Monday, 29 September 2014

Billy's 33rd Law: Transition One - From Hunter to Farmer

All business success rests on something labeled a sale, which at least momentarily weds company and customer.
 Tom Peters 

For most business start-ups, finding initial customers is often the initial challenge.  Many businesses are successful due to the outstanding sales skills of its founder.  In the world of sales, these are the hunters.  I admire hunters.  They prospect with wild abandon...make quick pitches designed to get them a longer hearing and don't worry about rejection.  Hunters are great at executing customer acquisition strategies.
Great sales skills usually drive of business growth.  The great hunters thrive on the challenges of bringing new customers on board.  The weakness of the hunter is they are often a bit ADHD...they get bored once they have closed that sale.  That is why we have  farmers. Farmers are great at executing customer retention strategies.
Farmers (I have also heard the term shepherds) thrive on  'customer care.'  They keep the customers engaged and often look for opportunities to meet customers’ needs in an entirely different way.  They are essential for sustaining a business.
When a company develops a growth strategy, it comes from one of two sources.  You can either find new products/services, or you can find new customers.  You can of course use a combination of the two.  This is obvious - but sometimes the simple and the obvious are amazing starting points.
New Customers
Existing Customers
New Products
Product Growth
Hybrid Growth
Existing Products
Marketing Growth
To add products, you must determine if you must add additional capability.  Capability represents the things you can currently make or do.  For example, an accountant may want to offer business planning services to his customers.  If this individual has the ability to do the plans, then there is no need to add capabilities.  If the accountant lacks skills in marketing, or market research, he must develop or otherwise find these skills to add business planning to the product offering mix.
Your choice is important, as you will dedicate both time and resources to the direction you choose.  Product growth is great for companies with a breadth of competencies.  Large consulting firms can offer many different services to their existing customer base, and are never short of new ways to generate income!  Companies whose 'marketing customer' is very 'farmer oriented' are often great at finding new customer needs and then developing strategies to meet those needs.
Some companies are great at finding new customers for their existing product mix.  They thrive on the Hunter style of marketing.  They are adept at re-creating their success formulae in other markets.  Franchises and chains are good examples.  Many offer a limited product mix, but can duplicate this in many different markets.  (I am amazed how many sandwiches Subway can generate from such a small area.)  These companies grow by saturating markets and finding new customers for their products or services.
No company can use a single strategy forever.  Eventually, you must find new customers and expand or revise your product offerings.  Making such changes requires many of the same needs identification skills that made your company great in the beginning.
I have seen too many companies grow their market by going from one opportunity to the other with no strategy what so ever.  Opportunism is great (and a hallmark of many great entrepreneurs) however strategic growth requires evaluating the direction that best suits your corporate strengths, culture and abilities.  It is important to understand the role of hunters (customer acquisition) and farmers (customer retention) as a part of your overall growth strategy. 

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