Nearly 20 years ago, my wife came home from a routine doctor’s appointment and told me she was pregnant. Among other things, this prompted me to think about the kind of employment I wanted. To maximize time with my family, I certainly didn’t want to travel a lot. And I didn’t want to make the family sacrifices I figured were needed to climb the corporate ladder. Starting my own business seemed like the perfect choice.While that moment doesn’t seem like it was too long ago, my son (with whom my wife was pregnant) is now looking at colleges, and I am running a business that’s 18 years old. While my business hasn’t changed as drastically as my son has over this time, it has clearly evolved. And it is this evolution which has kept it relevant and successful for so long.
When I first launched my company, it was called Best Business Plan and I purchased the domain name BestBizPlan.com. Being the savvy graphic designer (not really), I choose a unique font and changed the “s” to a dollar sign, so our logo read Be$tBizPlan. Fortunately I brought on my co-founder Jay Turo soon after, and with his guidance, changed our name to something a little more sophisticated — Growthink.Like BestBizPlan.com, Growthink’s focus was to develop business plans for startups. This is still a core service we offer today. But over the years, we have added new services, products, customer segments and lead magnets as discussed below.
Particularly when we started, the number one reason entrepreneurs and business owners came to us was for funding. They needed a business plan to present to banks and investors. Naturally, upon completion of client business plans, they would ask if we could help raise funding.
Initially, we didn’t offer this service since we didn’t have the expertise and experience nor the required licensing to do so. But, within a couple years, we developed services to help clients raise funding. We also developed M&A expertise to help our clients sell their companies or acquire others.
And when we found ourselves spending a lot of time, energy and money purchasing lists of prospective investors, we launched an investor research service to provide such lists to ourselves and clients.
Likewise we launched a market research service to conduct market research needed to properly advise our clients and to directly serve the needs of external clients.
So, how does this affect your business?
Are there any products or services your customers need or are asking for that you don’t provide?
Are there any products or services you purchase, but could possible perform yourselves?
Identifying and adding such products or services could help reinvent your company and add to your bottom line.
Attracting New Customers
Our initial focus was developing business plans for startups. This was an exciting business in that we met lots of cool entrepreneurs and heard tons of interesting ideas. On the flip side, there were some frustrations. Startup entrepreneurs don’t have a lot to spend on services. And, most of them never make it, so repeat business is low.For these reasons, we started to expand our client base by attracting new customers. We reached out to mid-sized and even Fortune 500 companies since every business needs a business plan. And every business can use market research and consulting to identify and pursue new growth opportunities.
While adding new services and new customers proved successful, we didn’t stop there. We realized that we still weren’t serving as many entrepreneurs and companies that we could. For instance, there were many entrepreneurs who wanted us to write their business plans but couldn’t afford it.
So, we created a products division to offer for-profit business plan templates, non-profit business plan templates, and business plan software. And we created online training products teaching companies how to raise capital, improve their marketing, and hire better among others.
Adding New Lead Magnets
Throughout the years, we’ve also evolved our “lead magnets.” A “lead magnet” is an offer that provides enough value for a prospective client to give you their contact information. We have created and offered lead magnets ranging from free business plan guides to funding reports to webinars on company innovation to ebooks on improving company valuation.
Each new lead magnet has given us the opportunity to gain interest among clients who otherwise might not have found us.
Is it Time for Your Business to Evolve?
Evolving our services, products, customer segments and lead magnets over the years has kept our company relevant and allowed us to expand.
It hasn’t always been easy. And not every new offering has worked as planned. But, in trying numerous ideas and keeping the winners, we have been left with a more diversified and stable business. Perhaps equally importantly, our new offerings have provided excitement and personal growth. This is in stark contrast to many business owners who burn out after doing the same thing day after day, year after year.
So take a moment today to think about your next iteration. What can your company start offering to add value to customers? What expertise do you have internally that you haven’t yet shared with the world? Figuring these out could be just the positive change you and your company need.