Last year, Oracle and Inc. Media joined forces to get inside the heads of the leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies. What we found was interesting―so interesting, that we decided to revisit with this group of small-to-medium business (SMB) executives to see if anything has changed.
So drumroll, please….
The #1 reason for success came down to one thing―customers. However, it is not just the act of selling to those customers. SMB leaders overwhelmingly chose their ability to sell to new customers and maintain those customer relationships as the #1 reason for success. Why? Because they understood their customers’ needs and the market they were selling to (listed by 58 percent of those who ranked customer experience (CX) as their #1 reason for success). Coming in a distant second (21 percent) was the establishment of an account management/service team for relationship building―allowing sales to focus on sales. This was followed by providing more self-service options so that customer-facing employees can focus on higher value-add activities (15 percent).
Changing (or adding) one thing is not going to spur exponential growth. It takes a focused, concerted effort, across multiple departments and roles, to become (and stay) a profitable, fast-growing company. This means that every aspect of the customers’ experience needs to be analyzed and reworked if necessary. It is a well-known fact that current customers are much more profitable than new customers, but what keeps a customer coming back are their previous experiences and the emotions tied to those interactions.
When asked what exactly they credit with making the Inc. 5000 list, great sales and marketing ended up at the top of the list, with 41 percent of respondents naming it as a top three reason for making the Inc. 5000.
So every aspect of customer experience needs to be spot-on―from marketing’s initial touch, through to the sales process, to after-sales service, support, and marketing―all tied up in a bow made up of social media interactions.
Companies on the Inc. 5000 are planning to invest in growth, with the largest amount going to (you guessed it) gain, keep, and grow customer relationships (chosen by 85 percent of respondents). This is key. Many failed companies focused solely on “discounts,” sacrificing customer service and support that could be the one distinguishing factor that would have kept their business healthy.
Interestingly enough, when asked to identify their primary obstacles to growth, the Inc. 5000 leaders pointed to many of the same reasons that landed them on the list in the first place.
As mentioned earlier, great sales and marketing, having the right management team in place, and the ability to scale to keep costs in line with growth were the top three answers to the question “what were the primary reasons for your company landing on the Inc. 5000?”
However, when asked “what are the biggest obstacles to your company’s continued growth?” those same leaders pointed to CX, specifically around growing sales (named by 43 percent), through better training, analyzing sales numbers/metrics, and auditing and automating sales processes.
Achieving triple- and quadruple-digit growth for multiple years is both an art and a science. The Inc. 5000 survey respondents provided us with many actionable insights on what it takes.