build a list and create email campaigns regularly.
The truth is that all these strategies are correct but applied individually are still ineffective if the other ingredients for Online Growth are missing.
THE 3 INGREDIENTS FOR ONLINE GROWTH
I already know what you are wondering at this point. “Okay, Antonio, so what are the ingredients for Online Growth?“
Well, In all the success stories that I have analyzed and helped bring about, from small businesses that turnover a few million a year to large multinational companies with turnovers in the millions and even billions, the 3 elements that recur 100 percent of the time are these:
- Ecosystem of Solutions
- Relationships and Community
- Customer Acquisition System
Note that these 3 elements are closely interdependent and each of them feeds and strengthens the others.
Let us try to better understand the role of each of them.
1. Ecosystem of Solutions
Your Solutions Ecosystem is the set of Products or Services you offer to your customers that determine the User Experience People will have with your Brand.
Your Solutions Ecosystem is a subset of your Business Ecosystem, which is a broader concept that includes your network of suppliers, customers, competitors, partners and stakeholders.
The goal of a Product Ecosystem is to create a valuable user experience that enables your business to:
- Simplify your customers’ lives by offering end-to-end solutions
- Increasing Loyalty (Loyalty) and Advocacy
- Maximizing LifeTime Value
The most immediate example of a product ecosystem is Apple, which allows you to buy a computer, smartphone, and tablet and use a range of services such as cloud storage, music and movie streaming, etc.
If you pay attention, however, all successful companies try to create their own ecosystem, and this is not only the case with Amazon, Google and Microsoft, but also with much smaller companies that try to integrate their product or service offerings to build more stable and lasting relationships with their customers.
Your company’s goal, then, must be to shift the focus away from the individual product and start thinking in terms of experiences and ecosystems.
Note that to create a product ecosystem you don’t have to create new products. In many cases it is possible to integrate products and services complementary to ours by building strategic partnerships.
How, then, to create or expand your Business Ecosystem?
The starting point is your “Who.”
- Who are your users?
- What are your users’ problems?
- What are their fears and frustrations?
- What are their aspirations and goals?
In short, you need to start with your Buyer Personas! On them you can model a functional and effective ecosystem of solutions.
Do you know how to create Buyer Personas easily and efficiently? I’ll leave you a link to the template I use in my agency to outline Buyer Personas:
2. Relationships and Community
Relationships and Community are a key element in building solid and lasting growth for your business.
All successful companies have strong relationships built with a Community of users who have common Values they share with the brand.
Having a Community of loyal customers and strong relationships with partners and suppliers not only exponentially accelerates your growth when things are going well, it also helps you mitigate difficult times and overcome crises more easily.
How to build a Community of Supporters and strong relationships?
The answer is obviously not simple. It is a process that takes time, in many cases several years.
The best starting point in this case is your “Why.”
- Why should your customers choose your brand?
- Why is your Brand different from the competition?
- Why is the world a better place with your brand?
In short, you need to define your Unique Value Proposition.
Based on your Unique Value Proposition it will be easier to build your Community.
The second step is to create value on an ongoing basis for your audience.
Having a strong Community, along with a Solutions Ecosystem, will enable you to maximize your Customer LifeTime Value and your company’s profitability.
If you haven’t already done so, try summarizing your Unique Value Proposition first in a Tweet of up to 280 characters (less is more) and then a 60-character slogan.
Does your Unique Value Proposition help you sell more? I have prepared for you a free resource that will help you create a successful Unique Value Proposition, or optimize your own:
3. Customer Acquisition System
A Customer Acquisition system is a set of strategies, techniques, processes and tools that allows you to get new customers in a measurable, repeatable and predictable way.
Many marketers often misuse the term funnel to refer to the Customer Acquisition System. Actually the funnel is a tool you can use within the Customer Acquisition System but it is not the Customer Acquisition System itself.
How do you build and optimize a Customer Acquisition System?
Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all Customer Acquisition System. There are variables specific to your business to analyze such as your buyer personas and your ecosystem of products and services.
Nevertheless, all Customer Acquisition Systems start from the same foundation: the Consumer’s Journey (Buyer’s Journey).
The consumer journey may also vary from sector to sector and product to product, but in general the steps common to all sectors and products are as follows 5:
- Awareness (Notoriety) – Your potential Customer knows your brand and/or solutions.
- Interest – Your potential Customer is interested in your brand and/or solutions.
- Consideration – Your potential Client begins to concretely evaluate your brand and/or to your solutions.
- Desire (Desire) – Your potential Customer begins to desire your solutions.
- Purchase – Your potential Customer purchases one or more solutions.
An effective Customer Acquisition System can only begin with the analysis and understanding of these steps.
Based on this analysis, my Team builds a Strategy that usually consists of the following steps:
In phase 1, the Attraction phase, we seek to reach a profiled audience using content and media tailored to their needs.
In phase 2, the Engagement phase, we try to “separate the wheat from the chaff” by qualifying our traffic into Leads, or users who may be interested in your solutions.
In phase 3, the Persuasion phase, we begin Lead Nurturing and Lead Prospecting, i.e., we try to evolve our relationship with leads by transforming them from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) and, therefore, into sales-ready prospects.
Phase 4, the actual Selling phase, can be segmented into 2 sub-phases: the Pitch and the Bid. In the first, we complete the path of persuasion and position begin to position our solution as the smartest choice to solve our prospect’s need. In the second we close the transaction with an irresistible offer that is impossible to pass up.
Note that these steps occur in any conversion and purchase pathway, whatever your industry and your product or service.
Of course, if you sell low-cost product, or solutions to compelling and unrepressible problems, then these steps will happen quickly, often on impulse or otherwise unconsciously. If you sell high-cost products or services, these steps could take days, weeks or months. In some cases, years. In general, the length of your conversion path depends on both your industry and products/services and your target buyers/consumers.
I could talk about how to structure a Customer Acquisition System for hours but I’m afraid this article would become an endless brick the length of “War and Peace…”
If you want to learn more about this topic, you can access a free MasterClass where I go into more detail about this system:
The MasterClass lasts about an hour or so, but if you have the patience to complete it, I’m sure you’ll find several valuable insights in it to help you grow your Business. At the end of the MasterClass, I will also share with you a valuable resource to help you build your customer acquisition plan.
In any case, I would love to hear your thoughts on these topics, so if you would like, I would be very happy if you would share them with me in the comments of this post, or privately on Linkedin or via email.
Specifically, I would be interested to know:
- What is your company’s Solutions Ecosystem?
- What is your Unique Value Proposition?
- What are your Customer Acquisition Strategies and Systems?
I am waiting for your answers.