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How to Kick-Start Growth and Break a Business Plateau
It happens to the best of businesses. Things are going great—the trend line is up and to the right, the leads are rolling in, and sales are exploding. Then, suddenly—everything stops. The trend line levels out and business growth stalls. You’ve hit a lead plateau and NOTHING seems to be working to change it.
Here’s what NOT to do: don’t react by pumping a whole bunch of money into aggressive marketing campaigns.
I say that because we see it—a lot. Many of the companies that come to us do so because their business growth has plateaued. Then they’ll say, “I don’t know why, I spent all this money on marketing last quarter and it didn’t make a dent in my sales.”
Below you’ll find the top reason for a business growth plateau, and what you can do about it to kick-start your way to more revenue.
Most Common Reasons Your Company’s Leads Have Plateaued
The first questions business owners ask when year-over-year leads are flat is “Why did this happen?” Well, there are a zillion reasons why your leads might have plateaued, from having an insufficient website to having disengaged CSRs, so I’ll focus on the most common ones:
You have a crappy website.
While your website may have enabled previous growth, it could be the reason your leads have plateaued. Here’s why:
What it takes for a website to rank and convert is different than it was 10 years, 5 years, and even one year ago. As technology advances and the web becomes more accessible from anywhere, consumers’ expectations rise with the tide.
While five years ago you could scrape by with a cheap website, that’s not the case anymore. In fact, 48 percent of people cited a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business, and 38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive.
In order to succeed in the digital age, not only do you need a website, your website needs to be fast, secure (HTTPS vs HTTP), and mobile-friendly. Not only does the modern consumer expect all three of these things, so do search engines—and since 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine, you want to make sure your website is optimized for SEO.
Quick Fix: Your top concerns for your website are that it’s secure (HTTPS vs. HTTP), fast (learn about how fast your website should be here), and mobile friendly (learn more about the mobile-first index here). If you can check off all three of these boxes you’re much better off than many of your competitors.
Your competitors have caught up.
In digital marketing, success isn’t static, and industry best practices change with the weather. You can’t get comfortable with your strategy and let it lapse to cruise control—you’ve got to re-calibrate at least once a year and take into account changing external factors like Google algorithm updates, legislation changes, and even the weather.
It’s entirely possible for you to get everything right one year, but fall behind competitors the next just from those external factors. I can name at least five clients off the top of my head that FLEW by their competitors in search results because our SEO techniques were more up-to-date than theirs.
Quick Fix: Take a look at the latest Google ranking factors and update your landing pages accordingly.
Your conversion rate sucks.
You can get everything else right, but if you can’t close any new customers you’re not going to get out of your plateau. we have an entire team dedicated to re-training customer service representatives in order to increase conversion rates. If it’s not your CSRs, then you probably have an issue on your website.
Quick Fix: Take a look at your analytics, and look for pages that have a high bounce rate or exit rate. These two metrics are a good measurement of if visitors are finding your content compelling enough to act. Once you find those pages that need conversion rate optimization (CRO) optimize them according to best practices. Learn more about how to define, measure, and track your conversion rates here.
You’ve invested your marketing dollars in the wrong place.
This happens more often than you’d think, and is usually caused by gut-based decision making. Just because you THINK that 30-second TV spot will get you more exposure than a PPC ad doesn’t make it true.
I’ll give you an example:
We had an HVAC client who came to us with a lead plateau. It turns out, the company had been participating in what his gut said was a good idea—investing in an HVAC installation and repair partnership program with a big-box home improvement store. The program was the owner’s dream: they’d be listed as a preferred contractor within this huge home improvement store, front and center. He anticipated it would skyrocket his leads and sales.
Well, once we dug into the data, we found that while the program had grown their service calls and installations, the margins were incredibly low and the contractor found himself doing more work just to do work with little to no profit—causing his business to plateau. Once he exited the program and invested those dollars into the right marketing platforms, his tracked revenue from new customers doubled, and provided an overall revenue growth of over 50 percent.
Quick Fix: Dig into your data and fine the marketing channels that return the most revenue. This is important—do not just look at immediate cash flow. Picking a marketing avenue that provides immediate revenue but no long-term growth is not where you want to invest your marketing dollars. You’ll never be able to catch your breath and re-calibrate.
You’ve spread your resources too thin
You only have 24 hours in a day, and you have a company to run. A good marketing strategy takes upward of 30 hours per week. If you spend less time than that, you’re half-assing it.
You know what happens when you half-ass something? You get half-ass results. Yes, you may have been able to run your business and your marketing when you were a startup, but you only have so many hours in a day, and as you grow there are more important things that need your attention.
Quick Fix: If you absolutely do NOT have the budget for outside marketing help, at least get an SEO analysis done—it will give you a window into where you’re lacking, the top marketing channels you should be investing your time into, and how to beat your competitors at their own game.
You’ve failed to adapt to the changing technological and industry landscape.
Were you one of the companies that waiting five years to invest in SEO? Are you neglecting to consistently update your website to align with the needs of the consumer as well as the needs of the search engines?
For example, convenience is a huge factor for consumers, as is instant gratification. While consumers used to spend hours watching television, now they’re spending hours browsing YouTube on their smartphones.
If you don’t change your product, services, and marketing practices to best align with the needs of the consumer and digital best practices, there’s a high chance your leads will plateau as new customers opt to go with a company that DOES give them what they want.
Quick Fix: Dig into your target audience and recalibrate what their needs are. Today’s consumer needs immediate information at their fingertips, which means optimizing your website for those micro-moments. Once you find out who your target audience is and where they spend their time, you can better market to them.
When Plateaued Leads Aren’t a Bad Thing
With all this talk about leads, let’s not lose focus of what really matters. If your leads have plateaued but your bottom line is growing, you don’t necessarily have a problem.
The ultimate indicator of business growth is revenue growth. If your revenue is still growing year-over-year but your leads are flat, it could be because of two things:
- Your current leads are booking at higher prices or at a better conversion rate – It could be that you’re getting the same amount of leads, but you’re converting more of them. A higher lead-to-sale conversion rate means you’re converting more of the leads that come in—which is a sign of CRO success. It could also be that you’re selling your services or products at higher prices.
- You’ve successfully saturated your market and created repeat customers – There are only so many people in your market. While it’s unlikely every single one of them are customers, there comes a point in which you ARE the authority in your marketplace and you now have database of repeat customers. If that’s you, congratulations. You are now the “Goliath” that thousands of other companies are going to try and beat. Be sure to take a look at where else the leads have gone—they could be turning into maintenance agreements or repeat customers. One other thing—don’t get caught flat-footed. With digital marketing, success isn’t static, so keep tracking, testing, and tweaking your strategy.
Overall, if your revenue is growing, your customers are happy, and you’re keeping up with the changing consumer demands, you’re in a pretty good spot. That being said, don’t get comfortable. The marketplace (on and off-line) is continually and rapidly changing. What customers need tomorrow isn’t necessarily what they need today, so stay sharp. We’ve seen plenty of companies get comfortable with their success and fall asleep at the wheel while their competitors outpaced them.
5 Tactics that Work to Increase Leads and Spur Business Growth
If your business has plateaued and you know the cause, you’re ready for a permanent—instead of a quick—fix. Try these strategies:
- Recalibrate your online presence with a competitive analysis – A digital competitive analysis will tell you where you stand in relation to your competitors and industry standards.
- Invest in other marketing channels based on your data – Dive into your data to find the marketing channels that give you the most long-term growth. Those are the channels that will pay off in the end. We recommend SEO, PPC, and email marketing as sure bets.
- Boost your online presence both on and outside of your website (off-site SEO) – You can’t just stand on your porch, wave your arms around, and expect people to show up to your party. You have to invite them outside your own turf. The same goes for your website and digital marketing. While your website is your number one marketing asset, you need to get people there. The best ways to do this is with off-site SEO. That includes link building, name-address-phone number (NAP) consistency, PR (link building and features in online publications), and social media.
- AB Test – Over time, consumers’ expectations change—the average lifespan of a website is two and half years. By continually testing design and user experience elements (like live chat, sidebar contact forms, and calls to action) you can keep up with the ever-changing needs of your customer. Don’t just focus on driving the traffic but how to convert it.
- Offer an incentive to get visitors to convert – If you give away free things (within reason), people will be more likely to buy from you. It’s called the Law of Reciprocity. Reciprocity is the top tenant of persuasion, as Robert Cialdini, a famed behavioral psychologist, noted in his renowned book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” The Law of Reciprocity states that we feel obligated to return the favor when we are given something for free. Marketers know this, as it’s been a pillar of marketing success for over 30 years. It’s why Spotify and HubSpot (among other services) give you a 30-day free trial, and it’s why grocery stores hand out free samples. While running contests and giving things away for free is not a permanent fix, it will give you a healthy pipeline of prospective customers you can then market to later.
The Best Solution to Plateaued Business Growth
If the above sounds like a hefty undertaking, you’re right. However, if you establish a clear starting point and your company’s most pressing needs, the rest falls into place pretty easily. So, how do you get that baseline of where your business stands?
A digital competitive analysis. I’ve already mentioned it a few times in this post because it’s so darn important.
You’re probably familiar with competitive analyses like SWOT, but those traditional models don’t take into account the huge presence digital plays in business growth. A modern digital competitive analysis will show you key insights into how you stack up against your competitors and industry leaders by:
- Evaluating your website to look for areas that need improvement (with the mindset that you should view your website as your 24/7 virtual sales rep).
- Determining your overall visibility in the search engines and social networks.
- Identifying your top digital assets used in the buying funnel by your specific target audience (including downloads, blogs, videos, white papers, and more).
- Evaluating how you present your product, service, and value proposition, and whether or not it’s resonating with your target audience.
- Pinpointing the most lucrative online advertising strategies across numerous channels.
- Assessing your customer satisfaction rate, identifying the areas where you need improvement.
Once you have that big picture of where your company’s digital presence stands, you can better strategize for more growth in the future. If you’re ready to explode your growth and get out of your lead plateau, get your free digital competitive analysis here. We’ll examine not only your website, but the websites of your top competitors, and provide you with an actionable plan to outpace them and become a powerhouse in your market. Have any other questions? Contact us here.
About The Author: Betsy is the social media lead and a digital marketing expert with Blue Corona. When she’s not managing Blue Corona's digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring, hiking with her dog, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
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