Jorge Lana, co-founder of Modulor Ventures
10 tips to keep growing your business
Part of my responsibility at Modulor Ventures is to keep our business ventures profitable and keep growing.
Before starting let me explain you quickly what is Modulor Ventures. We a group of 5 companies and talented people (65+) building and scaling ventures with different business models → so far our companies are mendesaltaren (Product design studio), Minimum.run (NoCode agency), Nocodehackers (NoCode academy), Polyflow (Translation SaaS) and Upgrade.camp (EdTech).
Our companies are in different stages and their business models are different, so we face different challenges but we also find common areas to focus in order to keep growing and improving efficiency.
There are times that we get lost in day-to-day operations and then by the end of the month or quarter suddenly we wonder questions like
- Why doesn't my business grow?
- Why i am not attracting more users?
- Why I am not more profitable?
In fact, there is not an answer because there are many different variables that affect to businesses performance. In this post, I put together a summary of key areas that you need to focus to keep growing your business.
Although, you probably carry out or focus in all of them at the same time, unless you have important machinery in operation, it is important to have them listed and prioritise them according to your business model and stage of your company.
1. Competitive analysis of new markets
If you’re entering in an established market, you’ll need to understand how your potential customers are currently being served.
What’s your competition doing well, and where can you offer something new?
Build a benchmark of similar businesses to get an understanding of their products and services, identify best practices, and note the areas where you can differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.
Here the full check list to run a complete competitive analysis:
- Determine who your competitors are.
- Determine what products your competitors offer.
- Research your competitors' sales tactics and results.
- Take a look at your competitors' pricing, as well as any perks they offer.
- Take note of your competition's content strategy.
- Look at their social media presence, strategies, and go-to platforms.
- Perform a SWOT Analysis to learn their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
This is a visual and quick example about how we mapped the competitive landscape for one of our agencies Minimum (Webflow nocode agency). You need to analyse in detail what they do well and where you can differentiate from them (”nobody is perfect”).
The competitive analysis should be updated continuously, if you are a busy startup try at least to review and update it once a year with the purpose of understanding the trends, new players and innovation happening in your industry.
2. Product research - talk to users!
Interacting closely with your customers and partners, conducting surveys, and carrying out market research, will help you to notice the areas where you can continue improving and innovating to add value to your customers.
Always ask yourself these questions no matter what’s the stage of your company
- Am I solving the problem for the target personas or companies I am targeting for my products or services?
- Can you extend your product range, offer another service, or create a product that brings something new to the table?
As your business grows, it’s important to keep asking yourself these questions so you don’t get stuck.
YC Partner Eric Migicovsky co-founder at Beeper explains the framework for asking questions and collecting feedback from your users. You can watch the full video class here (I highly recommend it).
Eric and us recommend the Mom test book to solve 3 common errors that founders and teams typically do when speaking to customers about new products or features:
- Sometimes we talk too much about our ideas and products, the goal of talking to users is to extract data from your customers to improve your product.
- We talk about hypotheticals. We ask questions such as “if we build this, would you be interested”, instead we should ask questions about problems they have.
- We talk a lot. Try to listen more and take the right notes to better understand your client needs:)
Here also 5 questions to ask your customers to learn how to keep improving your product:
- What is the hardest part about doing the thing that you're trying to solve?
- Tell me about the last time that you encountered this problem.
- Why was this hard?
- What, if anything, have you done to try to solve this problem?
- The fifth question is very tactical. "What don't you love about the solutions that you've already tried?" This is the beginning of your potential feature set.
During user interviews ask questions that extract numerical answers to three facts about the customer that you are working with.
- How much money is wasted today as they try to solve this problem?
- The second one that I like to get to the bottom of is how frequently do they encounter this problem?
- Do they encounter it on an hourly basis, a daily basis, a quarterly basis, yearly basis?
3. Align your teams and goals
Every company wants to continue growing on revenue and profits, right?
All businesses should be thinking to continue improving their product performance and main KPIs such as N° of new active users, N° of paid subscribers, Cost of acquisition, Increase Average Order Value, Increase Qualified Leads, Reduce Churn, Product Engagement, Average Customer Value, Lifetime Value, etc.).
Improving requires total coordination, rethinking and innovation. As you’re interacting with the people who use your product or service, you might find that there are additional use cases in that you can keep improving or developing new product features. It might even be a simple functionality improvement, enhance customer experience, upgrading operations, improving your sales process or trying new marketing channels.
To continue improving your company and results you need to have a good management team aligned with the goals of the company. They need to believe in the purpose of the company and understand the main goals and how different teams work together. The typical teams to coordinate on a SMB or Startup are:
- Customer service
Key performance indicators (KPI’s).
Once the teams understand the main goals and are aligned, you can start to work everyday on small improvements or marginal gains across all your teams to try to impact on your main goals.
In the book Lean Analytics, the authors introduce the concept of OMTM — the One Metric that Matters. The OMTM is the one number you’re completely focused on above everything else for your current stage. It could be N° of customers per week, Churn, N° of new active users, N° of paid subscribers, Cost of acquisition…anything that has a direct impact on your company performance.
From there you can build the right strategy and execute it coordinating with all the teams in the organization.
4. Building a strong culture
Although it might no affect directly to growth, it will definitely pay out with team retention and engagement. And remember, your team is your biggest asset.
I believe culture is one of the most important things you need to take care of if you want to have a great team and scale a business.
In order to create a long-lasting culture everyone need to understand that culture will need adaptations as the company grows. Your core values are your constant staples, but the overall culture needs to be flexible enough to acclimate to different employees and changing times. Culture is not static.
Here are 6 tips to build a strong culture, it is a quick summary of this entrepreneur post that I encourage you to read more in detail:
- You need to have a purpose.
- Define and communicate your values and principles, and repeat them all the time.
- Leading by example
- Identify your culture ambassadors
- Be truthful and always communicate
- Treat people right
In a recent talk, we had the opportunity to see what Eric Schmidt, Dara Khosrowshahi, Angela Ahrendts, and Bob at the #MastersOfScaleSummit discussed about company culture.
Here are some of the insights, thanks Laura Gaviria (ex Softbank VC investor) for sharing the insights in this post 🧵
- Culture trumps everything
- The difference between management and leadership is that management comes from hierarchy and leadership comes from the heart 💚
- The higher you go up in your career, the more you should be authentic
5. Standardisation of your offering
Very important to keep growing for both SaaS and services businesses.
Once you validate your product market fit, you should focus to standardise as more as possible your offering. In order to do that, you need to define very well your user persona (add as many variables as possible) and categorise your products or services. Identify your competitive advantage vs other players.
For example at minimum.run we started different type of services MVPs, Landing Pages, Low-Code, NoCode Development across many different tools, etc. however, after more than 30 projects we analyse patterns and realised that we were better than other agencies building marketing websites with Nocode tools but not other products. Since then, this has been our major focus of the company to keep scaling and make it profitable.
6. Branding and Design
Investing in the brand comes at different stages in a company, if you want to grow your business, you definitely need to have a good brand and design across all your platforms and distribution/sales channels (off and online)
Here are 3 moments when you should invest in branding to improve your positioning.
- Launching a New Business: You are also building a Brand
If you’re launching a new business, you’re simultaneously building a new brand. A branding plan is an essential part of your starter kit.
If you have an existing business that has outgrown its identity — say, due to a business pivot, significant growth, or an exciting new offering — you will likely want to address branding, too.
Once you build a brand is important to apply it to your product.
- Your Brand is Outdated: Yes, Invest In Branding
When you’re not building your brand, somewhere someone else (your competitor) is building theirs.
Those efforts may slowly widen the gap between their brand value and yours. Eventually, it may hit you that your brand is visibly second-best. Ideally, you’ll never be in the situation I just described. If you ever are, it’s time to add some strategy to your brand, with more passion, more purpose, and more attention to detail.
Some companies put all their efforts into developing their product but they forget how branding and design are important for customers. Customers often make decisions based on brand identity, brand recognition, and product design.
- You’re Going To Turn Branding Into Marketing and Product: Yes, Invest In Branding
The reason you invest in branding is to make your marketing more impactful. Your marketing investment will be far more cost-effective if it's launched under a cohesive brand umbrella. Your website, social media, email marketing, blog content, and sales collateral all benefit from branding and generate ROI that ties back to it.
Creating a beautiful brand with no further investment in marketing is equivalent to buying a new car and leaving it parked in your garage.
If your business is a SaaS or your customers engage with your digital platform on a daily or weekly basis, it is important to have in place a product and marketing strategy to experiment and continue improving your main KPIs regularly.
Many companies struggle when trying to accelerate growth, especially when they have cross-functional teams. Inertia to keep business moving forward might be difficult and yet it’s impossible to ignore.
Building a high-performance product optimisation program is the answer—and it all starts with experimentation.
Very important if you are a scale-up and you want to work more efficiently and continue growing. It will allow your company to coordinate your product, business and technology teams to work coordinated with a a collaborative single source of truth. Here a case study from Figma, Repsol and mendesaltaren where thanks to building a power design system, we have enabled the team to iterate faster and reduce work required for product implementation by 30% → grow faster!
7. Product Marketing
We know building a great product is...great, but if you don´t have good product marketing strategy to position and communicate well the benefits to your clients, they will not get excited about your product and your sales will not be as expected.
This is when Product Marketing becomes key: Product Marketing is responsible for communicating the company and product benefits to prospective customers, the industry, and general public when it comes to launch. This requires understanding very well your audience and market, and having a great process, methodology and technology in place to be able to coordinate stakeholders, understand users feedback and empower business teams and creators to design and build the right product positioning and messaging to the right audience.
There are many things you can do on product marketing, but we are going to provide you a shortlist of main tasks. According to productmarketingalliance, the main responsibilities and tasks are:
- Product positioning and messaging
- Managing product launches
- Creating sales collateral
- Customer and marketing research
- Reporting on product marketing success
- Content marketing
- Website management
- Onboarding customers
- Product roadmap planning
For one product marketer, creating sales collateral might make up 60% of their job and for another, it might account for just 25% of it. Because the role is still relatively new, many companies are still figuring out the main goals and responsibilities. On top of that, the product marketing role responsibilities falls between Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.
Product Marketing can help product teams providing customer feedback and marketing insights. It can also help marketing & sales teams positioning well their products. Product Marketing is a key department to help organisations to increase leads generation and sales.
8. Win-Win Partnerships
Building strategic relationships with the right companies can give you a major boost. For one, you can reach a new audience right away. You can also build a stronger reputation and gain more insight into the market.
Affinity marketing strategies and co-branding new products or services are two major examples of strategic alliances.
The best strategic alliances are the ones that offer clear benefits to the audiences of both companies. For example, we do cross-selling with other firms and we also make partnerships to work together for some customers.
When a partnership appeals to both audiences, then the two businesses are able to expand their reach and generate more sales. It’s a win-win strategy!
Here 2 examples of recent partnerships:
In our case, our service agencies have partnerships with Consulting Firms, Venture Capital firms, Motion studios, Development Agencies and software companies such as Webflow, NSUE Studio, Acid Tango, FIK and MrMilu.
Why these partnerships?
Strategy consulting firms: We complement their business strategy consulting model. We build new products for corporates once they have created the right business model.
Venture capital firms: We help their portfolio companies with branding, design, marketing, and development.
Development agencies: They complement our offering with different technologies that we might not have available within our group. We work with different development boutique agencies specialized in different technologies and use cases (Shopify, React Native, Flutter, Mobile, Web, etc.)i
Video & motion studio: They allow us to animate our customers product marketing websites and products with motion and videos to explain the new products.
Webflow: Win-win strategy. We sell their technology and we provide professional services to work around their platform. They provide us leads from their home page.
9. Content marketing and sales automation
First, considering your business already have a great website explaining your value proposition, services and products, your growth strategy should include creating content (articles, videos, podcast, webinars…) for your site and marketing distribution channels (Instagram, TikTok, Linkedin, Twitter…) to connect with your users, fans and customers.
Get familiar with your customers motivations, language and make your messaging clear and personalized for each buyer persona and region. Focus on their main pain points and how your product solves them. Create landing pages, case studies, collect client testimonials, provide tips, talk about your values, team and culture to build a closer relationship with your customers.
Content is king and can help you position around key topics for your future customers. You should focus to position SEO/SEM on search engines and communicate your message across different social and media channels depending on your target persona. Customize your assets and messages depending on the distribution platform.
Second, build an automated processes in place that ensure a consistent customer experience and a seamless training program for your team. That way, the steps it takes to close a sale are tried and true, and your vision is aligned both internally and with the customer’s expectations.
It is important you create a Sales Playbook where you detail sales methodologies, processes, and specific resources such as call scripts, email templates, negotiation questions, buyer personas, customer pain points, and more into one cohesive document.
Here there is a great description from Pipedrive about what your Sales Playbook should contain (the CRM we use in our sales team to manage the pipeline):
Then select the right tools to automate your process: There are amazing tools out there. Depending on the stage of the company we might recommend one stack or another one.
The more common tools we see to automate funnels:
Salesforce - Corporate
Hubspot - Midmarket
Pipedrive - Startups / SMB
For automations, we use Make and Zappier. And typically we integrate CRM with chat channels such as Slack, Email, and Telegram.
10. NPS, MRR and referrals
Measuring and improving your customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) is crucial to continue improving your customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is very important to understand your strengths and areas of improvement. Obsess yourself to continue improving your NPS and you will be able to generate recurrent revenue and upsells.
Happy customers are worthy, they will probably recommend your product services if they are satisfied.
Your customers can become your brand ambassadors and refer your services and products to their industry peers. Customers who engage in these behaviours are “multiplier customers”: they help firms multiply their business growth.
Referral programs make it easy for businesspeople to recommend your products or services to other companies, and often reward businesses for making these recommendations. Referred leads are the most valuable, because of the trust they place in their peers – they’re easier to nurture and more likely to convert into sales.
Loyalty building doesn’t stop once you’ve created a solid customer base. You should continually look for new ways to show your appreciation to them, whether that be exclusive treatments, special promotions, dedicated programs, or early access to new products, features, or events.
Here there is an excellent post about how to create a multiplier effect with your customers.
Networking Participate, host events and join industry communities
Take the opportunity to expand your professional network by attending events in your industry.
Whether that be a professional networking mixer, a trade show, a meet-and-greet, or anything in between, these in-person events can help you build relationships within your field. You might meet the people who’ll help you grow your business—partners, employees, investors, customers, and supporters.
There are many events in the world, so you need to make sure you attend those that are relevant to your business and where you can find your audience. You need to connect with your industry peers and clients in physical or online events. You can also influence your industry by speaking at public events.
Here some of the main events where the tech world meets:
- 4YFN at Mobile World Congress
- Startup Grind
- Viva Tech
- Web Summit
- South Summit
- And many others events around the globe.
Joining communities from your industry can also be rewarding to be up to speed on the latest trends and share pains and challenges that you and your competitors and partners might be facing as well.
In our case, we are part of the Webflow community, where we interact via slack with thousands of users across the globe. And we have our own community of designers at mendesaltaren and NoCode Lovers and Nocodehackers.
Bonus! Financing 💲
Ideal scenario: Your clients will finance your business and you don’t have to raise money.
However, we know that’s very hard because sometimes as you’re growing you might find that you need additional funds to grow your team, invest in marketing, products, technology, new market, etc.
In that case, don’t hesitate to look for outside financing that can help you on your way. This does involve a major decision though, so don’t take the process lightly.
Consider the pros and cons of different financing options before you move forward.
Not sure where to start? Here are the typical ways to start funding your business depending on the stage. From seed to IPO (A dream come true):
What are the main options to fund your company?
1) Equity investments
- Family, Friends and Fools (FFF)
- Business Angels
- Venture Capital - List of top VCs
- Private Equity Firms - List of top VCs
- Debt. Traditional debt is getting funding from banks. If you go for debt, when making your choice, look into rates, terms, fees, and any other costs involved in the transaction.
3) Public loans and programs
- Depending on your region you can find public help for specific industries. These type of financial helps or loans typically are focused on activities related to R&D, Technology, or industries that a country/region need to foster in the coming years.
Here a quick recap of different areas to focus to grow your company:
- Understand your competitors
- Customer and product research
- Improving continuously
- Build a strong culture
- Invest in branding
- Win-Win strategic alliances
- Build a strong sales funnel
- Training and talent development
- Create long relationships with customers
- Participate in events
If this has been interesting to you, share it. This time synthesising ideas has a cost, and with little effort on your part you make us reach more people who can be inspired or made to think.
At Modulor. ventures we are helping our partners and customers to build and grow products and businesses nationally and internationally. We provide strategy, branding, product design, NoCode, and agile development services to help businesses grow and have more impact.
In case you are interested to chat with us, please ping us.
I hope you enjoyed this post :-) More coming soon.