Scale-up is a distinct phase of an SME’s growth journey, where the business experiences, or can stimulate through its own positive action, a period of high growth, with a strategy focusing on the more effective use, allocation and tracking of its resources. SMEs can hit a period of scale-up at any time when the intent and vision of its ownership match positive market conditions or opportunities. The scale-up phase is typically the quickest and most significant stage of growth and one that can bring the most challenges for an SME.
SME Growth Expert, Joanne McCaffrey shares her expertise in Demand, the third Parameter of Performance that can unlock potential and tackle the inconsistencies to enable an organisation to scale-up.
Generating and managing consistent levels of new sales demand is an ongoing challenge for many SMEs who are often reliant on an inbound approach to new business development – website enquiries, word of mouth, publicity and social media. In some cases, this is due to a hang-over of practices from being a micro company and striving for their initial market traction and name recognition. In most cases though it is the primary new business generation route, never having successfully implemented an effective and reliable outbound sales process.
Whilst inbound can provide enough sustainable business, for an SME looking to scale it will seldom be sufficient. The resource and time commitments to increase the inbound volume can be more than many SMEs can spare and, more crucially, with an inbound only approach an SME has far less control over who enquires – increasing volume doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from the profiles of customers who will a) convert well and b) be the most profitable customers to work with. Being purely reactive can’t accelerate the sales pipeline needed to scale.
Going proactive and outbound requires a change in company mindset and in practices, but the benefits are inordinate. SMEs would need to carefully consider who their most profitable customers/categories of projects are? Where are those prospects? How many are reachable? Where will they get the data from? What processes are needed? Who has the skills to deliver this? What technologies can we use to automate this? And how will performance be monitored?
These questions will take some careful consideration, but one area all SMEs can start with is re-evaluating their value proposition. A value proposition is the way an SME’s product or service solves a problem to add value for a customer. Working solely inbound, many SMEs will never have to critique their value proposition.
It involves looking at your product or service through the customer’s eyes. How do you help them solve a problem? What pain-points do they have that you can alleviate? It also involves understanding the difference between a ‘feature’ and a ‘benefit’. A value proposition centred on benefits will convert more significantly sales than one focussed on features, particularly when those benefits can be quantified. Measurable benefits are easier to communicate during sales pitches, provide differentiation from competitors, and demonstrate the impact which has been delivered for a customer. Time, cost, satisfaction, reducing waste, increased sales, reducing downtime, avoiding fines, creating growth are all measurable benefits upon which a clearer value proposition can be created.
Beyond this, the most successful SME will understand and maximise how a value proposition is used and varied for different customer profiles, sectors, or geo-demographics that they target. They will clarify and tailor messages that will resonate with specific target audiences.
So how can SMEs recognise they would benefit from improving their approach to demand generation? They can ask themselves: How consistent is your sales pipeline? How consistently do you attract the most profitable profile of customers? Do you wish you had more customer of a particular profile? Do you know which areas of your marketing spend generate the best conversion and ROI?
If the answer to any of these is less than comfortable, then reflecting critically your demand generation could carry real profitable benefits.
The SME Productivity & Innovation Centre intensively supports SMEs on how to reimagine and implement processes that can drive sustainable and consistent sales demand, as well as address the other principles of scaling-up. The support is fully-funded for SMEs in Lancashire or the Liverpool City Region.
Our supported SMEs grow on average by 29%. Over 160 SMEs have been supported since 2018 and the Centre has created over 230 jobs across the region.
Read our case studies from SMEs in manufacturing, professional services, IT, and more – www.edgehill.ac.uk/pic