Growing a business in a stagnant economy - B2B Marketing & Exporting

Ed Marsh | Dec 3, 2012

Jeremy Grantham - On the Road to Zero Growth

In a rather dry, lengthy and scholarly article (not bad things - just reality in case you are tempted to read it) the founder of the global investment management firm GMO1 postulates that a complex set of relationships between various factors (primarily productivity and natural resource availability) likely portend 5-6 decades of essentially 0% growth.

0% growth for five to six's that built into your business plan and projections?

He projects that "all the remaining growth will be in those developing economies that function effectively in the face of the resource and environmental squeeze." 

Certainly there are any number of brilliant economists who will offer other scenarios - and many which will fit comfortably into your business plan.  There's only one problem - and it's one that you already know but you try to keep forgetting.

It really feels different this time...because it is different

Maybe in the end its not 5-6 decades. Maybe its not 0%.  But helloooo - no matter how hard you wish, it's not going back to the halcyon days of the late 80s.  Period.  (And don't let an occasional outlier - a higher growth quarter - lull you back into complacency!)

So instead of quibbling over just how anemic it might be (on a continuum from flatline to ICU) how's about we collectively put that energy into a solid strategy that accommodates the reality.

What has worked...won't.

Traditional assumptions...will be shown to be invalid.

Accepted wisdom...will be comically naive.  

But if the tried and true won't work, what will?

Be a growth magnet - and detector

It's a business truism that many successful ventures are launched during challenging financial times.  When the upside isn't so rosy, the downside isn't as daunting.  So take the same approach to your existing business.  View this period of slow growth not as something to be endured, but rather as a catalyst to position yourself for breakout growth.  Here's how.

First, make it easy for folks to find you; to interact with you; to learn about you; and to engage you.  Be a magnet for business!  You'll do that by evolutionizing your marketing.  And make sure you do it in a way so that all the amazingly creative folks out there noodling interesting ideas will learn about your core solutions in a general enough way that they can envision new applications.  You've got your own R&D, but there's a world of open source R&D at your disposal too.  Present your company's solutions so that others can build on them - growing your business in the process.

What do I mean?  Just because you come from a certain industry background; invented your technology to address a problem you know well from that experience; and traditionally market it to folks who have the same background, speak the same language and have the same problem to overcome...doesn't mean that's your only target.  Other folks in other industries with other problems (maybe similar) that you don't know about are looking for solutions too.  Be easy for them to find!

Second, go where the growth is!  Remember where Grantham said the growth would be?  "all the remaining growth will be in those developing economies"  That's not going to be in Kansas anymore.   Rather it means targeting new markets with an international business development strategy.

Growth market strategy

Many American businesses hesitate to export.  Typically that hesitation is predicated on misunderstandings of risk.  And often those misunderstandings originate in myths - or in the experiences of companies which take a haphazard approach to global sales - you might call them "accidental exporters."

But realistically how many things do you do well when you do them by accident?  Honest answer....not many, right?  So if "accidental" is the problem then "on purpose" must be the answer.  And what does "on purpose" look like when it comes to new markets?  It's an integrated strategy.

That means there's no instant gratification.  It takes commitment, work and patience.  It also takes (if you want to do it right and efficiently) a lot of expertise - more than you get from a couple "stale bagel breakfast export briefings" - and resources.  But there are solutions to both of those too.  Uncle Sam may have resources to chip in, and Consilium has the expertise.

Contact us today to learn about how our international business development experience can be brought to bear on your challenge of growth in a stagnant economy.


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