• Angelo Ponzi

3 Pillars to Build an Effective Growth Strategy - Pillar #1, Insights

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

The most frequent requests I get from new business clients is, “I want a website, a brochure, a social media campaign!” Understandably, they want to jump out there and generate new leads, build lists, etc. They want tactics.

Unfortunately, they rarely want to spend time understanding the dynamics of the market in which they are competing, and to think through the strategies to build an enduring brand. So my first job is to put up a “slow down for strategy” sign.

Then, I introduce them to the “3 Pillars” of how to define their business growth: Insights, Brand, and Plan. And yes, the order does matter. I genuinely believe that if you follow these pillars, you will have an effective strategic growth plan.

Let’s get to it. The first in this 3-part series is Insights.


You need to start here.

It’s extremely important to understand what the voice of your customer is, what your competitors are doing, and the overall makeup of the marketplace in which you’re competing in order to define your strategies.

There are many ways to gather the necessary data to help you identify the insights to help you develop your strategies; however, two of the principal methodologies are qualitative and quantitative research.

Qualitative research uses methods like interviews, focus groups, conversations, etc. For instance, when I worked in the action sports industry, we would sometimes go to a teen’s house and look to see what boards they owned and what brands they had in their closet; when I worked in the restaurant industry, we would literally help out at the counter to understand customer questions and concerns. This ethnographic research also included the numerous focus groups with potential customers to determine variables on how behaviors such as how they select the wine or spirit they drink, which shirt or pair of shoes they want to wear, and even how they clean their houses.

Quantitative research is methods resulting in the statistical work, projections, predictive analytics that give you confidence in the decisions you make for your business. So this is when someone says something like “35% of your market says. . .” meaning they have done some type of quantitative study, segmentation work, surveys, etc. to try and understand the market and have confidence in what the data is telling them.

Caution: Always be careful when someone implements a qualitative study but reports the data quantitatively. For example, someone goes out and interviews 20 people, and then comes back and says “47% of my interviewees that represent your market say (whatever).” This is good feedback as an observation, but it’s not data you should base important company altering decisions.

When you think about the types of information you should know or data to collect, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why do your customers choose you? Is it because they love your product, your customer service, your company, or your price-point? There is always a reason why your customer chose you over someone else, and you need to understand why. If you understand that, you can use that in your messaging strategies.

2. Who are your real competitors? I have been in meetings where business leaders will say that they don’t have any competitors. They are the one and only leader in their industry. Wrong! Everyone has a competitor. Someone else is knocking on the door of your customers or potential customers. So think about who your real competitors are: is it across your entire marketplace, across different verticals; across different demographics or firmographics?

3. How do you target your customers to meet their biggest challenge? What are their pain points you are trying to solve? What challenges do they have in the marketplace? If you don’t talk to them, however, you are just guessing. We want to take the guesswork out of this. Don’t guess. Guessing can be filled with bias, especially with your own people g