3 Essential Elements for Unlocking Consistent, Reliable, and Measurable Growth

A few years ago, I spent several hours prepping for a meeting with our CEO to discuss initiatives to propel our growth. Department heads across the organization were asked to report on what was working well in the organization and how we could improve to ensure we delivered our plan to our board.

During the meeting we each provided perspective and used data to back our rationale. Interestingly, we pulled data from the same sources and came up with different perspectives and conclusions. Needless to say, this led to a frustrated CEO and a less than effective meeting.

It wasn’t that we had bad data, but the data was influenced by the different goals, objectives, and viewpoints of the customer experience each department came to the table with. Every executive in the room had their own perspective backed by data that provided insight into what customers were doing and when they were doing it. They also had an opinion on why, but there was not supporting data to substantiate their best guesses.

Typically, the data we’re looking at gives us undeniable evidence about what our customers are doing and when and where, but it fails to provide insights into why. In The Ultimate Marketing Machine authored by Marc de Swaan Arons, Frank van den Driest, and Keith Weed that appeared in the Harvard Business Review July 2014 issue, the author’s research pointed out:

…knowing what and when an individual customer is doing something is now table stakes. Integrating it with knowledge of why yields new insights into customer’s needs and how to meet them.

As a founder or CEO of a startup it’s likely you’re not experiencing a shortage of ideas about what you could do to grow your company. At the same time, you’re likely finding that limited resources won’t allow you to pursue every idea. It’s a paradox — unlimited ideas for growth, but limited resources. Every organization faces it.

I believe directing your efforts to address the following three elements can help you narrow your focus to the initiatives most likely to drive considerable impact.

Essential Element #1: Identifying Your Promoters

In 2006, nearly a decade ago, Fred Reichheld published The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth. Since then, it has been revised and version 2.0 has been published. In the book, he introduced the Net Promoter Score (NPS), and categorized an organization’s customers into three types: Promoters, Passives and Detractors. Promoters were identified as those who would recommend an organization’s goods and services to their friends, family, and acquaintances.

NPS has since become a standard many organizations use to guide and benchmark their performance. I’m scratching the surface on Reichheld’s work, but the essence is that you can identify your promoters by asking one simple question. Would you recommend [insert company name] to a friend or acquaintance? Those who answer yes are your promoters.

It is a great tool for identifying your promoters, but it doesn’t tell you why your promoters are your promoters, which leads us to the second essential element to consistent, reliable and measurable growth.

Essential Element #2: Uncovering Why Your Promoters are Your Promoters

In 2003, a group of executives I was working with at a subsidiary of JWT had developed a methodology for uncovering, visualizing, and defining customer perceptions. Their work started at the dawn of the new millennium and we have continued to refine it. We call it Perceptrics™. It breaks customer perceptions into three dimensions:

  • The attributes that influence customers decision to purchase
  • A customer’s comfort and confidence in the organizations ability to deliver those things important to him or her
  • A customer’s familiarity with the organization its products and services

These three dimensions create a customer’s value perception of your organization, its products, and services. You’ve probably heard it said that your brand is not what you say it is, but what your customers say it is. What your best customers — your promoters — are saying to their friends and acquaintances about your organization is a great source of information to help you grow the organization. Their friends and acquaintances are also an untapped source of leads to propel the organization’s growth.

When you can discretely uncover and understand the attributes that your promoters value most you can use them to intentionally craft customer experiences and marketing initiatives.

Your promoters represent a fastest path to the growth for the organization. In 2006, we coined our strategy for focusing on them the Prospect to Promoter™ Dynamic Growth Strategy. I have used it to help organizations improve the overall customer experience and craft marketing initiatives that improve customer value perceptions. This leads us to the third essential element of creating consistent reliable and measurable growth — Impressions Management.

Essential Element #3: Impressions Management

Every interaction your prospects and customers have with your organization creates an impression. We call these individual interactions impression points and they include: sales, marketing, technology, product, customer support, and operations among others.

Each impression point has the opportunity to negatively or positively impact customer value perceptions. When we put all of these impression points together they create an overall perception of the organization. Ultimately, as executives, what we’re trying to ensure is that every impression point a customer has with us positively impacts their value perceptions.

When you uncover and understand what your promoters value most, you can use those insights to increase the likelihood that every impression point positively impacts customer value perceptions.

Impressions management is part art and part science. It involves the science of understanding discretely where your organization is succeeding and failing to create comfort and confidence in the things your customers value most. The art is in using that information to craft compelling experiences and marketing initiatives that improve value perceptions.

If you recall, we started with a story about executives coming prepared to a meeting with data from the same sources but drawing somewhat different conclusions based on their different perspectives. As founders and CEOs, it’s important for us to remember each department in an organization has a unique view of a customer’s experience.

Creating consistency and reliability throughout the organization is a function of discretely understanding how your customers’ value perceptions change over time and adjusting the experience to meet their needs.

So to recap, the three essential elements to consistent, reliable, and measurable growth are:

  • identifying your promoters
  • uncovering, and understanding why your promoters are your promoters
  • practicing Impressions Management

As I wrap this article up I’ve just recently become aware that WebLink International, where I was formerly Head of Marketing, has won the Tech Point Mira Sales & Marketing award for 2015, a prestigious award for tech organizations based in Indiana. The three essential elements I’ve shared in this article aren’t just theory. We put them into practice at WebLink International and received results and rewards in multiple ways.

You can do the same to change the trajectory of your organization and achieve scalable growth that gets the attention of investors. Keep pressing forward and make the relentless pursuit of perception an element of your strategic direction.

Photo by: Ståle Grut

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Chris Bass
Chris Bass

Chris Bass is founder of PerceptionStrategy, a brand management and customer experience consulting firm. Perception strategy helps executives understand what it means to be customer centric and helps their organizations become more customer centric. Chris believes the status quo is the greatest threat to growth and the relentless pursuit of perception is the anecdote. Learn more about his firm at perceptionstrategy.com.
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