Vennli Overview

This course will teach you the basics of Vennli's Methodology

1 Secret to Developing an Integrated Growth Strategy

1 Secret To Developing An Integrated Growth Strategy

Businesses are complex. On the surface, developing a strategy can seem simple, but when you start to dig into the various aspects of a business and the multitude of moving parts starts to emerge, it can become overwhelming. Clearly, a single strategy can’t impact every component, so the game becomes one of prioritization.

I recently had a client ask me: “Anna, are we bad clients? Are we really bad at this?” As a Customer Success Manager who helps clients think strategically about their business, I really sympathized with the sentiment.

“You’re doing great,” I said. “You’re on the right track. You’re experiencing a common pain point of business leaders. Thinking about competitive growth strategy is hard.”

This is the truth. Thinking about your business in terms of competitive growth is hard. You have to simultaneously juggle your offering, your competitors, and your customers to derive an integrated strategy that will attack all fronts. This is not for the faint of heart and exactly why Vennli exists.

Perhaps unexpectedly, things can get especially difficult when trying to figure out whom your competition is. Competitors come in different shapes, forms, and sizes. Sometimes it’s straight forward – it’s a comparable product or service in the market that directly competes with you. For example, if you are Apple, your iPhone competes directly with Samsung’s Galaxy. Or if you’re a management consulting company, you might compete directly against Deloitte and Accenture’s management consulting services.

Other times, you could be competing against a behavior – like doing nothing at all. What do I mean by that? Well, take for example the scenario of a wellness center trying to grow weight loss counseling clients. It’s likely that customers are either going to choose your services, choose another weight loss tactic available to them, or, most importantly, just not change their behavior at all. Therefore, the goal becomes one of understanding how you can influence the potential customer to choose to engage in weight loss counseling over continuing with their status quo. The strongest competitor in this case is “not doing anything differently.”

Another possibility is that you could be competing against an indirect competitor – something that competes for the customer’s priority or time. For example, if you’re a local parish, to attract more parishioners, you’re likely not competing against other types of churches. Instead, you’re up against competing priorities for parishioners’ time and focus.

Depending on your growth challenge, you could identify direct competitors, indirect competitors, AND competing behaviors that could impact your ability to win the customer’s choice. Like a juggler without the right rhythm, coordination, and tempo, it’s easy to drop the ball when there’s different dimensions of competitors to think about.

So, how do I help my customers manage all the dimensions involved in competitive growth in a way that will help them get actionable insights and be able to move forward?

Here’s the secret: I help them to focus on one customer choice at a time.

By focusing on customer choice, we come down to a level where we can talk about all three components (customer, competitor, offering) at the same level. This focus provides clarity on next steps and ultimately results in actionable data that can be used in growth strategy development.

So, when you’re having a hard time trying design competitive growth strategy because of the complexity of your customers, your competitors, and your offerings, remember to focus on your customer’s choice. By starting there, you’ll be able to navigate a clear path forward.

What's the the secret to developing an integrated growth strategy?

The Power of Focusing on a Specific Point of View

POV

We can all agree that business growth comes from serving the needs of customers more effectively than competitors. What is less known is the idea that focusing deeply on a small part of the market can reveal remarkable insights that lead to big innovations.

A dramatic illustration of this comes in a story about a baby named Long, born in February 2012 in China. When the Little Flower Orphanage found him, Long weighed just 2 pounds and suffered from a common problem experienced by premature babies: an inability to retain body heat. His chance of survival was uncertain at best. However, the orphanage used a new technology to help him.

To understand how this technology came to be, we need to go back further – all the way back to 2007, when five Stanford Design School students met in a course called “Design for Extreme Value.”

These students were presented with a big, messy question: how can we design a better Neonatal ICU incubator to combat the soaring death rate of premature and low birth-weight babies in developing countries?

Infant deaths are a devastating problem around the world. Each year, more than 1 million babies die on the day they are born, and 98% of these deaths occur in the developing world.

Premature babies initially don’t have the body fat necessary to regulate their body temperature, so even room temperatures can be deadly. Their deaths are completely preventable with the aid of one simple device: the neonatal incubator.

To these students, the answer seemed obvious: get more NICU incubators into the field. The obvious solution in their mind was to design new, less expensive incubator technology that clinicians would find reliable and effective.

Surprisingly, closer investigation revealed that hospitals had a sizable number of incubators, but many were not even being used. The reasons why were clear: health care workers lacked the specialized training to use and maintain them. More importantly, though, was lack of access. Much of the population lived in rural areas, hours away from cities and towns with hospitals and clinics that housed incubators.

Changing points-of-view

So, maybe more incubators in the field was not the solution. At the start, the students hadn’t been examining the problem from the right perspective.

They’d initially locked on to the clinician’s view, focusing on how to improve incubator technology. But the issue wasn’t technology, it was access. Given this, whose decision really determined the baby’s survival?

The parents. The team came to realize that the most important point-of-view (or POV) for their project was that of parents. Parents were the key decision-makers in ensuring the baby’s survival; the ones who made critical choices about actions to save their child. Parents had the most to gain from an effective solution.

In light of this, the student team reformulated its view of the problem and committed itself to studying this very specific point-of-view:

A desperate parent, in a rural area, who needs to give their dying baby a chance to survive.

The goal of a POV statement is to provide direction, clarity, and inspiration. In doing so, it should be very specific in describing a person in a situation with a particular need. It should be simple, yet compelling, capturing a context with which the designers and strategists can identify and connect. Their POV statement above hits on all cylinders.

In redirecting focus to parents, the team revealed several constraints faced in the rural setting:

  • limited exposure to warmth-giving technology
  • lack of access to electricity
  • limited ability to pay

The students learned that desperate parents, unable to afford or unable to access electricity-guzzling incubators, resorted to dangerous and ineffective measures in an effort to keep their babies warm (such as bare light bulbs, scalding hot water bottles, and even hot coals).

There had to be a better way.

With commitment to their defined POV, the team subsequently formulated some very clear design goals to guide their search for an improved solution:

To save the maximum number of lives, the design would have to function in a rural environment…to work without electricity and be transportable, intuitive, sanitizable, culturally appropriate, and perhaps most importantly—inexpensive.

These guidelines, along with a deep understanding of that desperate parent’s situation and needs, ultimately led to a powerful solution: the Embrace warmer.

The first prototype of the warmer was a device that “looked something like a sleeping bag. It wrapped around a premature infant, and a pouch of phase-change material (PCM) kept the baby’s body at exactly the right temperature.”

The PCM maintained a constant temperature for four hours and could be reheated and used again. It could be manufactured and sold at a tiny fraction of $20,000 required for a traditional incubator.

They were onto something.

In 2008, the team formed Embrace Global, a social enterprise to manufacture and distribute the product through partners like Little Flower Orphanage. After iterating on a variety of prototypes through 2009 and 2010, they delivered the first warmer to a hospital in India in April 2011.

Launching in China in 2012, Embrace Global was able to provide a warmer for tiny Baby Long (shown here), who stayed in it for 30 days.

In its first few years, Embrace has produced dramatic results. The team has launched 105 programs in 11 countries and saved the lives of 144,000 premature babies in the process.

Transformational results like these are the result of ingenuity, creativity, and persistence. But smarts and passion – without clear guidance – can lead innovators to ineffective solutions more often than not. In contrast, with the guidance and inspiration of a specific and compelling POV, smarts and passion can make miracles.

And, lest we forget the most important point-of-view in this story, how is Baby Long doing these days? Turns out, he is a miracle with a new family!

Your Customers: People, in Situations, with Needs

How is the POV concept relevant to your business? In planning and designing growth strategy, most organizations think of customers in an aggregate way, with broad labels. Customer groups are often described using terms like millennials, the West Coast market, high income consumers, the government, or distributors in the Midwest.

But your customers are not broadly defined, amorphous groups or organizations. Your customers are human beings who make decisions. If you really want to explore how to grow your business by enhancing the value you produce for customers, dig deeper into your customer’s POV.

Instead of “distributors in the Midwest,” think of Tom, the General Manager of the large distribution firm who is in an end-of-quarter time crunch and needs merchandise quickly and reliably to meet sales targets.

This more specific POV provides an actionable way to think about what product, service, and pricing enhancements may create value for Tom. It also drives the best approaches for communicating and selling that value to him.

Your customers have points-of-view. It can only help to learn more about them.

http://vennli.com/focus-on-a-specific-point-of-view/

POV Questions

The goal of a POV statement is to provide , and . In doing so, it should be very specific in describing a  in a  with a . It should be simple yet compelling, capturing a context with which the designers and strategists can  and .

Overview Video

Overview Video

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Growth Case Process

Overview

Below, you'll see the list of phases in a Vennli engagement as well as a short description for each one:

1) Strategy Planning

In this phase, we define the context of our growth case. This means that after asking our clients questions about their customers, competitors, and offerings, we decide what we will focus on for our growth case. We know we have completed this phase when we decide on the customer, offering, and competitor on which we'll be focusing, as well as the customer choice we'll be studying. 

2) Research Planning

In this phase, we design our surveys and make a plan for data collection. We use the information we learned from our strategy planning meetings to inform our survey design. Depending on the types of decisions our clients want to make, we also make sample size recommendations. 

3) Data Collection & Analysis

In this phase, we send out surveys and do an initial evaluation of the data. We can send out surveys through our application, social media, panels, or have our clients send out surveys from their own e-mail system. 

4) Strategy Development and Execution

In this phase, after doing an initial analysis of the data, we create a presentation for our clients that answers the initial questions they had and provides actionable insights into their business. 

5) Measure & Adapt

In this phase, after some time has passed from the initial surveying, we send out the survey again. We then measure and see if there have been any changes in the market and if we need to adapt our strategies to keep up with it. 
 

Growth Case Process Questions

  • Strategy Planning
    In this phase, we define the context of our growth case.
  • Research Planning
    In this phase, we design our surveys and make a plan for data collection.
  • Data Collection & Analysis
    In this phase, we send out surveys and do an initial evaluation of the data.
  • Strategy Development & Execution
    In this phase, after doing an initial analysis of the data, we create a presentation for our clients that answers the initial questions they had and provides actionable insights into their business.
  • Measure & Adapt
    In this phase, after some time has passed from the initial surveying, we send out the survey again.