Why a growth strategy might miss the point

Why a growth strategy might miss the point

I am complicit in choreographing leadership summits and national sales meetings titled, Fit for Growth, Go for Growth and Excel. The classical marketing literature holds that growth is not a strategy but the outcome of one.

Guest author – John Gregory @opencityinc @gregiej

We criticize governments for being short-term focused, yet, we spend our careers chasing month end, quarter end and year-end fiscal targets. Where does the customer feature in these growth strategies? Here we explore why growth might be missing the point, with 7 steps to focus on delighting the customer instead.

“The results confirmed a strong correlation between customer centricity and revenue growth and identified the essential features of high-performing, customer-centric organizations. These fell into three broad categories; a superior ability to provide a consistent, personalized, meaningful experience across all touchpoints; a singular commitment from every department to meeting customer needs; and the presence of an insights engine.”1

Delight the Customer – H2H (Human-to-Human) business

For back-office staff and even for customer-facing teams, a strategy for growth is hard to internalize. It lacks that fire in the belly, can’t-wait-to-get-to-work motivation.

“Reinforce the idea that it’s everyone’s job to uncover insights – a challenge that motivates and engages employees at every level.”1

It’s not a coincidence that many of the companies who are focused on the customer are ranked among the top most desirable places to work. We must start by leading by example. As a marketing leader, I championed the idea of an executive agenda, Delighting the Customer. It never saw the light of day.

The inbound methodology2 has brought this into sharp focus; with delighting the customer, the final stage of the funnel. A delighted customer will advocate on behalf of your brand and refer new customers to populate the top of your funnel.

The development of detailed fictional personas3 is an excellent way to gain a deep comprehension of your customers. Validation of the personas with real customers is warranted. I would argue personas are never complete, as every customer interaction should be an opportunity to refine the persona.

The mapping of personas and buyer journey supported by customer satisfaction research better helps us understand the way in which our customers wish to interact. Would a live chat function on your website help? What are their preferred ways of communicating with you? When he coined the term H2H, Bryan Kramer wrote4:

 “Communication should not be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, every one of which has spent time in both the dark and delightful parts of life. That’s human to human”.

Customer satisfaction

There is a poor level of comprehension of net promoter score among such educated senior executives. It likely points to the fact that measuring customer satisfaction has not been important. Net Promoter can be a simple concept to grasp. It interprets whether as a business you have more customers likely to promote your business than not recommend it (detractors). NPS is further explained here 

You can read an ArjoHuntleigh case study on running global customer satisfaction surveys using Netigate here. It provided an unfiltered opportunity to listen to our customers.

Conducting customer research teaches you a great deal about how we think and respond. I now complete lots of surveys to see what best practices are, or more often are not, being applied. For example; when a customer encounters a mandatory survey question where they cannot choose between various checkboxes, and there is no don’t know/ not applicable option; most customers will exit the survey.

A Customer Experience & Loyalty supplement in The Times, (March 29, 2017) provided these recommendations for conducting customer surveys:

  • Customers are more likely to complete short surveys;
  • Open-ended feedback has greater value than tick boxes;
  • Text analytics is the most effective way to analyze large quantities of open-ended feedback and extract valuable insights;
  • If you don’t act on your customers’ feedback, there’s absolutely no point in collecting it.

The CBC’s Metro Morning host, Matt Galloway advises to Listen for a living. Listen to this eloquent podcast segment.

Recent incidents in how airlines serve their customers, bring sharp attention to how brands listen to their customers through social channels.

“86% of online consumer feedback is missed by brands,” stated Social Media Examiner.

Replacing the strategy for growth ideology

So what about your growth strategy? If growth is not the objective of strategy, then what is left?

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great cited that it was not that businesses lacked strategy but that they failed to execute it effectively. While executives proclaim that they’re pursuing a customer intimacy strategy, the financial orientation suggests otherwise.

“Aligning your company’s value proposition as closely as possible to your customers’ real expectations is the key to competitive advantage and better profitability” 5.

We can no longer survive using traditional business approaches because that fits with the old-fashioned siloed way in which our organisations function. No wonder tech start-ups are creating new business models by being nimble and not weighed down by the “Well that’s the way we have always done it” mentality.

“For an insights engine to be collaborative, experimental, and so on, it needs a culture that breaks from the past.”1

In the HBR “Building an Insights Engine” 6 article, the authors state,

“Driven by the imperative to become customer-centric, leading firms are now completing the transformation of market research groups into true insights engines with a fundamentally strategic role.”

Advancing a long-term customer intimacy strategy

  1. Make this a year of listening by committing to a strategy of delighting your customer
  2. Read Bryan Kramer’s book about Human-to-Human
  3. Enrol on the free HubSpot Academy Inbound Certificate
  4. Encourage your customers to post open reviews
  5. Conduct an ongoing and annual customer satisfaction survey with net promoter score and asking why
  6. Act on the insights and corrective actions from listening to your customers
  7. Consider Psychmentation research


British band Muse sings that “An economy based on endless growth is Unsustainable”. Focusing on the customer is a long-term strategy whose outcome will be growth.



  1. Building an Insights Engine – How Unilever got to know its customers. HBR September 2016 pages 64-74 by Frank Van Den Driest, Stan Sthanunathan & Keith Weed.
  2. Inbound marketing. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbound_marketing
  3. Retrieved July 26, 2017 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persona_(user_experience)
  4. Bryan Kramer. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from: http://www.bryankramer.com/there-is-no-more-b2b-or-b2c-its-human-to-human-h2h/
  5. Medius International Inc. Retrieved July 28, 2017 from: http://mediusinternational.com/main/index.php/psychmentation/
  6. Harvard Business Review. Building an insights engine. Retrieved July 28, 2017 from: https://hbr.org/2016/09/building-an-insights-engine


Guest author: John Gregory, Opencity Inc. https://www.opencityinc.com 

Featured image courtesy of JP Valery


John Gregory runs Opencity Inc., mentoring international healthcare businesses on building thought leadership and online authority. He is an advisor to several Medtech start-ups on strategic planning and communications.  John is a skilled strategic marketing consultant with deep experience in international healthcare communications. Speaker, author and innovator of healthcare outcome models around preventable healthcare-acquired conditions.  John has spent 25 years in healthcare working in Canada, UK and USA for companies including Bayer, Smith & Nephew, & the Getinge Group. Additionally, John is a recognised international canoeing sports journalist. @gregiej


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