In my marketing career, I don’t recall a time where my goal was anything other than to drive (or at least meaningfully contribute to) brand and company growth. If a brand was growing — grow more! If it was declining — turn it around! Despite any macro headwinds or resource constraints, the objective was always to claw for as much revenue as possible. Most marketing leaders find themselves in that situation now, tasked with growth against unfavorable or uncertain market conditions. In fact, revenue growth is the single most important outcome that defines success as a marketing leader, according to Forrester’s Q4 B2C Marketing CMO Pulse Survey, 2022.
My colleague Dipanjan Chatterjee and I just published a report to help marketing leaders inject structured thinking into their growth opportunities: Unlock Your Revenue Growth Potential. And as it was for me in my career, we hope the big unlock is to start with a very intentional decision about the customers from whom you plan to source your growth.
The Majority Of CMOs Look To New Customers For Growth
Seventy-seven percent of B2C marketing executives indicated that new customer acquisition will be their primary source of growth over the next two to three years — and this held true across size of business and industry.
While existing customers lay the foundation for a sustainable business model and brand experience, acquisition is the key to sustained growth. Big brands are big because more people buy them, so always be acquiring!
Understand And Remove Acquisition Blockers To Accelerate Brand Growth
Forrester’s Revenue Growth Framework outlines five levers that marketing leaders can pull to chart their growth path. Think of acquisition blockers as the “dark side” of these growth levers — the things that might be holding your brand and organization back from its full potential. These are:
- Limited Access: The inability to find and easily access a brand will limit its acquisition potential. Sounds obvious, but my first marketing experience was as an intern in a startup food company that bought billboards over the Lincoln Tunnel leading to NYC but had not achieved any meaningful scale in retail. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work! To diagnose limited access as a primary blocker, look for discrepancies between positive brand awareness or purchase intent metrics and sales conversion. In consumer products, this could be due to poor shelf placement, recessive packaging, distribution challenges, or out of stocks. For direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses, this could be about poor search results or UX friction. For retail businesses, this could be about store counts or location (for example, my kids know Arby’s “has the meats” because of that chain’s media reach and branding … but they’ve never seen an actual restaurant!).
- Product Irrelevance: We rarely design products and services to be universally appreciated by every potential customer. But to drive sustained growth at the brand or company level, strive for a portfolio that meets the needs of as many category buyers as possible. If market penetration is low, look at whether your set of products and services is relevant to your customer base. If there’s a gap, ascertain whether it can (and should) be achieved through product improvements or new features/benefits, or whether it should it be addressed through new products or even brands.
- Poor Experience: Customer experience (CX) is critical to driving loyalty, but it plays a role in acquisition as well. If the discovery and purchase process for a new customer is tedious or off-putting, you can lose a potential customer prior to converting. If the post-purchase user experience is poor, that can make the difference between a “light” user and a “never again” user. Lastly, consider the role a negative experience can have on word-of-mouth and publicly visible reviews, working against efforts to drive salience with potential new customers. Use your voice-of-the-customer (VoC) insights to identify areas of concern and “fix the potholes.”
- Price/Value Gap: Marketing only works if the customer, consciously or subconsciously, deems your product or service to be worth what you’re charging. If price is an acquisition blocker, carefully weigh options for temporary price reductions; new, lower-cost products and services; or other creative approaches to shift the value equation with potential customers. While the need to drive profitable growth makes balancing pricing decisions and achieving acquisition goals tricky, it’s one of the easier blockers to diagnose. Both simulated and real-world pricing experimentation should give you insight into where along the demand curve you can play to reach your revenue goals.
- Lack of Salience: Salience can be defined as the “propensity of a brand to be thought of in buying situations” (see: Romaniuk and Sharp). Beyond awareness (many brands have awareness but aren’t in the consideration set in the moments that matter), media reach, brand perception, advertising effectiveness, and other factors can play a role in salience. Be prepared to do a full diagnostic before jumping to the default “need more media dollars” conclusion! This blocker is intentionally listed last because it’s the one that, stereotypically, marketers might be expected to point to first. Increase your credibility with the C-suite by looking at the business holistically, but also be prepared to look in the mirror if branding and marketing communications efforts aren’t having the desired effect.
If you want help thinking through your own acquisition blockers or how to apply Forrester’s Revenue Growth Framework to your brand and business, please reach out to me, my colleague Dipanjan, or your account manager if you’re a Forrester client.