By Candace Huntly
Your business – like you as a person – will go through different stages. This is called the business life cycle. You’re going to go through growing pains, growth spurts, that awkward period where you are “just trying to find yourself” (you know the one)… And then once you actually figure out who you want to be when you grow up, you reach the “dinner party” years where you are happy with the people you have surrounded yourself with and you are more selective of who joins the fold. But life doesn’t end at the dinner party years. Sometimes you are OK with the circle tightening, but sometimes you just want to use those golden years to learn new things and expand now that you feel like you have “been there done that”. So life takes on a new meaning and a new direction.
Ask 10 different business consultants what the stages in a business life cycle are and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. Some may be similar, but everyone sees the world differently. (For what it’s worth, that’s why I always maintain that you should make sure anyone you work with is a good fit for you, your business, and your brand.) These are the different business life cycle stages as I see them:
- Development Stage: At this point, you are building out your business idea and testing various factors to see what will work best with your target audience.
- Launch: Ready, set, go! It’s time to introduce your brand to the world… Well, maybe just your niche audience.
- Growth: With a focus on growth, you’re likely expanding your audience reach and refining your product or service offering as you gain valuable customer feedback.
- Maturity: Growth starts to level off and you get into a groove where you know your audience and they know you.
- Decline or Renewal: You will be making some tough decisions about the future of your business.
While your overall marketing should always be focused on building and maintaining a customer base, at each stage in your business life cycle, your marketing needs are vastly different. Here are some different ways you can approach your marketing strategy.
Before you introduce your hard work to your audience, you need to lay the proper foundations to launch and grow a successful business. At this stage, you should be focused on the idea validation process and testing and getting to know your audience and what they want from you. When it comes to your marketing at this stage, it’s all about building a strategy based on your research findings. You will likely be focused on those foundational aspects like building an informational hub (likely your website) and drafting great content to showcase the benefits of your products and services. You should consider Search Engine Optimization (SEO), focusing on the right keywords for your web content, setting up and launching your social media platforms, and building teaser campaigns – whether digital or in person.
If budget is a major consideration, consider putting more emphasis on digital tactics where you can reach a broader audience with fewer hard costs. Of course, all of the hard work you are doing to get to know your ideal customer should dictate where you want to focus your efforts in terms of marketing channels.
Depending on how big of a splash you want to make at this stage, it may a pretty expensive investment for marketing a business launch. If you think about it, no one knows about you yet, so you are starting from scratch. At this stage, your focus should be on educating people about you and what you have to offer. It’s your chance to make a great first impression – and take audience feedback and put it to action.
If you have a limited budget, you can still make a great first impression and have a huge impact. In fact, regardless of budget, the way you execute your launch can set you up for success in the long-term. On the flip side, it can also delay your success if you fumble some of the details.
Try to think creatively about how to launch. You want your methods to match the brand personality and what your audience might want from you. This is why the foundational development stage is so important!
After you have launched and ironed out any details that need to be tweaked operationally. Your focus can turn to actively growing the business. At this stage you should look to increase your reach and audience size to grow both your customer base and your revenues. Look to add more promotional activity to fuel growth. Consider things like a paid social strategy, contesting, event sponsorships and other high visibility opportunities. Depending on what you sell, you could also start looking to work with influencers to help you amplify your marketing message beyond your current audience.
You put in the hard work and now you have established yourself in your market. At this stage in the game your growth will slow considerably and you should focus on maintaining your market share and staying ahead of competitors. As part of your marketing strategy, lean into the fact that you are the go-to expert, have a wealth of experience working with customers, and that you are a legacy brand with a high trust factor. But remember, mature doesn’t have to mean boring. It also doesn’t mean you can’t try new things with your marketing.
A little note: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Decline or Renewal Stage
At this stage you are at a crossroads with a big decision to make. It is either time to say goodbye by shutting things down or selling or you could decide to reinvent yourself and become the Madonna of businesses. I mean, Madonna is the Madonna of businesses, but you get it. If you decide to reinvent yourself it could be through an entire rebranding process or even just tweaking specific aspects of your brand to reach new audiences or focus on a different aspect of the products/services you offer. Regardless, you will need to revisit your brand messaging and how your brand story is presented.
What stage of the business life cycle are you at with your business? If you’re not sure how to market your business with where you’re at, book a free consultation with us and we’ll help you figure things out!