In today’s disrupted markets, incremental sales gains aren’t enough. Companies need to find paths to uncommon growth, moving them ahead of competitors and potential disruptors. That can only happen when businesses answer two daunting questions: Where can we play to win? And how can we win there in a differentiated and relevant way?

We help companies identify those growth paths, even as new entrants surge into already crowded categories and core products continue to get commoditized. Deciding where to play requires a clear sense of which market a company is best equipped to play in, and then uncovering gaps of opportunity and developing a razor-sharp definition of the customers it believes are its best targets. Figuring out how to win calls for finding the best products, services, experiences and business models to reach them.

Once these areas are fully developed, we can start to apply both in-category expertise as well as out-of-category thinking, finding innovative and unexpected avenues to more revenue.

It’s tempting to take shortcuts. Many companies do, and some even stumble into growth that way. But for growth to be uncommon, which we define as purposeful, profitable, transformative and sustainable, every future move needs to start from the customer’s perspective. That means focusing on humans first, with a detailed and holistic understanding of what they want, need and expect.

From that point of view, it’s possible to design and activate new offers with the best potential to increase sales and build relevance. Our experience shows these four steps–answering the who, what, how and why of any new approach–is essential.

Step One: Who is the Target?

Companies often start their growth strategy thinking about what products they can make or services they can offer. Insurance companies want to dream up new policies. Restaurants want to launch a new sandwich. But the key to sustainable success is to understand who makes up the market landscape and which groups are the best match for its capabilities.

Intelligent segmentation and targeting may reveal certain insights that change your strategy. Maybe the most potential segment for your insurance company wants fewer policy choices but better service. Or maybe restaurant customers want more bowls and less bread.

We drive our segmentation and targeting strategies by balancing two key things:

  • We make sure target audiences can be identified using demographics, media behavior and other transactional data
  • We guarantee that the audience can be understood by uncovering behavioral insights

Often, companies already have much of this information. To define the most attractive and winnable target segments, we combine client data with third-party insights and our own quantitative and qualitative research.

These can’t just be numbers and ideas on a page, though. A vital part of this work is moving beyond rough sketches and bringing these people to life through powerful personas. Everyone in the organization needs to understand who these new customers are and what makes them tick. That way, they can get excited about the prospect of winning with them and finding new ways to meet their needs.

Step Two: What’s the Unique Value Proposition?

It’s not enough to crystalize an innovative growth strategy. Unless

there’s a compelling value proposition – a thing that makes an offer different from its competitors – it’s difficult to persuade people to try a new brand (let alone give up on one they’ve been loyal to in the past).

Too many companies gloss over this step, moving straight from strategy to messaging without deliberately defining the core benefits they offer. Until they take the time to painstakingly codify its virtues, the product, service or experience, is unlikely to break through the clutter.

This step is crucial in crowded categories. In a world with hundreds of financial products, seltzer brands and car insurance companies, the value proposition serves as a filter. It clarifies a company’s promise to customers and becomes an internal rallying cry.

Step Three: How Should it Go to Market?

The pivot from product innovation to in-market thinking is almost always challenging. If these new ideas are to lead to uncommon growth, it’s pretty likely that they are different from previous launches. That calls for a departure from the company’s usual way of doing business. Maybe they’re reaching different customers, like a newly defined target. Or perhaps they’re serving existing customers in different ways via new channels. That often means that the right go-to-market strategy will require operational shifts. And it may even require changes in the company’s culture.

For example, how will the new offers be distributed and sold? How will they be marketed? What is the best channel to leverage for go-to-market? What’s the messaging? It takes careful alignment of all these elements to maximize success.

Step Four: What’s the Best Way to Define the “Why” (With Purpose and ESG)?

Environmental, social and governance strategy is still a relatively new discipline, and many companies continue to view it simply as a risk-mitigation tactic. We believe that’s a missed opportunity. When intertwined with a company’s purpose –its reason for existing in the world – ESG is a powerful way to create value. And it can lead to meaningful and sustainable engagement with multiple stakeholders.

It’s not easy to define precisely how the world has changed over the last few years. An endless news cycle perpetuates negative outlooks on health, climate and communities. And people increasingly expect the companies they do business with to play a role in helping solve these problems. Businesses that accept that responsibility, making sure everything they do fits credibly into their ESG strategy, will win their respect.

At Prophet, we believe building a purpose-led organization is the key to achieving uncommon growth. But we also know simply articulating and communicating purpose is not enough. To create value, purpose and ESG must act together, providing a golden thread across the organization. In this position, at the center of all activity, it can drive transformation.

Final Thoughts

In this age of disruption, companies that want to grow faster than their competitors need a clear understanding of where they can best play to find new growth and exactly how they can win there. That can only happen with a holistic view of who they want to reach, what they can uniquely deliver and how to go to market. And with a well-defined purpose and ESG strategy, they can let all stakeholders know why they deserve their trust.

To learn how Prophet can help your organization accelerate growth, visit our website.