What will 2015’s fast-growth tech companies do next?
A couple of days ago I was checking out Deloitte’s 2015 Technology Fast 50 – a league table of the UK’s 50 fastest growing technology companies – and it got me thinking about two things: first and foremost, it’s great to see British tech firms doing so well. It also got me reminiscing about all the fast-growth tech brands we’ve worked with over the years, and what an amazing journey some of them have had. Something that’s been universal to all of them, is that the senior management team gets to a certain stage of growth where they feel they’ve evolved from a big small company, to a small big company, and start to think about what they need to change to maintain their growth rate. Growing by, say, 50% year-on-year isn’t so easy when your previous year’s revenues were suddenly eight figures rather than seven… The big question at these milestone moments of reflection is always ‘what do we need to do more of, and what do we need to change?’ I’ve been lucky enough to work on PR and marketing strategies with some of the UK’s fastest growing tech companies and alongside some of the best marketers and CEOs in the business, so I thought I’d cover a few of the sales and marketing quandaries I see them considering.
Brand – does it need to grow up?
Sometimes a brand that’s perfect for a start-up in street fighting mode (irreverent, vibrant, challenging) might not be right as it becomes bigger and potentially needs to appeal to a broader spectrum of future candidates (employer brand) and customers. Equally, a brand that was perfect for aggressive early stage growth can also work for a billion dollar cap company. Don’t assume it’s not got longevity and be in a rush to change it. One company that reaped the rewards of being brave with its brand throughout all stages of its growth is Rackspace. One of my all time favourite clients.
Future prospects – do we sound too small?
Tone of voice is related to the brand issue. Perhaps your business’s growth has led to its product or service being suitable for a new, bigger kind of buyer. You’ve got a long tail of smaller clients that you still love, but now you also want to catch a few elephants. Buyers in larger organisations may be more risk averse and may want a more ‘grown up’ tone, but equally they’re getting approached by dozens of grown up businesses each week vying for their attention, and differentiation is key. The only way to resolve this is through research – both primary (such as customer focus groups) and secondary. Check out this report on content consumption across different B2B stakeholders.
Current clients – what will their contribution to future growth be?
Business growth is of course about keeping and growing your existing clients, as well as winning new ones. It’s often more effective to retain a customer than win new ones, so make sure you give them the consideration they deserve. They’re the ones who helped you achieve that growth and they’re the ones who you’ll need to maintain it. Give them as much attention than you would to prospects. Talk to them on social media, listen to their feedback and reward them for their loyalty. Some fast-growth businesses start to focus marketing and comms too much only on new business, and it can end up hurting them.
Competitors – swimming in busier waters
Rapid growth often comes with rapid product development, which in turn takes you into new markets and up against more, often bigger, competitors. Suddenly fewer prospects are coming to you via inbound marketing, your win rate may drop in competitive tenders and it can really feel like it’s hurting your momentum. A well thought-through customer acquisition strategy is crucial for continued growth.
So what’s next?
Deciding whether to change (or specifically not to change) what you do next in your comms and marketing strategy is something that won’t be determined by just one factor. It’ll be a combination of what your prospects say to you, how your customers react, what your colleagues think, and what your revenue, profit and balance sheet tell you. Congratulations again to this year’s Technology Fast 50 list. Whatever the future holds for them, it’s bound to be exciting, sometimes scary and always rewarding.