In the same way that there’s no single industry in which growth couldn’t be applied, there’s also no single timing or strategy of a company that can’t be matched with a growth initiative altogether. However, company strategy and growth strategy must be perfectly aligned.
Sidenote: the growth mindset (the cultural practice of validating ideas, taking bets, making decisions based on data, of cross-department projects and collaboration) should be incentivized and nurtured as early as possible. This isn’t to say you should be building a separate growth team from start, but you should be applying growth-related practices from day 1!
So, how can you match your company strategy with your growth strategy?
There are an infinite number of strategies that can be adopted by organizations but, for clarity purposes, let’s break it down into three main stages:
- The PMF company stage: you are searching for a niche in the market that gets a lot of value out of your product or service and that’s big enough for you to grow in it.
- The Scale and Optimization company stage: you have found your niche, you’ve settled on your offer and you are making the most out of it so you can gain as much market share as possible.
- The Expansion and Innovation company stage: you’ve conquered your niche, and grown vertically as much as possible and it’s time to expand into new markets, new offers, and new ways to grow.
So, what should a growth strategy look like for each company strategy?
I wish there was a one-size-fits-all hack that we could simply copy and paste and ring the NASDAQ bell, but the reality is each company will have to find what works for their niche, for their industry, for their moment, for their customer. But, there are some common parallels we can set for each stage.
- The PMF growth strategy: there are numerous different definitions of PMF out there, my favorite one — because it nails it down to an equation — is from Sean Ellis: ask your customers how they would feel if they no longer could use your product.
At this point in time, you are optimizing for quality over quantity — the latter comes in the next stage. It’s more important to find in which direction you’d like to grow than it is to find how much you can grow in all directions.
- The Scale and Optimization growth strategy: once you find the direction you want to grow, you should probably have a better understanding of where your desired customers are and how they are solving their problems right now. That’s all you need to try to validate some channels to get to them and optimize the heck out of them:
- The Innovation and Expansion growth strategy: as startups and companies, we are expected never to stop growing. So assuming you’ve become a leader in your market and there isn’t much more territory left to be conquered, it’s time to find new land to expand to. At this stage, growth will start to make bigger and riskier bets:
As growth professionals our instincts are always screaming for us to focus on the highest impact opportunities but, respecting the time to market as opposed to our own desires will ensure not only better company results (as you get what you need) but, most importantly, will provide a strong basis for future — and riskier — endeavors since, by the time you get there, you’ve already a proven process, a documented strategy, company-wide respect and engagement and, more resources at your disposal!
At the PMF stage, quality > quantity!
At the Scale and Traction stage, quality < quantity!
At the Innovation and Expansion stage, quantity + quality!