How strong is your Business Powerline & why should you care?
When you exercise, a powerful core makes you better at any sport or movement, improves your balance and reduces the risk of injury. Likewise, a powerful business core, or ‘business powerline’ will improve your ability to innovate successfully, to maximise productivity and to grow in a sustainable way.
Too many businesses look to create the next new thing without checking they have alignment of four key areas in the business;
If you can’t clearly articulate these answers for your business or business unit, then you need to get ready to do some planks! Ok, so it’s a bit hard to do planks in business attire but you get what I mean.
Assess where you are and what strengths and resources you have today before you determine your growth strategy.
So let’s look at each of these pillars in a bit more detail.
Strategy: What are we doing and why are we doing it?
This is a snapshot of the here and now, not where you want to be or what sounds good. It needs to capture in a succinct manner your why of business because this is why you have the people you have, the level of success you have and the capabilities you have to step it up for growth innovation.
If there are gaps – that’s ok. So for example, if you need a stronger Partner network or resource pool to prevent you having to build from scratch, focus on getting this in place first. Then move towards your growth innovation goals.
Marketing: Who are we doing it for and why?
This is a focus on your market base, your customer base and why you serve them from two points of view:
- Why does your customer care about what you do? In other words, is the job you help them complete of value to them and are they willing to pay the price you are asking for the offering?
- Why are you as a business focused on this marketplace? Is it too broad or too niche? Is it a growth market or plateauing?
Value Proposition Design and Business Model mapping are both highly useful frameworks at this stage as they marry up your strategy with how you as a business create, capture and deliver value to your Customer base. Tips include:
- Look for the gaps in your business model and question them.
- Look at your Portfolio – perhaps you need to consider wrapping more services around certain offerings to lift their value to your Customer base. Perhaps you need to look at how easy or hard it is to understand what your offering does (ie: productise your service or catalogue your services better).
Sales: How do we communicate and sell our value proposition(s) end to end?
Too often I see businesses view sales communication from the inside out only. That is, marketing speaks to the target market, sales speak to the customer and everything between the sales contract being signed and the customer being onboarded is a process of clicking your heels three times and hoping you end up at ‘happy’ customer experience land.
A massive flaw in this thought process, in my opinion, is that there is little or no alignment between marketing, sales, and delivery. Consequently, the business cannot deliver what it sells which is a massive weakness in the Business Powerline that will significantly hamper ability to innovate and grow.
Marketing (often) sees Sales as a group of people constantly wanting to sell offerings that the business doesn’t have (cue: ‘if we only had this offering I could completely smash my figures this quarter!) or asking for discounts “because this Customer is a key win for the business and we need to do whatever we can to get them/keep them”.
Likewise, Marketing is (often) seen by Sales as a group of people who “just don’t get it. They are talking about digital strategy, next-generation offerings (insert relevant industry trend) etc but my customers just want to know how I can help them today”.
As a result, because of these blurry lines, when the customer does sign the contract and expectations have been set, cold reality hits. A conversation typically sounds like this:
Account Manager: So I’ve told the Customer they will have X by June.
PS/Support/Contracts Person: Well you didn’t speak to me first and I can’t do this because I am involved in another major rollout….I won’t be even able to look at X until July at best.
Account Manager: Whaaatttt? No, we need to do this now. I will talk to my manager who will talk to your manager.
PS/Support/Contracts Person: Great. Ask them how the cloning process is working out! I can only do one project at a time. Also, the scope I created for you said that to deliver X I would need to develop an additional piece of software to integrate with their systems. This will take at least 2 months. I hope you pointed that out to the Customer?
Account Manager: I thought you were exaggerating so I told the Customer it would take 3 weeks tops……. surely it can’t take 2 months for that incy bitsy piece of code?!
PS/Support/Contracts Person: By the time I have agreed with their IT team how I am going to do this and get the authorisation to go into their back end, yes. Yes, it will take 2 months……
Account Manager: Crap…..
Sounds like a conversation you see in Dilbert right?! But the reality is these conversations happen and if businesses/business units don’t address them then all the innovation in the world won’t change their ultimate outcome.
There needs to be an end to end alignment in what I call the create-sell-deliver process. Also, Marketing needs to treat Sales as one of its customers – if Sales doesn’t get it, neither will your Customers!
Delivery: What experience are we creating for our Customer?
If you can’t deliver an experience that is positive for your Customer then you need to fix this. Tools such as the Agile methodology Scrum could prove valuable here to help you identify and quickly (2-week sprints typically) develop solutions that matter to your Customer. Because Scrum looks to the Customer as the guide (as opposed to Management), you are more likely to bypass the navel-gazing and over complication of solutions.
So now you have done the work to strengthen your Business Powerline, you are in a position to build your innovation muscle for long-term business growth!h of these pillars in a bit more detail.