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Approach your Business with Radical Courage

Founder and host Scott MacKenzie, of Industrial Talk, lives and breathes his passion for Industrial growth and success. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration. He interviews our CEO, Meghan Lynch, about letting go of your Legacy Thinking and Approach your Business with Radical Courage”.

podcast transcript

 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let’s go.

Scott MacKenzie :

All right, thank you very much for joining the Industrial Talk Podcast where we celebrate you the industry heroes, you are bold, you are brave, you dare greatly, you solve problems, you’re transforming lives and you’re transforming the world that’s why we celebrate you. Thank you very much for what you do to make our lives better.

All right, in the hot seat, her name is Meghan Lynch. She is definitely the President and CEO of Six-Point Creative. And I got to tell ya I was jacked on this particular dog-gone interview because we talk a lot about being bold, brave, and daring greatly. It’s one thing to talk about it she does it. Let’s get cracking.

Yeah, which is really interesting when you get right down to it. I’ll sit there and I’ll talk about the necessity to be bold, to be brave, to dare greatly, specifically in this time of whatever the new normal, next normal, whatever we call it. I got to come up with a better name, however, whatever we’re living through.

You’ve heard me talk over and over again about, yeah, there’s the negative side, but I think there’s the positive side. And I think that there is a desire to be more vulnerable, to be open, to be… Just the necessity to be able to collaborate because we need to educate, collaborate, and of course innovate, especially now.

But it’s all great, and it’s all wonderful, and it’s all just dandy words. However, there’s got to be action to it. And what’s great about Meghan is the simple fact that she does. She recognizes the necessity to be bold, brave, and dare greatly. But what does that mean? How does a business do that? How do we take it today, whatever this world we live in today, and be able to survive, rebuild, and succeed?

And she brings that real-world. That ability to be able to do that, so that… I mean, we need people, we need to constantly be out there and innovating. We need to be out there collaborating, and definitely she brings the tools to be able to do that. Now in line with what she’s doing I just plant the seed again, Industrial Talk 2.0 is really just a neighborhood of industrial professionals.

Yeah, it’s a network, but it’s a neighborhood because we have a desire to make everybody succeed whatever that might be, whatever that level is. But more importantly it is a great location to find where people are truly innovating and truly having a desire to collaborate.

That’s Industrial Talk 2.0. It’s in the works. We’re doing it. It’s a neighborhood because we are bound together. We have ties. And whether we like it or not I think a pandemic has really highlighted the fact that we are. We don’t have all the answers.

But you know what we have out there, incredible professionals that understand what to do and how to do it, and be able to share that knowledge with you so that you can survive, rebuild, and prosper.

That’s my intro. It’s always the same because it doesn’t change. I mean, we just got to collaborate. It’s important to collaborate. All right, Meghan Lynch, President, CEO, Six-Point Creative, we’re going to be talking about real tactical solutions to that point of you got to be bold, brave, and dare greatly. You can’t have that legacy thinking. You got to do it. What does that mean? How do you find that help?

She’s all about that. She’s great. All right, enjoy the interview. Meghan, welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast. Again, an absolute honor that you made time in your busy schedule to talk to the wonderful and bright listeners of Industrial Talk. That’s what they are.

Meghan Lynch:

Thanks so much, Scott. So excited about it.

Scott MacKenzie :

It’s so cool. Man, I’m going to have a great conversation. I mean, listeners we were having a conversation offline. As you know we do all the time. We do that just because we have to, and we were sort of wrestling with the necessity to educate, and the companies that truly are committed to education will have, no guarantees, don’t go to somebody and say Scott guaranteed if I educate I’m going to be a success. No, that’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying companies that have a greater focus on education have a greater opportunity for success, and that’s all we’re trying to create here. And Meghan brings the lumber in this particular conversation. Before we get into that interview, Meghan, before, give us a little 411 on who you are and why you’re such an incredible professional.

Meghan Lynch:

Absolutely. So I have a company called Six-Point Creative. My background is in brand strategy. But really kind of what Six-Point’s focus is to help companies who are at an inflection point, we call them sec`ond-stage companies.

They’re often family-owned businesses. Companies that have kind of hit this point of a plateau of we’ve kind of tapped out our existing network. We’ve tapped out our growth opportunities, but we’re still looking for more, and we still feel like there’s more opportunity in the market.

Those are the companies that we really honed everything that we do to try to help. And I really did that because I have a second-stage company, and I just realize how different the needs are of companies that are established in the marketplace, who have a reputation, who have something to lose. How different they are from a startup company, and also how very different they are from a large corporation with deep pockets and multiple levels and lots of internal expertise.

These companies are really in this messy middle. And I feel although they’re being served, I don’t know that they’re often being so intentionally served right around that life stage.

Scott MacKenzie :

Isn’t that interesting because I could see if you’re at that position and you talked about second-stage companies, define what that looks like?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, so a second-stage company is a company that has anywhere between 10 and a hundred employees, those are loose cutoffs, but it tends to be the range that you see it happening. And basically, what happens is early on when you’re going into second-stage there’s often these, you start to see just the need for more process. Everything that you’re doing just feels like, oh man, when we were super small this just hummed and now everything’s just so much more difficult.

It’s hard for me to delegate things. People aren’t listening. You have a lot more people problems. People are asking for more process and you can’t give it to them. And then on the later side of the company this is usually when they’ve matured through that cycle and they have some expertise and they have some systems and processes.

And oftentimes, maybe if it’s a family-owned business maybe they’re bringing in a professional or CEO with industry experience for the first time who’s going to kind of lead this company into the next kind of generation.

And oftentimes what you start to see then is this push-pull between the past, which is valuable. And it’s where the relationships are, and it’s all this historical, again, from a brand perspective it’s kind of the reputation that you have and the goodwill that you’ve built up over time.

That track record that’s so important. And then the push-pull between that and then this vision for a future, which might mean doing things differently than we’ve done them or pivoting, taking our existing product line and moving it to a new market where we see opportunity, something that’s coming down the line and that innovation piece.

And there are these tensions between do we stay with what exists or do we do this new thing? And I think often companies look at this as I can only do one or the other. And I think what we’re really there to say is, no, there’s a third path where you keep your reputation. You keep your customers. You keep that strength that you’ve built.

All of that is super valuable and that’s an asset that you need to leverage, and you also have this other thing, which is this innovation, this new market, this maybe new sales strategy, whatever it is, new product, innovation, all of those things.

That’s going to be what’s going to sustain this into the future because it does become a little bit of that grow or die piece of if you’re not growing then you’re probably shrinking if you’re not out there.

Scott MacKenzie:

So this is what I… This is my head and I’m processing this information. All I hear is you need to change and you need to change more.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, exactly.

Scott MacKenzie :

And you need to change, and over here you need to change and change and change and change. And nobody… You figure if a company gets to this particular second-stage they’ve changed, they put a lot of sweat equity in that.

And now you’re saying, “Hey, hey, you still need to change.” I would imagine many of these companies are saying, “I just want to glide on into whatever the future.”

How do you keep them from saying you don’t want to do that?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, well, I mean, I think, again, it does become figuring out what is important to them. If change… If they’re really totally unwilling to change and they have no vision for the future well then that’s not going to be, that’s not really a second-stage company because they don’t have that next stage vision.

They’re not trying to grow into the future. So if really what they want and what they have is where they want to stay then that’s great. I don’t want to… I’m not going to mess when somebody’s vision for their business… Where we really thrive is with the companies that are struggling in this kind of middle area of we want to change, we see opportunity, there’s more people who need our product. They often call themselves we’re a best kept secret in the market.

I often hear that, that they’ll refer to themselves as like, Ooh, we are a best kept secret. And I’m like, okay, well, do you want to let that secret out because that’s not, it’s great that you have the confidence in what you’ve built and also you don’t have to be a secret.

Scott MacKenzie :

Yeah, that’s true. It’s sort of, I’ve heard that same thing, sure, absolutely, we’re the best kept secret. Well then you’re leaving money on the table or you’re not growing, or you’re not doing this, and that’s fantastic, but, but, but, but-

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly, yeah, they’ll say it proudly because they’ve built so much equity in what the product that they built or their service team or whatever it is. And the… But I always look at it as there’s probably more companies, more people. You’re always talking about these people are change makers. They are people who want to help their products get into the right hands of people who can do something amazing with them.

And so for me the question is always, don’t we want to get that into more hands? Don’t we want to increase that innovation in the market? If you have something that’s going to change an industry you need to let those engineers know, you need to let those product managers know, and give them the opportunity to use what you’ve built.

Scott MacKenzie :

Yeah, so okay, listeners, what we have, we’re talking about second-stage companies that’s between 10 and a hundred employees. But I think the key here, what Meghan has pointed out is that these second-stage companies want to definitely focus on growth. They’re willing to deal with the pain of change and go through that process, and that’s a great thing, and don’t be a best kept secret. That is where we’re at.  Now when we start talking about that, outside of all that, I would imagine because of COVID a lot of these companies have been hit pretty hard?

Yet they’re trying to survive, rebuild, and then try to prosper in this next normal, and what does that look like to you?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, so for me again, that one of the things that COVID has done is that a lot of the companies we work with were about to have their best year ever going into COVID. I heard that so much, like we are poised for our best year ever, and then they get the rug ripped out of them.

And that has an emotional, psychological effect on you, well, now I’m going to be a little bit more fearful. I thought I was doing everything right. I thought I had this figured out, and then this thing that I totally couldn’t control takes all that away from me, and we did not have the year that we wanted to have.

So, it becomes this balancing act of making sure that companies stay in some kind of comfort zone and keep some kind of realistic safety net for themselves.

But at the same time, I think, it’s also given companies a sense of like, hey, we were resting on our laurels a little bit. We were a little bit complacent. We didn’t make some of the big decisions that we knew we had to make, whether that was getting a product launched quickly, or whether it was some personnel changes that they needed to make, they’re carrying some dead weight. And I think that one of the good things about COVID is that it created a sense of urgency, right?

All the business owners that I’m talking to are like, hey, we made decisions that I knew I had to make I just didn’t want to make the tough decisions and COVID forced my hand.

Scott MacKenzie :

So this is interesting. Yeah, this is exactly what… I’ve heard the same thing. It’s like, I believe, yeah, there’s the pain of COVID, got it. Everybody knows, yes, yes, yes, yes, and we’re not going to go through that.

But, I think, there’s a silver lining in the COVID conversation, and that is the conversation of resilience and truth. Now we’re having conversations that make sense. I’m not going to sit there and lollygag and be lazy.

I want to build a business of resilience because when this happens again, if it happens again, heaven help us, I’m ready, I got a business of resilience. So I see it as a positive and a conversation in the business of resiliency. Do you agree?

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re totally right, Scott. And I think, one of the things that you talk a lot about is collaboration, and I think that that’s been the other silver lining of COVID.

And I’ve seen so many really cool collaborations of companies coming together to solve some really complex problems. I was just talking to somebody the other day who they have a kiosk and cart company and they serve industrial manufacturers of food products and they collaborated with some people doing some work in an electric vehicle technology, and some cold storage people, and they put together these cool mobile vaccine units that are now being used in healthcare.

This is a company that never had anything to do with healthcare. And now all of a sudden they’re in the healthcare industry. And it was through three or four small businesses putting their expertise together and saying, What do we all have that could help solve this problem, and maybe if we do it together we could do something bigger than we might be able to do on our own.

And I think that that’s such a cool opportunity, especially for these smaller players in the market. If we aren’t collaborating with each other then we are missing a huge opportunity to challenge those big guys.

Scott MacKenzie :

Huge, absolutely spot on, huge opportunity. And I think that the other positive associated with COVID is the fact that I can be humble. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to be… I go to Scott and he has all the answers, geez, that’s a heavy, heavy thing to carry around.

Now I could be humble and say, “I have this answer, but I don’t have, I need help, I need to help.” And I think it’s just a really, in a weird way a beautiful realities of the marketplace. I just, I don’t know how else to put it because-

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. Well, and it’s stripped away a lot of the pretense because I think people who didn’t have anything of substance to offer people quickly kind of turned away from them and said like, “Okay, well, I don’t have time for any more BS I really need.

 

To be with people of substance. I need people who are problem solvers, people who are humble, people who can collaborate, people who have ideas, not just people who are kind of sitting back going oh shoot what do we do now? But the people who are out there saying like, “I don’t know exactly what to do, but I do know I have this. Does anybody need this?”

And I think that that’s been really valuable too. I’ve seen, again from relationships that I have, I’ve seen kind of who are the people who you can count on, and who are the true experts, and who are the people who are those people who really truly care about what they’re doing and the people that they do it for. And then you’ve seen the other people kind of fall off.

Scott MacKenzie :

So I see this resiliency model including you got to educate businesses. These second, let me look at my notes, second-stage companies, the ones that are going to probably fair okay are committed to education, committed to collaboration, and well as there’s an innovation component there. They want to be more efficient going forward, I would imagine.

Is that sort of the mindset of these second-stage companies that truly want to be successful in the future?

Meghan Lynch:

It is. It is. I think that those are, when they’re at their best that is their mindset. I feel the kind of dark side of this is that these are companies that have put a lot of sweat equity into building what they have, whether it’s their IP, whether it’s their processes, whether it’s their people, whether it’s their relationships with their customers.

I mean, these are companies who have put decades of experience into what they have built. And so I think in their best moments they are innovative, they are collaborative, they are educational. At their worst moments they are fearful that they are going to lose everything that they just built.

They are fearful that the customers that have been so critical to that process are going to leave them. If they see them let’s say talking to another market or skipping a distribution model, or kind of innovating too much.

Scott MacKenzie :

Wow.

Meghan Lynch:

And they’re also afraid of their competitors. Well, we can’t educate people too much because our competitors are going to steal our information or copy us. And so they turn into, which, and all of those things, like what you were talking about are all these things-

Scott MacKenzie :

Legit.

Meghan Lynch:

Open people up and make them bigger than what they are. The things that I sometimes see are things that shut companies down and make them smaller than what they are.

Scott MacKenzie :

Well, that’s fascinating.

Meghan Lynch:

And so those are the types of things that we kind of have to help companies work through. And they’re legitimate. They’re founded on real fears. It’s not like, oh, you shouldn’t be worried about that just do it anyway. These are real fears.

Scott MacKenzie :

No, no, they can’t

Meghan Lynch:

But they can be problem solved.

Scott MacKenzie :

That’s… Boy, that is just a brilliant point. I appreciate that Meghan, because I always think because I’m just going to go out there, that’s me, but these companies that fall into that category who have invested time, energy, effort, money, and all of that over the years that is a difficult thing to stop. But that’s… And we were talking specifically about that fear of what’s holding companies back and that might be part of that, right?

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly, yeah, and I think that one of the things is that you really have to kind of meet those companies where they are and acknowledge that this fear is real because it’s so easy to come in as a consultant and be like, hey, well, you should do this, you should do this, you should change this.

Scott MacKenzie :

You can change this, yeah.

Meghan Lynch:

And they’re… And it’s like, well, you’re playing with other people’s money. These people are playing with their own money with their own team. It’s people that they have to look in the eye, whether it’s their customers, their suppliers, their employees. And so I think that if we as kind of the consultants, the coaches, the strategist, if we don’t take that seriously and really truly listen to those fears and help not just dismiss them, but help them problem solve for them then I think that we are doing them a disservice and we could put their company in jeopardy, which is something I would never want to do.

So for me it’s a lot about kind of like, hey, your fear is your brain telling you something. It’s trying to protect you, right? So let’s do a deep dive into what exactly is this worst case scenario that you’re trying to protect yourself from, and then let’s just come up with a plan to mitigate that risk.

And I think that again, risk mitigation has to be big in the way that we’re thinking about growth post-COVID because we both need to innovate and we need to protect what we’re building. We don’t know when the next pandemic is coming or whatever the next disaster will be, so we need to be smart about that and we do need to mitigate risk.

And I think that that’s important. So helping companies work through that change management in a way that takes those fears seriously and helps them put a very concrete plan together.

Because usually really most of those problems if I’m going to get to the heart of it could be solved by a really good communication strategy. If you’re worried that your customers are going to leave you, you need to talk to those customers. You need to confirm those fears or allay those fears, and that will bring them closer to you. People do business with people. And so have that conversation.

Scott MacKenzie :

That’s right.

Meghan Lynch:

And chances are if they’ve been with you for that long, and you see opportunity in another market and you’re committed to still serving them they are going to be like, hey, go for it, we want you to succeed because when you succeed that means you’re going to be better able to serve us too. So I think oftentimes some of those fears once you actually start putting a plan in place and doing something about them they’re not as big as people feel like they are when it’s just kind of this, ooh, we can’t take this move.

Scott MacKenzie :

See you’re touching on a point of you can be vulnerable, like as a business owner you can be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean that you’re weak. That doesn’t mean that you’ve got flaws. You’re just… It’s as simple as a conversation.

Scott MacKenzie :

You’re not… And when you start talking about… Nobody and I mean nobody had global pandemic in their business continuity plan, not one.

They might’ve had hey, this, that, and the other thing, but not the global pandemic. And so it starts with a conversation. It starts with just recognizing, being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you’re weak you’re just saying, “Hey, I’ve got to figure this out.”

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. Well, and honestly-

Scott MacKenzie :

I like that.

Meghan Lynch:

You’re like everybody else. I mean, that was one of my biggest pain points starting up my business was I’d go to events, a Chamber of Commerce event, an industry event, a trade show, a conference, and you ask all these people like, “Oh, hey, how’s business,” and they’re like, “Oh business is great, duh, duh, duh,” and then you get the same CEOs in a room with just them and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is blowing up. This person isn’t doing well. I’m worried about cashflow. I’m worried about supply chain.”

All these things start coming out and you’re like, “Whoa, you just told me everything was great.” And for me it was such a big lesson. Now I start conversations with maybe one win that I’m having and one thing that I’m struggling with because chances are somebody else who’s in your business and in your circle wants to help you.

So if you tell them something that you’re struggling with they might have a solution for it. They might have somewhere for you to go. And so much of that stuff we keep so close to ourselves so unnecessarily. It’s crazy.

Scott MacKenzie :

Meghan, you’re hitting on really, really, great, great points. And I hope the listeners are looking at that. We’re talking about resiliency. We’re talking about collaborating. We’re talking about educating. We’re talking about risk mitigation, change management, and it gets right down to being vulnerable and having a conversation.

A real conversation, not something that is all, hey, I’m the best in the world, and then you go behind closed doors and you’re just, oh my gosh, what am I doing? Oh, I can’t get it.

And do you know what the best part about it is the fact that everybody, if somebody comes and tells me, he goes, “This was a fantastic year and all that stuff,” I’d have to just say, “Buddy, I’m not sure about that.” I think it just opened everything up and just said, “Yeah, my mind can’t handle it I need help.” I hope that’s the case.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah. Well, and I think again, COVID even the people who are winning, are in some industries that have the business, have the sales they’re struggling with workforce and labor issues or they’re struggling with supply chain issues. The people who don’t have the sales are struggling with well, we need to get the sales up. We’ve got the people we don’t have the business.

And so, I think again, it’s such an even playing field right now. Even the people who you think like, ooh, they’re so lucky to be in such and such a niche because that niche is doing well right now. We work in a lot of industrial, like construction and things like that, people making knives, blades, things, and those businesses are doing really well right now because everybody’s working on their homes, they’re building. That’s going well, but they have problems too. That creates its own issues that they have to solve for.

Scott MacKenzie :

Isn’t that something.

Meghan Lynch:

So I think, it’s just a big piece of our process. We call our… The process that we created for these second-stage companies Solve for Y because, and Y as in the letter Y, but also kind of like the why are you doing this thing? Why do you want this growth?

Scott MacKenzie :

Why?

Meghan Lynch:

Because I think that everybody has some issue and they have some vision of how they want things to be in kind of a new future. And if we can take a very systematic approach to looking at that and dismantling it and then come up with a plan to address it then they can move forward.

But right now, so many of these companies are caught in this really emotional space of we want to do this, but we don’t know how.

And so we have these very circular conversations internally of like, are we going to launch this product? Are we actually doing this? Are we going into this market? We’re not sure we’re going to position ourselves that way.

Scott MacKenzie :

I like that.

Meghan Lynch:

And the internal teams get so frustrated because they’re just like, “Are we doing this or we not?” They don’t care.

Scott MacKenzie :

Right, right.

Meghan Lynch:

They just want clear direction on what they’re supposed to do.

Scott MacKenzie:

Again, we’re going to have to wrap the conversation up.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah.

Scott MacKenzie :

And I think that the beauty of what you’re just saying is that somebody is just looking for just… I mean, I would imagine I’m wrestling with a lot of ideas and a lot of things, but I don’t know where to go and I think a conversation with you and your company and others will go a long way to sort of lay that path out. It could be incrementally approached.

Meghan Lynch:

Exactly, yeah.

Scott MacKenzie :

Just something. Just something.

Meghan Lynch:

Yeah, just to get them one step in the right direction. And yeah, so speaking of that… If people are listening to this and they’re like, “Ooh, I relate to some of these pains. I think we might be a second-stage company,” we have a landing page set up. So, my website is sixpointcreative.com

And then if you just go backslash Industrial Talk we have a quiz that they can take, your listeners can take.

And about 10 – 15 minutes of their time they’ll get a not a standardized automatic score, but we’re going to put together a customized report for them on this is what we’re hearing you say and here is some step one, step two, step three. Top one to three recommendations that we would make.

And just again, so that they can have that first step of how do I start to get out of this hole.

So all that’s for free and on our website. And there’s a couple other tools there as well that people can check out that are particularly valuable to second-stage companies.

Scott MacKenzie :

All right, it’s going to be out on Industrial Talk, so don’t fear. If you didn’t get the URL it’s going to all be there and you’re not going, you need to take advantage of this great opportunity. Meghan Lynch, thank you for being on the Industrial Talk Podcast. You are absolutely wonderful.

Meghan Lynch:

Thanks so much, Scott.

Scott MacKenzie:

I love it. Love the points that she was bringing up. Talk about bringing the lumber, man. All right, listeners, we’re going to be wrapping it up on the other side. Stay tuned.

Speaker 1:

You’re listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.

Scott MacKenzie :

All right, again, thank you very much for joining the Industrial Talk Podcast, that’s Meghan Lynch, Six Point Creative. She is the President and CEO of how to get stuff done. You need her. You need what she brings to the table because she is definitely all about your success and being able to do that in a way that expands your market.

As you can tell, boom, in the interview bringing the pepper, absolutely like it. So go out to sixpointcreative.com find out more. I mean, she needs to be in your rolodex. If you’re old enough to remember rolodex she needs to be in it.

All right, we’re all about being bold, brave, and daring greatly. We’re all about the necessity to educate, absolutely collaborate, and of course innovate. We’re all about that. We’re all about taking action. We’re all about making things.

And we’re part of this neighborhood, this industrial neighborhood that is focused on everyone success. We need everyone to be rowing in the same direction. Industry is changing lives and changing the world. That’s what you’re all a part of. Hang out with people that are bold, brave, and daring greatly. All right, thank you, we’re going to have another great interview shortly.

 

 

Hosts & Guests

Scott MacKenzie

Meghan Lynch

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“Throughout various industries, women-owned companies provide a unique and important perspective that’s often overlooked.” stated Clutch Revenue Operations Analyst Carolyn Rider. “We want to highlight these companies for everything that they bring to the table, from their thoughtfulness to their detail-oriented mindsets.”

We know that this honor was completely dependent on our clients’ trust and support of our team. We are honored to work for family-owned companies who trust us at critical moments in their companies’ trajectories.

“Their customer service was fantastic. They were extremely personable and down to earth, so we didn’t feel like we were talking to a different person who didn’t really care about the project. We could tell they had the passion.” — CEO, Vital Signs LLC

“They set a very clear strategy and helped us implement it. Six-Point Creative gave us the tools we needed, but they also showed us how to best use those tools. They were very encouraging and efficient in helping us get across the finish line.” — Marketing Coordinator, Dairy Company

Want to learn more about our services? Interested in learning more about how Solve for Y can help your family-owned business can double market share within 24 months?

Let’s talk! Send us a message. We’re genuinely excited to hear from you.

To catch the next wave of growth, patience is key

Sometimes moving too quickly will slow you down in the long run. Making the right decision, not the fast decision is critical when your goal is long-term, sustainable, profitable growth. The wrong fit customer, the big but unprofitable sale, the commitment without the ability to deliver… these are all moments when companies think they are moving fast, but often ultimately end up moving backwards. But when you feel a sense of urgency and opportunity, what is the alternative? Take a deep breath and remember: slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

One of our Six-Point project managers brought a mantra to our company that I love: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

He is a big believer that getting the details right up front, excercising patience, asking the right questions, and listening carefully to the answers will save time and rework down the road.

And he is right.

I’ve been taking that mantra to heart not just in the day-to-day of our projects at Six-Point, but to my own strategy for my business as we ease out of pandemic lock-down, and to my work as an advisor for our clients. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

In the spring of 2020, I felt like there was no time for inaction. Anyone who froze and didn’t act was in jeopardy. Since we couldn’t control the landscape shifting under our feet, just moving forward was the smartest way to go.

In the spring of 2021, I feel differently. I feel like there are major opportunities for growth, but particularly for smart growth, because all growth isn’t created equal. And being ready with the right solutions for the right people at the right time will be the difference between catching that wave and getting either overwhelmed or left behind.

So I have taken the past two months and gone into listening mode. Because slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

What am I doing during this intentional slow down?

I am reading a lot and I am listening to a lot of podcasts. There are a lot of smart people who are extremely generous with their expertise and insights. I am also connecting with the authors and podcast hosts that I find the most valuable on LinkedIn (and sometimes offline, too) to be able to stay connected and in tune with what they are seeing and talking about.

I am interviewing leaders of successful brands in industries where I feel like my team can create true value. I’ve been having conversations with CEOs, sales directors, and marketing directors, and I am learning a lot about what it feels like on the ground in companies right now.

Our team is collaborating with Bean Group Global to survey business leaders all over the globe to better understand the effects of this acceleration into a hybrid world of both virtual and in-person workforces.

I am speaking less and listening more. And I am becoming much clearer for it.

I know it is tempting to just jump at opportunities, especially after you have either experienced a drought last year, or to keep your head down if you were overwhelmed with unexpected demand. But resist that temptation.

I would invite you to figure out what slowing down looks like for your business and your opportunity. Sometimes, the brave thing to do is to move forward even when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But right now, I would argue that truly courageous leaders are practicing discipline.

What might this look like? You might:

  • Start “auditioning” new relationships instead of selling to them.

  • Survey your customers to better understand what has changed in their world.

  • Set up some virtual coffees with key customers and just listen to what their world is like.

  • Talk with the competition. (I know, I know… terrifying! But we have seen some amazing collaborations when small competitors take on the big guys together.)

  • Collaborate with someone else who serves your industry and share insights.

  • Scan the social feeds of your ideal customers and see what they are talking about and doing that is not related to your product or service.

  • Read a lot, and not just about your industry. Find macro trends that you should be aware of and incorporate into your planning.

  • Prioritize with your team. You can’t do everything well, so what are the 1-3 things that are most important to knock out of the park? Allow them to really focus on those.

Now is the time to slow down.

To pick your head up and look down the playing field. To listen closely to your current and future customers. Listen, learn, and pick your best opportunity, not just any opportunity.

And then you will really catch that growth wave at its peak and let it carry you swiftly and smoothly to what’s next.

6 consumer trends impacting growing CPG brands

Most leaders feel overwhelmed by uncertainty right now. The questions CPG brands are asking are big ones, and they have consequences for companies with limited resources who are trying to grow and scale. What from the last year was an aberration? What can and should I count on going forward?

Here are six trends we have identified that CPG brands can and should plan to take action on:

  1. COVID-19 made “buy online, pick up in store” a mainstream option for shoppers, meaning even more purchase decisions are being made on our devices, not at the physical shelf.
  2. At the height of the pandemic, consumers would put up with inconvenience to support small businesses by buying direct. Now their patience is waning.
  3. The rise of remote work means that where consumers are spending their time has changed drastically.
  4. Amazon is becoming even more flooded with both brands and third party sellers, increasing competition.
  5. Consumers are becoming harder to reach, which means the ability to speak directly to your current and prospective customers is more valuable than ever.
  6. Consumers are expecting more from social media content than most brands are delivering, meaning there is opportunity for those that create truly relevant and engaging content.

Read on to learn more about each of these trends and get tips you and your team should use to address them.

Trend #1: More retail purchase decisions are being made online. 

 

THE DATA

  • “Buy online, pick up in store” orders placed online increased 202% in just three months from March to May 2020 (Rakuten Intelligence).
  • It’s not just for the upper-middle class. 29 percent of dollars, orders, and items are coming from consumers earning $25,000-$50,000 annually.
  • New order-for-pick-up activity spans all generations. In fact, Gen Z buyers and seniors are the two groups accounting for the most first-time orders, with each group accounting for 22 percent of the new growth respectively.

WHAT TO DO

  • Since CPG brands previously depended on a strong shelf presence in-store, you now need to translate the same experience to digital environments. Here are some ways to make up for that lost tactile experience:
    • Invest in high-resolution, naturally lit photography that will allow shoppers to zoom in on details.
    • Set a style for primary product images (image quality, lighting, distance from camera, background, size, styling, etc.), and then maintain it consistently across all of your brand’s products.
    • Leverage 360-degree product videos to mimic the in-person, three-dimensional shopping experience.
    • Mix in-use and lifestyle images and video with your product images, too. Don’t rely solely on product descriptions to convey your product’s features and benefits. Help your customer imagine how the product will fit into their life.
    • Take image loading speed into consideration. Your product photography can be “saved for web” after photoshopping to limit file size, without significant effect on image quality.
    • Tailor product descriptions to your primary target customer, ensuring you anticipate what questions they will have, and consider their top priorities when making purchasing decisions in your category. Emphasize keywords most important to that primary target, and build your product information hierarchy in a way that’s consistent with their shopping priorities.

Trend #2: Customers did put up with inconvenience to buy direct from CPG brands before the pandemic. Now they expect more of you.

In addition to more widespread consumer adoption of online shopping methods, more retailers have arrived (albeit a bit late) to the ecommerce party, too. This perfect storm will result in higher expectations for CPG brands in direct sales as well-polished, seamless ecommerce experiences become a shopping norm.

 

THE DATA

  • 19 percent of small businesses began selling products online or shipping to customers for the first time in 2020. (Chase Ink)
  • Large retailers are making it more difficult for brands to be competitive with their direct sales. Digital Commerce 360 notes that the top 100 retailers, minus Amazon, accounted for 74 percent of the new, non-Amazon ecommerce growth in 2020.
  • More competition means increased investment required to move your target customer from awareness to sale. The top spending increases for small businesses in 2020 were shipping, social media and search advertising, and ecommerce platforms.

WHAT TO DO

  • Understand how building direct-to-consumer sales fits into your brand strategy and business plan. If you’ve punted on selling direct-to-consumer through your own website and are unsure if the model makes logistical sense for your brand  — now’s the time to decide.
    • Our Solve for Y Ecommerce Gap Analysis can provide guidance on what it will take your brand to compete in ecommerce. We will dive into everything from shipping costs, to logistics, to SEO, to how (and how much) your competition is advertising.
    • Then, invest accordingly. If CPG brands intend to rely on direct sales as a significant revenue stream, you must invest in tech (platform), creative that aids the sale (web design, product photography, video), and advertising that drives traffic (SEO and search advertising, social media advertising, etc.)
    • Winning a first-time sale is only half of the equation. With ecommerce acquisition now more costly than ever, be sure to have a retention strategy in place to keep customers engaged, happy, and purchasing regularly.

Trend #3: Where consumers are spending their time has changed drastically.

Changes to where and how consumers spend their time means your advertising focus should shift. It also means you could quickly become out of touch with your target customer’s new lifestyle if you aren’t proactive. 

THE DATA

Lifestyle changes, new hobbies, new financial priorities — this is a transitional time for everyone. Your target customer has gone through an evolution that will have lasting effects.

  • Job status and finances are volatile. We’ve still lost 10 million jobs in our country overall. Millions have transitioned jobs, and/or have transitioned to working remotely.
  • The number of people continuing to work remotely could increase three to four times compared to pre-pandemic levels of remote work.(McKinsey & Company).
  • An estimated 9 million Americans relocated between March and October 2020 (National Association of Realtors).

WHAT TO DO

  • Go straight to the source. Interview and survey your existing customers, and plan to do so more frequently than you have in the past.
    • Use email surveys to engage past customers who haven’t made recent purchases. 
    • Capture in-the-moment feedback from your site’s visitors with an intercept survey. 
    • Mix optional survey questions into the checkout process.
    • Follow-up with a survey post-purchase as an opportunity to re-engage the customer in your brand. 
  • Compare pre-pandemic website analytics (2019) to present day analytics.
    • Are you noticing major shifts in visitor location? It’s possible that your customers are moving away from major cities, into suburban and rural areas where you may be able advertise more cost-effectively. 
  • Go through the exercise of mapping the customer journey again.
    • For most, the daily commute has instead been replaced with more screen time, frequenting social media and other digital channels during breaks in the day. How you influence the first stage of the customer journey — brand awareness — will need to shift further towards digital spaces. 
    • Think about all of the decision-making advantages your customer has in-store. If your packaging tells your brand story in a way that immediately resonates with customers, that experience needs to be brought into the ecommerce shopping experience. If consultation from a store associate is an important part of the decision-making process for your product, look to mimic this experience in ecommerce. Cover frequently asked questions through multimedia when possible, limiting reading time for the customer. 

Trend #4: Amazon competition continues to increase exponentially.

Amazon’s 2020 growth (38 percent net growth in North American sales) means sellers will be spending more to jockey for the attention of Amazon shoppers. 

 

THE DATA

  • Amazon currently boasts 2.4 million active sellers, with as many as 1.5 million more expected in 2021. 258,000 have joined in Q1 2021. (Marketplace Pulse)
  • 96 percent of Amazon sellers plan to expand their business in 2021. (Jungle Scout)
  • Amazon advertising dollars increased 47 percent year-over-year, with bidding on popular searches commonly costing $7 or more per click

WHAT TO DO

  • If you’re selling on Amazon, a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to your product listings won’t get you the results you need anymore. Invest in optimizing copy, images, and videos for your product listings. Build an Amazon Brand Store, making it easier for fans of your products to shop your full product lines. 
  • Tap into video ads, which don’t yet suffer from the same level of cut-throat competition. 
  • Understand which Amazon fulfillment model best fits your goals. All have their drawbacks and positives. If you don’t know the difference between them or haven’t recently reviewed them, you need to. If you don’t know where to start, contact us and we can recommend an expert that can help you.

Trend #5: A direct connection to current and prospective customers is more valuable than ever. 

While Amazon’s Fulfillment-by-Amazon (FBA) model makes it easy for brands to sell more without logistical challenges, it’s still critical to keep a direct throughline to your target audience.

 

THE DATA

  • Tech giants are preparing to roll out new advertising targeting policies that will inhibit brands’ collective ability to target potential customers.
    • Apple’s new policies will allow its users to opt for increased privacy in mobile ad targeting. 
    • Facebook is making its own adjustments to remain compliant with Apple. 
  • FBA is an easy sales model logistically, but as more CPG brands lean on it as a primary ecommerce channel, they’re missing out on useful customer-identifying information Amazon doesn’t share. 
  • As consumers uproot and move across the country, your customer data is likely to quickly become out-of-date. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Maintaining a direct-to-consumer ecommerce strategy, even if not a primary sales driver, can help you build and segment CRM lists.
    • Email marketing keeps your brand top-of-mind and reengages existing customers. 
    • Communicating regularly with existing customers helps to increase their lifetime value to you, and provides access to cheaper revenue vs. costly one-time advertising and acquisition programs.
  • Build “data collection” into your social media content strategy.
    • Focus on building a community of engaged fans. 
    • Poll customers where they’d like to be able to find more of your products. 
    • Run contests and giveaways, building a direct connection with winners you can survey or interview in the future. 
  • Engage influencers.
    • Influencers have a built-in, trusting audience. If you can find influencers that appeal to your target audience, you can shortcut the process of getting in front of them. Find influencers that align with your brand, and begin building partnerships. 
    • Start with a $10,000 budget while you’re still learning what influencer partnerships will work best for your brand. In general, influencer activity shouldn’t dominate your marketing budget — and it doesn’t need to dominate it to add value. 
    • Understand that costly “big names” aren’t the only partners who will get a return on investment. In fact, content posted by “nano influencers” (1,000-10,000 followers) and “micro influencers” (10,000-100,000 followers) gets more engagement.  

seTrend #6: Consumer expectations for relevant and engaging social media content are high. 

Virtually all consumer brands have social media presences, and consumers are spending more time perusing social media than ever before. Still, consumers have indicated that the majority of brands are still missing the mark with their content.

THE DATA

  • 68% of people don’t think brands or companies share interesting content. 

As noted in HootSuite’s Social Trends 2021 report, brands are now counteracting this by paying closer attention to what their customers want. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Begin social listening, the practice of tracking conversations and mentions related to topics relevant to your brand. Brand mentions, relevant hashtags, competitor mentions, industry trends, and keywords will provide you with complementary insights you can’t get from customer surveys and interviews. 
  • Use the insights you glean to make adjustments to your content strategy. 
  • Between social listening and trial-and-error of new content, answer the following questions:
    • How does your brand fit into customers’ lives on social media, and how does that influence your posting frequency? 
    • How can you find creative ways to fit into the conversations customers are having, instead of leading them? 
    • What will “break the wall of indifference” customers have to brand social media?
    • Are you “reading the room” to get timing right before launching campaigns? 
  • Treat social listening as ongoing practice and critical must-have to optimizing your social media results going forward.

CPG Brands: Count on the six trends outlined in this article to continue into the long-term future. Nimbleness is an advantage for second-stage brands over slower-moving, enterprise-level competitors. Lean into that advantage! Adjust now, and capitalize on change as opportunity. If you wait until beyond 2021 to address new consumer preferences, expect to fall behind your savvy competitors.

Answer the questions keeping you up at night.

If the pandemic has brought into question your purpose, your target customer, or your brand strategy altogether, find out if Solve for Y is the right solution for your team.

What the heck is a second-stage company?

The definition of “second stage” in business is a company that has 10-99 employees or $1M to $50M in revenue. But the real hallmarks of second stage are the almost universal growing pains that these companies experience as they scale. We have identified the most common themes and pains that early second-stage and late second-stage companies face, especially when it comes to managing changes in focus, positioning, and branding.

I was first introduced to the term “second-stage” through the Edward Lowe Foundation. But it wasn’t the definition of companies with 10 to 99 employees or $1M to $50M in revenue that caught my attention.

It was the signs, symptoms, and stages they described.

As I read about what second-stage companies face, suddenly the pain I was feeling as a business leader made sense. Maybe I wasn’t just a terrible CEO. These were growing pains…a byproduct of success.

It finally brought into focus that I was applying the same skills and tools that made me successful when we were smaller, without realizing that the size and maturity of my company meant that I needed different skills and different tools in order to have the same success at this new level of complexity.

Over the years working with second stage companies, we have identified two kinds of second-stage companies, early second-stage and late second-stage, both with some unique pain points.

Early Second Stage: A New Emphasis on Scalability

Early second-stage companies are usually owner/founder-led, with between 10-50 employees. In early second stage, there are three areas where major pain abounds.

Delegation

Most early second-stage leaders experience delegation pain on two ends of the spectrum: the stuff they love and the stuff they hate.

For the things they love doing and excel at in the business, they will find it difficult to articulate exactly what is in their heads. In brand and marketing, this often happens when branding comes very naturally to the business owner/founder. They automatically infuse branding best practices and a unique voice or design aesthetic into everything they do. When they delegate it, it all of the sudden “doesn’t look right” or “doesn’t sound right” and fundamentally isn’t as effective, because it isn’t them.

For the things they hate doing and don’t have expertise in, the owner/founder will delegate it too quickly, often to the first person who shows interest and/or aptitude, and with very little direction or oversight. In brand and marketing, the first person who shows interest in managing the website or the social media accounts will get tasked with marketing, and will be given no plan to follow or framework to work within. They are often allowed to do or try whatever they want, and then when it doesn’t work, the owner’s response is: “See, I told you marketing just doesn’t work in our industry.”
The fundamental issue is that, whether it is trying to delegate the things they want to keep or the things they want to avoid, the delegation is not being done clearly and effectively. There is no shared vision of success and no clear understanding of what is off-limits and why.

Engaging Expertise

In early second stage, leaders begin to realize that the company has gotten more complex, and needs specialized expertise in order to solve some of the challenges they are facing.

One of the pains they face in this is that they often won’t exactly know what they are asking for experts to do, or they might ask for the wrong kind of expertise.

One recent experience I had with an early second-stage business owner captured both of these pains simultaneously. This business owner was convinced that she needed a marketing strategy and plan developed to accelerate the companies growth. She was talking to several different providers of these services, and getting a wide range of costs that was confusing. I was trying to help her compare apples-to-apples and discern what might be the right fit mix of services and deliverables for her goals.

After about 20 minutes of conversation, though, I learned that the “expert” she had contracted with to manage her Amazon account was doing a terrible job, and that her sales and brand share on Amazon were in rapid decline. It was clear that even if she invested in marketing, it would be wasted time and money until the Amazon problem was solved. Once we had identified this core issue, I redirected her to a trusted friend at an Amazon brand accelerator.

This business owner was doing everything right in theory, but she simply didn’t know what she should be asking for, how much it should cost, or how she should judge success. And it makes sense. She was an expert in her product, not Amazon or marketing.

At its worst, this pain point hits home when an early second-stage company gets taken in by a great sales team that can’t deliver on its promises. It can be a costly mistake, and also one that then makes the company twice-shy about engaging outside experts in the future.

Advice and recommendations from trusted advisors and peer groups becomes the easiest way to manage this leap from working with generalists to working with experts.

Consistency

Consistency is absolutely essential to building trust, both internally with employees and externally with customers. It is also one of the areas in which early second-stage companies struggle the most.

Early second-stagers are still working on creating and fine-tuning processes. They often don’t have the right people completely in the right seats. The owner/founder is still pulled into the day-to-day even while they are trying to spend more time as visionary and coach for their team.

The result of all of this is a lack of consistency. Internally, employees grow frustrated with the lack of clarity, boundaries, and what might feel to them like “moving targets” as they try to focus their own efforts and perform well. Externally, customers might hear and see mixed messages about what the company’s focus is, or might experience major swings in product or service quality.

Internally, the inconsistencies can be especially difficult to navigate because owner/founders are likely the source of many of them as they navigate the transition from “teammate” to “coach.” It becomes difficult for employees to point out the inconsistencies that they are hearing or observing, either because they are fearful of embarrassing their boss, or because they think that the leader is more aware about it than they are. Inconsistencies can be read as intentional, which further undermines the lack of trust, and can lead to a toxic internal environment.

Externally, the inconsistency is unlikely to cause the kind of turmoil that it does internally. Instead, the symptoms will more likely be stagnant growth, difficult sales, and an ineffective marketing budget. If potential customers aren’t clear about how the brand relates to them and what its value is, they won’t buy.

Takeaways for Early Second Stage

For early second-stage companies, the focus needs to be on:

  • Getting clarity on what success looks like for all stakeholders.
  • Finding trusted advisors to connect you to the right experts at the right time.
  • Identifying and quickly mitigating inconsistency, both internally and externally.

Late Second Stage: Tension between the Past and the Future

Late second-stage companies are usually led by a CEO brought in as a change agent, or a next-generation in a family business, with between 50-100 employees. In late second stage, pain arises from two major areas.

Fear of loss

Whether we are talking about family business or simply an enduring privately held company, the stakes of failure are higher the larger the company gets and the longer it is around. Nobody wants to be the one who puts a long-standing business or brand out of business. Plus at this level, the company is likely a visible and important part of the community or its industry. More people depend on the company as an employer, supplier, or customer. It is firmly part of an ecosystem in a way that a younger company is not.

Also, it is likely that there are stakeholders in the company who have a strong fear of loss around certain elements of the company, the brand, or the customer base. Often, these companies were established for a specific purpose, market, or customer that has shifted over the years. In order to make sure that the company endures for the decades to come, some amount of repositioning and reorganization is needed. This can come in the form of strategic mergers or acquisitions, rebranding, product innovation, or simply new leadership with a new strategic vision for the future.

One of our clients is a family business that was founded with a bookkeeping and record-keeping focus, which gradually and organically evolved over the years into printing capabilities, and then evolved again into developing priority technology that can be used in the fast-growing security market, which was where all of their new customers and opportunities were coming from.

Even though the business case was clear, it became a difficult decision to change the original name of the company and to clearly state this new focus. There were still legacy customers who used some of the original products and services, and who had been with the company since the beginning. The fear of looking ungrateful, or abandoning the past is a real factor for late second-stage companies.

This same fear of loss can show up internally as well, as these companies probably also have employees who have been with the company, sometimes for decades. These loyal employees are often the ones that often resist change, or can lack the skills needed to propel the company forward.

It is also important to understand that late second-stage companies live in a place of constant tension between the past and the future. Even though certain elements of the company or the brand need to change, there are also elements that have made the company successful and that need to be preserved.

Change agents in late second stage companies need to walk into the company humbly and looking for what needs to be preserved as much as what needs to be changed. If you can identify the “DNA” (Do Not Alter”) of a company, it can go a long way to mitigate the fear of loss, and also to make the new growth much more efficient and effective because it is building on a firm foundation of success instead of starting from scratch.

Lack of alignment and communication

Since late second-stage companies are honing in on a clear focus for how the company will scale and compete profitably in its “next generation,” they are becoming more and more strategic and visionary. Late second-stage leaders need to make bold strategic moves, like geographic expansion, vertical integration, opening new markets, acquiring new companies or brands, and forming strategic partnerships.

This kind of visionary leadership coupled with the fear of loss described above can lead to a fundamental lack of alignment. To make matters worse, late second-stage leadership teams find themselves misaligned on two fronts, with a board of directors or ownership group and with the employees they are leading.

The cost of this misalignment is huge. Most often, it means that the visionary leadership that the company needs to survive and thrive in its next stage will be thwarted either from “above” by the board or “below” by the employees. But in both cases, it is both predictable and avoidable.

When we do brand strategy and execution work with late-second stage companies, we know that the process and the communication of that work is even more important than the work itself. We carefully engage all stakeholders (internal and external) in the work from the very beginning and have mapped out clear milestones when more communication and engagement are critical for success.

At the end of the day, leading a late second-stage company is a fundamental exercise in change management. For legacy customers, legacy employees, or a board of directors, the solution is always the same: Create a clear sense of urgency for why change is needed, and then clearly and consistently communicate how and why the change will happen. It is also important to celebrate the successes that the company while the change is in process, which will help to keep the momentum going and reinforce the benefits. We build in these moments as part of the process because we know how critical they are for success.

Often late second-stage leaders know who the champions of change will be and they know who the nay-sayers will be. Usually, the impulse is to engage the champions and avoid or steamroll the naysayers, but all it takes is one or two disgruntled employees or board members who feel like they have been left out of the loop to undermine the brand from the inside out. Instead, we advise working with these factions to find out what is important to them, what they are fearful of, and how we can be respectful of that in the process, even if it doesn’t alter the ultimate vision or outcome.

Takeaways for Late Second Stage

For late second-stage companies, the focus needs to be on:

  • Acknowledge fear of loss and fear of failure as strong barriers to change that must be directly addressed for established and/or family businesses.
  • Identify the “DNA” (Do Not Alter) of the company and brand and use it as a foundation for growth and change.
  • Engage all stakeholders in a change effort early and often, especially if they don’t agree with the change being made.

Wrap up: The Strength of Second Stage

While the pains of second stage are familiar, predictable, and real, so are the strength and resilience of these companies.

Second-stage companies make up 17% of the companies in the U.S., but create 36% of U.S. jobs. They are often dedicated to the local communities where they were founded and are likely to bring growth and economic opportunity to these areas that would not come from enterprise-level organizations.

Second-stage companies are tenacious. They have likely survived more than one economic downturn. They have evolved their products and services as the market has evolved. They are often family businesses with a fierce dedication to their employees.

A client once told me that the definition of second-stage success is better problems. If you are the leader of a second-stage business, yes, you should take a moment to realize that you are not alone in your pain. But you should also realize that these new, “better” problems are also a marker of your success, your hard work, and your growth, not just as a company, but as a leader.

So here’s to better problems!

Brand Purpose: The Competitive Advantage Second-Stage Companies Need to Win 2021

Purposeful second-stage companies are more likely to grow and scale in 2021 and beyond following industry disruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Research suggests that consumer expectations are changing, and consumers now expect brands to be meaningful problem-solvers. The main advantage that these challenger brands have in common: brand purpose.

In every recession, there is opportunity.

For the goliaths, opportunity means digging into deep pockets and outspending weaker rivals (or purchasing them). For challenger brands, opportunity means outthinking and outpacing the larger, slower, more unfocused competition.

The second-stage challenger brands that will win 2021 (across all industries and markets) have a competitive advantage in common: brand purpose.

Before crunching the numbers on business model adjustments with your leadership team, answer these two questions together:

  1. Why do you exist?
  2. Who are you built to serve?

Use these questions as a compass. In 2021, purposeful second-stage companies will get ahead by taking these actions:

  • Making focused pivots. Purposeful second-stage companies will make nimble business model adjustments informed by “why” and “who,” creating exponential value for their customers – gaining new traction in the marketplace faster than their slow-moving, enterprise-level counterparts. 

  • Following through with brand purpose. These companies understand that purpose in the business model must follow through into branding to yield sustainable, long-term results like market share and brand loyalty. Their brand positioning will resonate with their prioritized (one) primary target customer and communicate their value effectively. 

Purpose-driven organizations pivot more effectively.

“Organizations that know why they exist and who they’re built to serve are uniquely positioned to navigate unprecedented change.”
Deloitte – 2021 Global Marketing Trends: Find Your Focus

Purpose-driven organizations arguably have a stronger competitive advantage now than any other time in our generation. As Deloitte points out in its 2021 report, “why” you exist and “who” you exist to serve ultimately take precedence over “what” you sell during times of economic and cultural transformation.

When “why” and “who” inform every decision you make, your adjustments in times of turbulence are much more likely to be successful. This is really an exercise in alignment. You avoid disconnects between you and your primary target customer, and you don’t lose sight of what sets you apart from the other brands around you jockeying for position.

Keep in mind that your customers do notice the adjustments you make, in real time. Fifty-eight percent of respondents to Deloitte’s study could recall at least one brand that quickly pivoted to better respond to their needs, and eighty-two percent said this led to them doing more business with the brand.

What does brand purpose mean for small businesses?

At Six-Point, we often field the question: how does a small company live out a “big” purpose? The Deloitte study provides a helpful example of purpose being tied to action by Ella’s Kitchen, a mid-sized baby and toddler food brand much smaller than many of its behemoth category competitors.

The Ella’s Kitchen brand purpose:
Create healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

How Ella’s Kitchen enacts its brand purpose, beyond selling products:

  • Providing resources to educate parents and givers about healthy eating.

  • Donating products to underserved children around the world.

  • Committing to an ethically sourced supply chain.

It’s not too late to become a purposeful brand.

As The Marketoonist Tom Fishburne points out with the help of a quote by brand strategist Tom Roach, “if being purposeful means doing ads to you, you’re doing it wrong.”

Roach also differentiates between two types of purposeful brands: some brands are “born purposeful,” clear about their purpose at launch, while others are “corporate converts,” re-orienting their businesses around a purpose along the way.

It’s not too late to become a purposeful brand if you’re not there yet. The only prerequisites to becoming a “corporate convert” are authenticity, and a willingness to commit to strategic, long-term work ahead. Injecting more purpose into an existing brand requires substantial change management. It’s also worth the investment.

If your business has purpose that’s getting lost, we can help your leadership team begin the realignment process:

  • Our Build Your Brand Strategy workshop guides leadership teams to begin aligning their business purpose with their branding and marketing decisions.
  • Together, we uncover what’s holding your brand back, prepare you to make smarter decisions with your limited resources, and put an actionable road map into place for building better connections with your target customers.
Customers expect you to solve problems.

In today’s world, consumers look to businesses as problem-solvers, which indicates they’re actively seeking brands with purpose. The pandemic has accelerated this trend.

  • In the Edelman 2021 Trust Barometer, consumers ranked business as the only societal institution that’s both competent AND ethical.
  • 68 percent of consumers also believe CEOs should step in when the government does not fix societal problems.
Customers also expect brands to use their platform to speak up about their values.
  • 66 percent of consumers believe that brands who speak out can facilitate real change, and 67 percent say that brands are effective at increasing awareness of issues when they use their platforms, especially social media (Sprout Social 2019 Brands Get Real report).

These trends aren’t new, but they are growing, and the impact is now felt by brands of all sizes — not just enterprise-level household names. Consider the following:

  • The assertion that consumers only expect the most culturally relevant brands (the likes of Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, and Apple) to further the dialogue on social issues is a misconception. Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer found that 53 percent of consumers agree that every brand should get involved in at least one social issue that does not directly impact its business.
  • Brand activism is an opportunity to build long-term brand trust from your market by demonstrating transparency and authenticity. Nine in ten consumers are more likely to give brands who are highly transparent second chances after bad experiences, and 85 percent are more likely to stick with them during crises.
  • Your brand can mitigate risk and still find its voice, reaping the benefits of the opportunity.
  1. Start with issues relevant to your business operations, your employees, and your customers to avoid being met with skepticism.
  2. Take the time to learn which issues are most important to your customers. The Brands Get Real report found that when consumers agree with a brand’s stance, 37 percent will refer that company to their friends and family and 36 percent will buy more from that brand.
  3. Assess each opportunity to speak on social issues before taking action. Harvard Business Review published a helpful three-question framework you should use to determine if you can make an impact on an issue, and if you’ll be aligned with your customers.

Committing to authentic diversity and inclusivity in your marketing and advertising creative will also have similar long-term effects.

  1. Authenticity goes beyond simply “checking a box.” A report by Stackla found that when brands made work that gave dimension to people beyond gender or skin color stereotypes, they were met with a 15 percent rise in consumer perception.
  2. Diverse, inclusive marketing is a long-term commitment. It’s not a one-campaign or even one-year initiative.
  3. Take the time to exhaustively reflect on your creative. The World Federation of Advertisers’ 2020 guide, A marketer’s approach to diversity and inclusion, has examples of the questions change-making leading brands are asking themselves.
  4. Talking the talk (in advertising) is most effective when you’re walking the walk internally, too. Align company culture to the same values you’re going to push out into the marketplace.
Live into and articulate your purpose better than ever before.

The good news is…

If your company has grown beyond start-up phase, you likely have some degree of purpose in your DNA. Most companies don’t make it this far. You’re doing something with purpose.

At this stage, the questions are:

  • Is there a disconnect between your perception of your company’s purpose, and the experience customers have with your brand?
  • Is your purpose omnipresent throughout your operations and culture, or is it siloed to certain departments and leadership roles?
  • Are you getting “credit” with your customers and prospective customers for your purpose and value, or are you a “best kept secret?”
If you are ready to amplify your purpose, and make it a sustainable, long-term strategy, you are ready for our Solve for Y program. In it, we:

  • Align your team, your positioning, and your messaging. 

  • Uncover hidden assets in your existing brand. 

  • Avoid confusion, customer loss, and team frustration by guiding you through proven step-by-step communication and engagement plans.