If you’re aiming to run a successful business, then you’re focused on the growth of your company. After all, nobody gets into business to shrink their firm. The primary question then is how do you drive growth?
There are essentially two kinds of growth—organic and inorganic. The former is built on a complex blend of expertise, experience, reputation, capability and visibility. The latter is a little more straightforward and based on cash, liabilities, and assets. For B2B and professional services firms organic growth is the “Holy Grail.” But strategies to drive that growth are often elusive and counter-intuitive.
In this post, we will define what is meant by organic growth and reveal the top proven, research-based strategies that the fastest growing professional services firms implement to drive organic growth. Let’s start with a definition of organic growth.
What is Meant by Organic Growth?
Organic growth refers to the kind of growth of a business that is purely stimulated by the resources already available internally to a company. Organic growth is created by adding new clients or more business from existing clients. It’s essentially expanding your business from within using the resources you have, including skills, knowledge, experience, relationships and other tools. Organic growth is healthy for a firm and reflects a long-term, solid commitment to building a business.
An Example of Organic Growth
The examples of how organic growth occurs in the marketplace are countless. But let’s explore an example of how organic growth could come to pass for a professional services firm.
An example of organic growth would be in growth resulting from the strategic expansion of a particular service or product line. For example, leaders of an architecture, engineering, and construction firm identify more marketplace demand in their healthcare market segment. So they increase investment into marketing to this audience type. The result is that revenue increases by 40% year over year from this practice area.
In this example, there was no external entity absorbed into the business to expand this practice area. Instead, the growth came as a result of strong business intelligence, marketing and sales.
Organic vs Inorganic Growth
While organic growth is achieved from existing resources, inorganic growth is growth generated externally through activities like mergers and acquisitions. Inorganic growth relies almost entirely on available resources and capital. Mergers, acquisitions, and their most extreme form, takeovers, can quickly increase a firm’s size and revenue but often present complex branding challenges that require a methodical approach to integration.
This is why organic growth should be at the center of b2b and professional services marketing plans. So which strategies can leaders and marketers at your business implement to drive organic growth? Let’s look at five proven strategies.
5 Proven Strategies for Driving Organic Growth
There are some firms who excel in driving organic growth. At Hinge, we refer to these businesses as High Growth Firms and in our annual High Growth Study we uncover the most impactful strategies and marketing techniques of firms growing at least 20% year over year. The following five strategies below are not picked at random. They come from nearly a decade of research on what works for these High Growth Firms.
1. Research your target clients
It’s surprising how many professional services firms don’t develop a clear picture of their ideal target client and what motivates their decision-making.
When we studied the relationship between growth and profitability, we found that professional services firms that conduct regular research on their target audience grow up to 70% faster and are almost 50% more profitable than firms that don’t.
Ask a C-level executive in your average professional services firm who their target client is and he, or she, may only have a vague idea. Research reveals what you don’t know. It also enables you to better focus your marketing efforts based on your target clients’ actual needs and preferences. Insights from research help you better position your firm, reduce the risk of marketing missteps, and develop a competitive advantage.
Once you have established target client preferences through research, you’re able to develop high-value service packages and make a much stronger marketing plan. All because you’ve learned where they get their information, identified their key concerns, and revealed their hot buttons.
2. Focus on a well-defined niche
With research results in hand, you’re in a position to focus on a specific niche. While some may say it seems counter-productive to narrow your focus (instead of widening it), there are some significant benefits to doing so.
Concentrating on a well-defined niche enables you to reduce marketing costs and competition while increasing market share, fees, and profits. There’s something to be said for being a big fish in a small pond.
In fact, our studies show that high-growth firms are 75 percent more likely to have a highly-focused niche.
Professional services firms offering everything to everybody typically end up offering little real value to anybody. Their services become generic commodities stuck in a price war with myriad competitors. A slow, painful death often ensues.
3. Develop strong, easy-to-understand differentiators
If your firm is highly specialized or positioned in a well-defined niche, congratulations. You’ve got a built-in differentiator.
What’s a differentiator? It’s a feature or benefit that sets you apart from the competition. Here’s an example: You are an accounting firm but, unlike your competitors, you focus your attention on the specific financial concerns of national chain restaurants. That’s your differentiator.
Firms with unique differentiators have a much easier job communicating their value to prospective clients, setting themselves apart (and above) the competition and winning more business. In fact, our 2022 High Growth Study revealed that differentiation was a top marketing priority of high-growth firms.
Three things make a high-value differentiator:
Is what you’re claiming true? Is it relevant to your prospect? Finally, is it provable?
The least effective differentiators are those that offer no direct benefit to the client. No one particularly cares how long you’ve been in business, how many charitable causes you’ve supported, or your claims of having “the best people.”
The best differentiators address the needs and concerns of the prospective client. These include provable claims about how your unique services or expertise can specifically benefit the client.
4. Balance traditional and digital marketing
One other key finding from our latest 2022 High Growth Study is that the fastest-growing firms have a more balanced approach to marketing, mixing digital with traditional.
It all starts by making sure marketing techniques fit the target audience (potential clients). Here’s where all that research comes in handy. Your data will tell you how your target prefers to receive information. This will go a long way in helping you focus your marketing dollars on the most effective channels.
Tracking your marketing is important, too. High-growth firms commit to tracking their marketing efforts, closely monitoring 33 percent more variables than their slow-growing peers.
Almost every firm tracks the basics such as new clients, revenue, and profitability. However, high-growth firms are also more likely to track variables related to the marketing process.
This additional tracking puts firms in a better position to know what works and what doesn’t. This means they are equipped to make course adjustments and fix problems as they arise.
5. Make your expertise visible
As a professional services firm, the only product you have to sell—and what potential clients need to be persuaded to buy—is your collective expertise. In our recent study on buyer behavior, we found that across professional services, expertise was the most common selection criteria next to talented staff.
While your expertise has the definite advantage of being unique to your company (there’s that differentiator), it has the drawback of being intangible. Potential clients can’t touch it, taste it, smell it, or see it. The challenge is to make your expertise visible.
This can be done through a carefully targeted and constructed campaign of blogging and article writing, speaking, social media conversations and search engine optimization.
As your firm and its expertise becomes visible in the digital landscape, the payoff becomes enormous.
As the appropriate personnel within your firm become Visible Experts, the firm as a whole gains value in the eyes of potential clients. This value, properly leveraged, leads directly to organic growth. The process is transformative, leading to more visibility which leads to more business.
There’s nothing mysterious about organic growth. There’s a scientific approach to it that requires some homework, discipline, and stick-to-it-ness. Research is key and the driver of a more powerful strategy and more efficient and effective marketing.
How Hinge Can Help
Hinge is a global leader in helping professional services firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be implemented. In fact, our groundbreaking Visible Firm® program combines strategy, implementation, training and more.