20 Ways To Get Growing: Lean Growth Strategies For Startups And Business

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It’s time to get growing. The question is what are the questions that lead to growth…what are 20 ways to grow?

I spoke at the Orlando Business Journal’s Expo this week and prepared an overview of 60+ strategies and tactics to grow with and presented them as questions framed by the business model canvas?And how can you maximize the upside of any investment you make of time, talent and resources and minimize the downside? What do you invest in and what do you pass on in your startup and or your established business.

Now let’s be clear startups are as different as night is from day from an established business. A startup is a faith-based organization on day one, in search of a repeatable business. It’s in a race between the clock and the ever declining cash/resources. An established business with revenues and profits has in fact found, at least to some degree a business model and has been validated by the market.

So what’s the best way to grow regardless of you are in startup mode or an established company.

My answer is to think lean. To employ the strategies and methodologies of lean startup and business modeling and add to these practices a sense you are a beginner, you don’t know what you don’t know and believe that most of the answers you seek will come from your clients.

When I’m helping startups and businesses grow I use the framework of the business model canvas to think through the venture.

Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas

20 Ways To Use Lean Growth Strategies To Grow

Since some of you are in the early stages of developing a start-up and others have established businesses, I’ve organized the growth strategies as questions identified by either SU or E/B. The SU questions are for startups and EB questions are for established businesses. These questions are in fact strategies and tactics posed as questions. My only advice is to step out of your shoes and as much as possible act like a beginner, better yet act like the client. And don’t assume just because you’ve done something it’s what the client wants or appropriate for this season of your adventure.

Customer Segments

Customers are the heart of the organization. Without clients there is no organization. Who are the specific customer segments you are targeting?

SU What type of research have you done with your prospective customer segments? Have you been face to face with clients? What about face to face with industry experts to confirm your understanding of your clients? How do you know these are the right client segments to target, have you talked to other customer segments? Are there any under served client groups you may have forgotten about?

SU Where do your prospective clients hang out online and offline? What are the demographics, lifestyle? What makes your target market yours- and where are they currently going for similar benefits to the ones you hope to provide them? What can you do to build community and learn as much about your client? Do you have clients on your design team and if not how soon can you get them there?

E/B How much information do you have about your customers and how do you get your customer insights? How recent is your customer feedback and what percent of your clients are providing feedback? How do you generate testimonials and referrals do you have references online and can clients find your clients opinions when they search your name or the keywords around which you and your company are found? If you are an online platform how are your analytics and online listening devices helping you, do you use a customer enterprise tool such as sales force? How do you manage your client database? How do you build trust?

E/B how do you stay in touch with your clients from awareness to loyalty? What are your strategies to drive brand awareness? What about evaluation? And purchase/conversion? What are your strategies after the sale? How do you keep in contact with clients after the fact?

The Value Proposition

The value proposition is your bundle of benefits you offer to the customer that differentiates you from your competition. Each product or service you provide to the customer has its unique value proposition.


Your proposed products and services and or your products and services are solutions for pain/problems/opportunities your specific customer groups have. In the early stages of start-up we assume, make guesses about customers problems. It is these guesses and assumptions that lead us to develop the solutions that are our ventures/companies. On day one a start-up is a faith-based organization in search of a repeatable, scalable, profitable business model. As founders we can never get attached to our assumptions we must get out of the building and validate our assumptions with clients and customers. As owners of established businesses we must not assume that the problems our clients had when we opened or even six months ago are the same problems they have now. The customer is development, design and the future. How engaged are they in helping you grow your business?

SU: Have you asked your prospective clients in face to face interviews to confirm the problems and challenges your products/service ideas assume they have? Have you talked to domain/industry specialist to confirm your assumptions and guesses in regards to clients and customers? How much time have you spent out of the building face to face with clients and industry experts prior to creating or building any products or services?

SU: How does your client describe their pain, the problems your product and services propose to solve ? What are their exact words?

E/B: When was the last time you talked to your clients or surveyed them and asked them to describe what problems your products and services solve? What pain and opportunities are now either relieved or optimized because of your products and services- be specific.

E/B: What are the common words your clients use to describe the pain, problems and challenges they have which your products solve? When you search these problems or pain does your company come up on the first page of Google? Are you targeting these keywords?

Solution : Don’t build get out of the building and get in front of your clients, discover- learn- test your assumptions and guesses….

a startup is in search of a scalable business model, it is in a race against the clock. To uncover and create something the customer values before it runs out of resources. Start-up is iterative and a constant state of failing forward. We don’t know what we don’t know and the client and the marketplace hold a host of answers if we will only listen and engage them in the design of our products and services. Customers should be on your design team. They should lead and inform what the product and service is because they are the ones who will determine if your start-up or established business continues to grow. Involve them in the process and accelerate your progress and decrease your chance of start-up failure.

SU: Have you taken your proposed solutions, the attributes and elements that you believe your clients want and had your clients react, provide you feedback? What types of tests have you designed to confirm whats most important or what is important to your client in terms of your services and products? How far are you in development and if you are developing a product or service have you validated anyone wants it or are you wasting time and money?

SU: What have your client tests discovered? What is the minimal viable product or service (benefits) clients want? And how is this different from your initial product assumptions? How has your model iterated, changed and pivoted. Remember the less time between pivots the higher chance of success.

E/B: How often do you get client feedback and what are your clients telling you? When we look at review sites online are your clients happy? What is the word in social about your products and services? What is your number one service or product- why? How are you responding to clients in social and are clients talking about your products and services? How are your products made and is the quality better than your competitors- how about the prices? What are you differentiating yourself on? And how well are you communicating this – can your clients tell you what sets your company apart and why do they purchase- do you know?

E/B: In your marketing do you use your clients words to explain the pain, problem and show how your products and services solve these problems, challenges? Do your clients tell your product and service stories or do you? Are you encouraging clients to tell your story on online customer review platforms such as Yelp, City Search, Find a Doctor…My Trip Advisor..etc?


Your channels are how your products and services are delivered to your clients. How do clients receive the value you deliver?

SU: Have you evaluated all delivery methods? What do your prospective clients prefer – in your research what have they told you about the delivery of your services and products what’s critical? What about warranties, guarantees and any kind of charges? Will you be outsourcing some of the delivery functions if so to who for how much?

SU: What are the costs and benefits of each channel you are evaluating delivering products and services by and how will you create awareness, evaluation, purchase, delivery and customer support after the sale?

E/B How is each and every product or service delivered? If you are online can you add additional distribution channels? When did you last talk to your clients and what is their satisfaction regarding the delivery of your products/services? Could your products be delivered more effectively in other channels- could you save money in delivery? How convenient do your clients believe your services and products are?

E/B: What happens before the sale, during evaluation and during the sale and after the sale? Who is responsible for each and how do you measure success? What is your sales pipeline and what are your sales channels and communication channels you use to What are your competitors doing? Are you managing the sales cycle from first impression or contact to after the sale?

Customer Relationships

What are the types of relationships you have with each of your customer targets ( acquisition, retention, upselling and what type of service do you provide- do it yourself, automated, dedicated personal assistance, etc…) The customer experience is driven by your business model.

SU: What must happen for you to gain customer traction, how does your business grow and what does this mean for the types of relationships and customer experience your venture will focus on? What expertise, skills and knowledge, resources will you need to pull this off?

SU: What are other established companies who have similar customer relationships – what are the changes and trends in ventures who grow through similar customer type of relationships across all industries? What do your clients want and how many of them have you talked to?

EB: How much of your marketing spend is invested in awareness and evaluation and how much of your marketing is focused on selling and customer care? If your success depends on customer acquisition what are you doing to drive prospects and leads and whats your cost per lead? What is your conversion rate and what is the cost to acquire a new client? How long do clients stay with you and how much do they spend over their lifetime with you? What are the latest breakthroughs in the industry in the past six months and may there will be new ways to drive more cost effective or higher quality customer relationships to differentiate your business?

EB: What are your targets for customer relationships ( # new clients, cost per click, average ticket, visits per client,) and what are the specific strategies you are executing to achieve these, whose responsible and how accountable are they? Whats the return on investment of what you are currently doing? What’s working and what’s not? How do you define success in marketing and sales? What is your close ratio?

Revenue Streams:

What are the streams of revenue that your products and services generate from each customer segment? Are you selling physical assets, charging for usuage, a brokerage, generating subscriptions, advertising….etc

SU: What are all the revenue streams you plan to have by target market and what are the pricing mechanisms? Have you tested these with clients? How did you come to these decisions? What do clients think of your plans? Do you have letters of intent or orders yet if not is there a way you can generate commitments before you invest more to build out your venture?

SU: How might you test your pricing and revenue stream assumptions and plans?

EB: When was the last time you got feedback as to your prices, value from your client target markets? And have you asked clients what other services or products they may be interested in purchasing from you? What are the trends in your company? What products and services are growing in sales and which are declining? And what about your gross profit per product what are the trends and how about your NI per division or unit, location, department? What do your numbers tell you in regards to revenues? And if they are trending down have you met with your staff and clients to confirm why?

EB: When was the last time you introduced a new revenue stream or product/service offering? What are the top 5 opportunities you have to increase sales? Based on what’s happening in the marketplace now how could you add value and where- what would this look like- are there new departments or new businesses you could easily launch and get pre- commitments before you invest to develop new products and or services? What clients might be major sources of increased revenue? If you sell things can you lease them if they are not selling? If you license things might you be able to develop strategic partnerships and take them to market yourself? If you get advertising fees might you be able to sell items also? Think outside of your current model as to other ways to solve client problems and challenges…

Key Resources:

What are the most important assets to make the business model work? Physical, intellectual, human and financial

SU: Why are these resources critical, how will you source them and have you validated they are available, critical and will achieve the validated benefits clients have told you they want? Are the key resources – guesses or have they been validated as critical to your clients and the solutions they want?

SU: Has your business model pivoted recently and if so how has the key resources necessary changed? Have you developed new assumptions about operations, team and marketing? How are the key resources you’ve outlined aligned with your value proposition?

E/B: In your most recent customer research have you validated your key resources are differentiating you and achieving the customer satisfaction you want? Do you have a physical, intellectual, human or financial weakness in terms of resources and if so how can you solve it? Can you partner? Collaborate? Become a strategic partner and share a resource? Source a resource from another vendor? What must happen in regards to resources to get growing- team, finances, intellectual and physical plant?

Key Activities:

What are the most important elements to make your business/start-up work?

SU: Have you validated your MVP or the benefits clients most want from you and if so what are the key activities necessary to deliver this/these? What must happen to give the clients what they want and what differentiates you from the competition?

SU: Who are experts in the area of these key activities- have you met with them, talked to them had them review your assumptions? Do you have a domain expert, a key activity specialist on your team or advising you? How will you excel in these areas-?

E/B: Are you a production, platform, problem solving or service organization? What has to happen for your clients to be happy? What’s happening in the key drivers of your businesses success? Are costs up or down? Is performance up or down? What about the team? How do you evaluate your progress in your key activities and how are your competitors doing have they made advances you don’t know about? What is the client feedback in terms of your performance on the key drivers of success?


Key Partnerships:

The network of partners and vendors, organizations, individuals that are key to making the business model work. A way of optimization through collaboration.

SU: How might partnering, collaborating reduce your go to market risk and the investment necessary to launch?

SU: What types of partnerships could help you cut costs, optimize quality and or acquire clients faster?

E/B: What has happened to your key partnerships over the past year and what needs to happen to optimize your companies success?

E/B: What types of new partnerships might help you reduce risk and take a new product or service to market, acquire new clients faster , access much needed resources or achieve economies of scale?

Cost Structure:

What are the most important costs in the business model, which resources, activities and elements are most expensive?

SU: Based on your validated MVP, the solutions clients want you to come to market with what are the key costs and how much research have you done to confirm these costs? Who are industry experts and financial experts who have experience in your industry and have they validated your cost assumptions?

SU: Have you developed a range of comparable costs for ventures similar in regards to their model to you and are you using facts to develop out your costs and financial projections?

E/B: How has the businesses cost structure changed in the past year or so? Why and what is the impact have you increased prices if costs have gone up and if so what has the impact been to sales/revenues?

E/B: How often do you get a profit and loss? Whose responsible for cost management? What type of benchmarks or indicates do you use to manage your business?

20 Ways To Get Growing: Lean Growth Strategies To Grow Your Startup And Business

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