Group President Melissa Lackey Emphasizes Prioritizing Growth Drivers in Business Journal Leadership Trust Article

Leaders of the growth marketing firm Standing Partnership have developed a five-step strategic framework for organizations that provides clarity and focus around their potential growth drivers.

Standing Partnership Group President Melissa Lackey is a member of the St. Louis Business Journal Leadership Trust, an invitation-only network of business leaders and executives who share their successful business knowledge and insights with the Journal’s readers. In March, Melissa was featured in an article on how our team has developed a five-step strategic framework that helps organizations focus on potential growth drivers and prioritize the opportunities for future success. The article was first published on the Business Journals website here.

The following is a reprint, courtesy of the St. Louis Business Journal Leadership Trust.



A 5-step strategic framework for prioritizing growth opportunities

Leadership Trust member Melissa Lackey is helping organizations understand and prioritize opportunities for growth.

The pressure to grow, quickly and sustainably, never stops for most mid-cap companies. Yet leaders often struggle to identify, evaluate and prioritize the growth opportunities that will have the greatest impact on their organizations. They have many potential growth drivers competing for their time and attention. Leaders need to decide where to invest their limited resources — because trying to tackle too many priorities at once means they’re likely to succeed at none.

Leaders of the growth marketing firm Standing Partnership have developed a five-step strategic framework for organizations that provides clarity and focus around their potential growth drivers. Companies use it to better understand all of the potential opportunities for growth and how to prioritize those opportunities to place the best bets for future success.

“Our approach helps resolve two main challenges that organizations face,” explained Melissa Lackey, group president of Standing Partnership. “The first is coping with the distractions that occur within the day-to-day operations of a business, the shiny penny that people tend to gravitate toward. The second challenge is being too focused on the urgency of now and not making time to intentionally plan for the next quarter or the next year.”

Lackey and her team’s framework enables cross-functional teams to stay focused on top priorities throughout the annual planning cycle.

“We believe there are four keys to planning for growth marketing success,” said Nick Sargent, vice president at Standing Partnership. “One: Have a clear focus on what you should and can accomplish. Two: Ensure leaders across the organization are aligned on these goals and involved in putting a plan together. Three: Clearly communicate the plan to everyone on your team, while tying it to their individual and team goals. And four: Use the right technology to enable the overall growth plan.”

Here is the five-step strategy that Lackey and her team recommend for organizations that want to drive profitable and lasting growth.

Step 1: Conduct an analysis. 
Growth begins with reflecting on what has worked well and what hasn’t in the past. Conduct an extensive analysis, examining internal data, market trends and competitors’ efforts to highlight past accomplishments and potential opportunities. What impact have you seen from your past sales and marketing investments? What are your potential clients and the industry as a whole focused on today? How can these insights help you define your priorities?

Step 2: Hold a “big bets” meeting.
Take the information from your internal analysis and use it to guide a meeting with top growth leaders from different departments in your organization. Ask open-ended questions that explore the big bets that could result in the best return on investment. Which areas of the business have the most revenue potential? Where should sales and marketing focus their time?

This meeting should be a chance for everyone to consider all of their ideas on the table without judgment. Stay open and curious. You may decide that you want to expand into new markets, launch new products or go deeper into more verticals in an existing market.

At the end of this meeting or in a follow-up session, force-rank the best bets — identifying and prioritizing short-term and long-term initiatives. Once aligned, start putting revenue targets around each growth driver. What would each idea look like if it came to fruition? Is it a $5-million or $100-million opportunity? Will it require a lot of resources in the first year but pay off after the second year?

Step 3: Align and develop a marketing plan.
Once you have a direction in mind, you can begin to chart a course. Gather leaders from teams across functional groups that have a stake in your growth — not just marketing and sales but also operations, finance and product.

Share the short list of ideas from your big bets meeting, and discuss each proposal. Why should we pursue each growth driver? What are the reasons we shouldn’t pursue them?

Make sure everyone has the chance to express their opinions, not just those with the loudest voices in the room. Use a virtual polling platform to have people rate both the feasibility and the revenue impact of an idea on a scale of one to 10, then display the anonymous results to spark further discussion. What makes the most sense to pursue now? What makes more sense to pursue further down the road?

Start to develop a marketing plan that defines short-term growth drivers where you will focus most of your time and budget this fiscal year, as well as long-term priorities for the next fiscal year. Your final plan should include a clear path to provable ROI, including digital advertising, account-based marketing and appointment setting.

Step 4: Develop and present a budget.
Designate a champion who will lead the development of a budget well in advance of the organizational budgeting process. This person is responsible for confirming that marketing, sales and the other departments in the cross-functional team are all aligned on revenue-generation goals in the short and long term. The optimal budget is allocated appropriately with growth drivers, focuses on activities that drive revenue and includes plans to make adjustments based on potential changes.

Step 5: Optimize the plan quarterly.
The last and perhaps most important step of growth planning is following up on progress on a specific timeline. Every quarter, reconvene with stakeholders to evaluate your growth drivers against KPIs. Which plans are working as anticipated? Are you generating the revenue or pipeline value you expected? If not, what do you need to adjust to reach your goals?

Reevaluate the growth drivers, and verify that everyone still agrees that you are focused on the right areas. If customer demands or market factors have shifted, for example, now is the time to adjust the marketing plan.

“How many organizations really take the time and the energy to have a cross-functional team sit down and have these conversations on a regular basis?” asked Lackey. “We propose that this is part of an annual planning cycle, but you continuously revisit and adjust decisions based on real-time results, achieved or not. When you implement this structure, you give everyone the opportunity to decide if you’re still heading in the right direction or if you want to make a tradeoff and pursue something new.”

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