[Book Review] “The Organic Growth Playbook” – A Proven Recipe for Driving Revenue Growth

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Source:  Emerald Publishing Limited
Marketing leaders are under constant pressure to grow revenues. In fact, most marketing leaders now acknowledge that revenue growth is the raison d'etre of the marketing function. 

Marketing industry pundits have produced an abundance of resources addressing how marketing can drive business growth. However, most of these resources focus on how to use individual marketing techniques or tactics to generate growth. There are fewer resources that address growth from a more strategic perspective.

The Organic Growth Playbook:  Activate High-Yield Behaviors To Achieve Extraordinary Results - Every Time (American Marketing Association/Emerald Publishing Limited, 2020) by Bernard Jaworski and Robert Lurie provides a strategic methodology for consistently driving organic revenue growth.

The Thesis of the Book

The basic thesis of The Organic Growth Playbook is relatively simple. The authors contend that the conventional approach to marketing - which is primarily focused on differentiating a product or service in the minds of potential buyers - isn't a reliable way to drive revenue growth for most companies.

The logic of the conventional approach is that if a company positions its products or services well and effectively communicates that positioning to the right potential buyers, growth will follow. The authors disagree pointedly with the conventional wisdom. They write, ". . . great product positioning is a necessary condition for growth, but it's not sufficient in and of itself to drive growth."

Jaworski and Lurie argue that a more effective and reliable way to drive growth is to focus on shaping the activities that potential buyers perform as they move through the buying process. They contend that in every buying process, there are one or two activities that decisively shape what product or service the buyer ultimately purchases. They call these decisive activities high-yield behaviors.

High-yield behaviors often occur early in the buying process, which means that marketers often underestimate the impact they have on buying decisions.

One of the case studies in the book illustrates how important high-yield buying behaviors can be. This case study involved a company that manufactures commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and energy management systems.

Historically, the company segmented its market by industry vertical and tailored its marketing messages and product bundles to these segments. In addition, the company's sales representatives focused primarily on responding to RFPs from larger prospects.

The company implemented the methodology described in The Organic Growth Playbook, and its analysis of the buying process for commercial HVAC equipment and energy management systems produced some interesting findings. It revealed that 52% of the potential customers that began a buying process ultimately made a purchase.

More importantly, the analysis revealed that just over 85% of the prospects that made a purchase chose a vendor they had consulted with during the early research phase of the buying process. So, prospects that ultimately made a purchase were 5X more likely to buy from a vendor they had engaged with early in their decision-making process than from a vendor that only became involved at the RFP stage.

These insights caused the company to redesign its marketing and sales efforts to focus on early engagement with potential customers, and as a result of these changes, the company's sales growth accelerated significantly in the three years after the changes were implemented.

The Playbook Process

The Organic Growth Playbook describes a five-step process for successfully driving organic revenue growth.

Map the Buying Process Waterfall - Identify all activities that potential buyers perform during the entire buying process, and determine how frequently each activity occurs. The idea is to quantify the flow of potential buyers through the process and to identify "drop off" and switch points where potential buyers exit the buying process or change buying paths. The ultimate goal of creating a waterfall map is to identify the one or two high-yield buying behaviors that have a disproportionate impact on the purchase decision.

Use Propensity-Based Segmentation - Segment potential buyers based on their propensity to engage in the high-yield buying behaviors revealed in the waterfall map. The idea is to identify the attributes that are shared by potential buyers who were most likely to engage in the high-yield behaviors and use those attributes as the basis of the market segmentation.

Identify the Drivers and Barriers of the High-Yield Behaviors - The objective of this step is to diagnose and articulate what most motivates potential buyers to perform the identified high-yield behaviors (the drivers) and what most deters them from engaging in those behaviors (the barriers)

Develop a Behavior Change Value Proposition - The fourth step in the Playbook process is to develop a value proposition that will entice potential buyers to engage in the target high-yield buying behaviors. A compelling behavior change value proposition will express the value to the potential customer of doing the high-yield behaviors compared to other possible buying behaviors, and thus increase their propensity to engage in the target behaviors.

Invest Disproportionately - The final step in the Playbook process is to make disproportionate investments in marketing programs that focus on the most attractive buyer segments and the most impactful high-yield buying behaviors. If the previous four steps of the Playbook process have been done well, such disproportionate investments will produce the best chances of achieving substantial revenue growth.

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The Organic Growth Playbook describes a proven methodology for driving revenue growth, but this methodology is not necessarily easy to implement. In addition, the process requires a relatively significant amount of original research, and the cost of that research won't be trivial in most cases. Nevertheless, marketers at large and midsize B2B companies should put The Organic Growth Playbook on their reading list and give serious consideration to the growth strategy it describes.

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