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Writing a Business Growth Plan

Max Freedman

You can facilitate and speed up expansion by having a clear road map.

When you run a business, it’s easy to get caught in the moment, always focusing on the day in front of you. But to be truly successful, you need to be looking ahead. You need to plan for your growth. To help with that process, many business owners write business growth plans, which provide a timeline for the next one to two years on how revenue can increase. In order to write an effective business growth plan, you need to understand what one is, the different types of strategies to consider, and how to project ways for your revenue to grow.

What is a business growth plan?

graphic of a person sitting next to a large graph

A business growth plan is an outline for where a company sees itself in the next one to two years. The growth plan should be formatted to follow along with each quarter. At the end of each quarter, the company can review what goals it met and what goals it missed during that period. At this point, management can revise the business growth plan to reflect current market standing.

Why are business growth plans important?

These are some of the many reasons why business growth plans are important:

What factors impact business growth?

Countless factors can affect your business growth. These are some of the key elements:

What are the four major growth strategies?

graphic of person standing next to a large chart

There are countless growth strategies for businesses, but only four major types. With these growth strategies, you can determine how to build on your brand.

Share your growth plan with key employees as a motivator. When employees see an opportunity for increased responsibility and corresponding compensation, they’re more likely to stay.

What to include in a business growth plan

A business growth plan focuses specifically on expansion and how you’re going to achieve it. Creating a useful plan takes time, but the effort can pay off substantially by keeping your growth efforts on track. You should include these elements in your growth plan:

Your growth plan should also include an assessment of your operating systems and computer networks to determine if they can accommodate growth.

How to write a business growth plan

To successfully write a business growth plan, you have to do some forward thinking and research. Here are some key steps to follow when writing your business growth plan.

1. Think ahead.

The future is always unpredictable, but if you study your target market, your competition and the past growth of your company, you can plan for future expansion. The Small Business Administration (SBA) features a comprehensive guide to writing a business plan for growth.

2. Study other growth plans.

Before you start writing, review models from some successful companies.

3. Discover opportunities for growth.

With some homework, you can determine if your expansion opportunities lie in creating new products, adding more services, targeting a new market, opening new locations or going global, to name a few examples. Once you’ve identified your best options for growth, include them in your plan.

4. Evaluate your team.

Your plan should include an assessment of your employees and a look at staffing requirements to meet your growth objectives. By assessing your own skills and those of your employees, you can determine how much growth can be accomplished with your present team. You’ll also know when to start hiring additional people and what skill sets to look for in those new hires.

Review and revise your growth plan often – at least once a year.

5. Find the capital.

Include detailed information on how you will fund expansion. offers a guide on how to prepare your request for funding, as well as how to connect with SBA lenders.

6. Get the word out.

graphic of a person with a megaphone climbing out of a smartphone

Growing your business requires a targeted marketing effort. Be sure to outline how you will effectively market your business to encourage growth and how your marketing efforts will evolve as you grow.

7. Ask for help.

Advice from other business owners who have had successful growth can be the ultimate tool in writing your growth plan.

8. Start writing.

Business plan software has streamlined the growth plan process. Most software programs are geared toward business plans, but you can modify them to create a plan that focuses on growth.

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Growth Strategy Checklist: Plan Your Business Goals With These 5 Templates

By Nadya Khoja , Jun 16, 2019

growth strategy

I often find that at the end of the year my sense of perspective is heightened and I generally feel a lot more motivated and excited about the future.

Do you feel the same way?

Part of this feeling comes from knowing that a new year is just around the corner, which means a fresh start at tackling any personal or business-related challenges. As a result, it’s the perfect opportunity to start planning your growth goals for the coming year.

But one of the challenges that come with planning our growth strategy is setting realistic and ambitious expectations of what is achievable.

As it turns out, there is a very effective strategy for setting and hitting your growth goals, and by following this strategy you can accurately predict what is possible to accomplish.

I’d like to walk you through the process of not only identifying what those goals are but also how you can break down the actions required to hit them. I’ll also provide you with some useful growth strategy templates that myself and the team at Venngage use to help make the journey a lot easier.

You can also take a look at some other process infographic templates that could help you map out different growth strategies in more detail. Or create a business plan using our online drag and drop tool–no design experience required.

The process for identifying and hitting your business goals can be broken down into five steps:

Step 1: Identifying and setting your high-level goals.

Step 2: Understanding which inputs and outputs impact those goals.

Step 3: Running experiments to impact those inputs.

Step 4: Validating those experiments.

Step 5: Fostering accountability within your team.

By the end of this five-step process, not only should you have a very clear idea of what goals to target for the year, but you will know exactly what is required of you and your team to get there.

Visually documenting the path to hitting your business goals will not only help you have a better understanding of the specific factors that will influence growth, it will also provide the rest of your team with a concise and easy-to-follow growth strategy roadmap as well.

(Oh, and did I mention that we’ve got plenty of roadmap templates to help you visualize your growth strategy?)

Writing out the steps is useful, but showing those steps can help everyone envision the path in question.

Step 1: Start by identifying your high-level business goals

As human beings, we have a tendency to start all journeys at the beginning. And this makes sense of course. After all, if the stories we read started at the end, wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of going through the journey?

Imagine if you were to start reading the Harry Potter series, and J.K. Rowling started the story by saying:

“Hey guys, just so you know, Harry wins and Voldemort is defeated in the end.”

Or if the Star Wars series started with Luke finding out that Darth Vader was his father? Wouldn’t it kind of kill the mood and the anticipation that comes with reading or hearing a story?

star wars

Well, the journey to product growth and business growth functions a little bit differently. In fact, it’s almost more helpful to start at the end and work backward, especially when your planning growth .

It makes sense too, right?

If you could know for sure how much revenue your company would make in the long-run before you even started your venture, would that not be helpful in figuring out the best growth strategy to get there?

Starting at the end of your growth strategy:

It’s always helpful to start out with a very high-level and ambitious goal. Many successful and fast-growing companies do this, and all of them have different terms to refer to these high-level goals.

Shopify calls this the BHAG, which stands for big, hairy, audacious goals . This business goal is usually meant to seem a little bit crazy.

Brian Balfour takes a more practical approach and refers to setting high-level goals as using the Top-Down Approach to inform your growth models.

And of course, at Venngage we simply call these our “high-level” or “long-term” goals. But the point is, you need to start out by mapping out a long-term goal, like your 10-year goal.

Where do you see yourself and your company by that time? How much should you grow your business ? How much revenue do you expect your company to generate? How many employees do you see yourself having?

Take a look at the example in this growth strategy template:

growth strategy template

These are the High-Level Growth Goals for a hypothetical company called StartUp Masters . Their mission (“ To provide startups with an affordable means of managing projects in order to achieve rapid growth ”) is clearly stated, and their goals are broken down in order to depict where they envision themselves to be In 10 years, 5 years, 3 years and finally 1 year.

At 10 years old, the company expects to be making 100 million in revenue and they expect to achieve this with 120 employees. They’ve also indicated the number of daily active users required to get there.

10 yea goal growth strategy

On top of that, they’ve listed out some steps required in order to achieve those goals. As you glance further down the funnel, you can see that this is, in fact, a pretty audacious business goal considering where the company is probably starting out from.

By working backward, it becomes easier to make somewhat realistic goals of where the company would need to be in 5 years, 3 years and 1 year in order to hit that 10-year goal.

Start breaking down your own high-level goals with the Growth Goals template.


OK great, so you’ve got your high-level goals set out, now you can wipe your hands clean and be done with your growth strategy, right?

This is only one small part of the process. The next step is to figure out how you can hit your 1-year goal, and that means understanding which metrics are most important to improve in order to make a big impact on growth.

Step 2: Know which inputs and outputs impact your goals

Andy Grove’s book High Output Management is one of the most useful resources on building a high-functioning and, of course, high output company.

In this book, he uses the analogy of a breakfast factory to help explain the importance of all the little actions (or inputs) that have an impact on the successful operation and growth of the factory (its output).

What this means is that for every goal you set, there are key metrics and results which will help you identify whether or not you will, in fact, achieve that goal . And of course, there are specific growth strategies that you can follow to help you move the needle on those key metrics.

Identifying your North Star Metric

One of the first metrics you should identify is your North Star Metric . This metric is often described as the one number that best represents the core value that your product delivers to your customers.

growth strategy

For instance, if we take Airbnb as an example, their North Star Metric is the number of nights booked. Why?

Because it’s a clear indication of their product’s value .

If more nights are being booked, and that number is consistently increasing, it means that more customers are having a positive experience with Airbnb and are therefore returning to the platform to book their accommodation.

At Venngage, our North Star Metric is the number of infographics completed. Because if people are completing more and more infographics that they are proud of , it’s a clear indication that they are finding value from the tool.

This number should also have a direct correlation with your company’s revenue goals and retention goals. The more value people are finding from your product, the more likely they are to stay and continue paying for your product.

The next step is identifying what your current baseline is for your North Star Metric. Let’s take a look at the growth strategy template below for our hypothetical company, StartUp Masters .

business goals template

In the previous template that broke down their high-level goals, they indicated that one of the steps to achieving their 1st-year goal was to increase the retention rate to 30% at 12 months.

If you take a look at the end of the above template, you can see that the baseline of completed projects is indicated under the Retention OKR.

retention okr template

As you can see, they have identified that users have completed 90,000 projects successfully, and they currently have 45,000 Daily Active Users.

Now, in order to hit their revenue and acquisition goals, the company needs to get to 70,000 Daily Active Users. But in order to hit their retention goal of 30%, each of those users needs to complete at least 3 projects successfully which they have calculated as a leading indicator of better retention .

When creating your growth strategy, you need to figure out the overall baselines for your North Star Metric, and how that number will need to change in order to impact your various OKRs .

Setting your OKRs and Inputs

If you weren’t aware of what an OKR is, it stands for Objective Key Results. They refer to specific metrics that you can track which will, in turn, influence your high-level goals.

In most software startups, many founders follow the AARRR framework for setting and tracking OKRs. This stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, and Referral.

AARRR Framework

Each of these metrics is important for understanding the behaviors of your customers and of course, the growth potential of your business.

Sometimes, however, it can be overwhelming to influence every single one of these metrics, so in this particular growth strategy template, which helps to break down goals, StartUp Masters is focusing on influencing Acquisition, Conversions (Revenue) and Retention OKRs.

Take a look at the Acquisition OKRs they identified while growth planning:

Acquisition OKR Template

The main metrics that influence acquisition for StartUp Masters is their Organic Traffic goals and their Paid Traffic goals.

They will need to scale their organic traffic by 130,000 unique visits a month, and their paid traffic by 70,000 unique visits a month.

However, if you look at the inputs that impact those specific OKRs, there are multiple pages that drive organic traffic, so they’ve outlined the required traffic to these various sections of their site.

measuring inputs and outputs

For the sake of simplicity, the OKRs mentioned here only talk about the traffic goals and not on the burn rate of your marketing budget. However, in actual practice, you may also be concerned about your customer acquisition costs .

Typically, paid acquisition channels like Facebook Ads and Adwords have a higher CAC than organic channels like SEO or content marketing. A long term growth plan might hence also include targets to bring your average acquisition costs down.

By continuing to break down their goals into smaller and more specific inputs, it becomes easier to envision the path towards achieving those high-level goals within the growth plan.

When you are setting your own OKRs , you also need to know which metrics you can manipulate at a smaller scale that will have greater leverage . And as you continue to figure out which inputs will impact your OKRs, you can start thinking of experiments that will, in turn, influence your inputs.

Help your team to clearly understand which inputs impact your main OKRs.


The Team Alignment Handbook

Step 3: Brainstorm experiments to run that directly affect your identified inputs

Coming up with valuable experiments to run is not always as easy as it may seem. In fact, one issue that many startups face when it comes to implementing new product features, or marketing strategies , is waterfalling .

What’s waterfalling , you ask?

Simply stated, waterfalling is what happens when a team continues to add requirements to a project, to the point where the task becomes so large that the time required to implement it keeps increasing. Eventually, what was supposed to be implemented within a two-week sprint, ends up taking months to push out. 

In an effort to avoid falling victim to the waterfall taking over your growth strategy , it’s better to operate on a one or two-week sprint cadence.

This can be achieved by, you guessed it–breaking down these big projects into more bite-sized experiments, or MVTs.

An MVT is a Minimum Viable Test, and its purpose is primarily to derive insights and validate whether or not it’s even worth pursuing the larger-scale project . By running more MVTs, you gain more learnings which can help inform which steps to take next.

Start by deciding which OKR you are trying to impact. As you can see in the growth strategy template below, the OKR that StartUp Masters is trying to impact is their retention metric. The goal is to push more users to complete one additional project in the span of three weeks.

growth experiment template

Then, the suggested experiment is to create a pop-up modal within the project dashboard which will push users to begin a new project upon hitting the 80% completion mark.

They’ve even hypothesized the results that this new implementation will reap. If you take a look at the next step, they’ve outlined the effort required by each team. This is usually a pretty clear indicator of whether or not your experiment is veering in the direction of a waterfall.

Growth Experiment Scorecard

Your goal when planning out MVTs is to run experiments which require low effort, but have a high output . These are considered to be “slam-dunks” because you can get big results in less time and with less work required.

Naturally, not every experiment will be a “slam-dunk” but as a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid anything that could be considered high effort and low output, which risk becoming “turtles”.

So here’s where the MVT breakdown board comes in handy when planning your growth strategy. Just walk through this process to get an idea of whether or not your suggested experiment can and should be broken down even more.

Using the example above, let’s run through the flowchart.

Well, considering that the Marketing and Engineering effort required is medium, and the Design effort is high, chances are that it will take at least a few weeks to run the test, so the answer is no .

Since this is a first test that StartUp Masters is running in order to try and get more people to create a new project, chances are it hasn’t been proven in anyway just yet. So the answer is also no.

In this case, the answer is yes because there are other means for StartUp Masters to get the insights they require in order to validate their idea. At this point, they would need to list out possible ways to run the test without the support of engineering.

This might mean something as simple as setting up an automated email to a segment of users that is triggered at the 80% completion mark, asking them to start on the next project.

Sending an email is a relatively low effort task on the Marketing side which requires little to no support from Design or Engineering, and which will still provide enough information to validate whether the full feature should be implemented. So the answer is a resounding yes .

As a result, by running their suggested experiment through the MVT Breakdown Board, StartUp Masters is able to avoid a waterfall project and gain useful learnings in a shorter period of time.

Are your experiments at risk of becoming waterfalls? Use this chart to help break your projects down into smaller MVTs.

Step 4: validate your experiments with a checklist.

Sometimes, breaking down an experiment to an MVT is still not enough to validate whether that test is worth including in your growth strategies.

You need to know if it will have a positive impact on your users and their needs as well. Afterall, your job is still to provide a great and valuable experience for your customers.

This is where the Experiment Validation Checklist comes in handy.

Experiment Validation Checklist

As you can see, StartUp Masters follows the “Jobs to Be Done” framework , which focuses on the goals a potential user has, rather than solely focusing on who they are as a person (which is more dependent on marketing to personas).

Here we can see the various “Jobs to Be Done” listed out. Moreover, they are also considering personas as an important factor in how they plan out their experiments.

Of course, they include the probability of success as a factor, the effort required per team and the OKR that is impacted from the experiment.

By getting everyone on your team to use this growth strategy checklist when deciding which experiments to go after, it becomes easier at a first glance to know if all the areas of importance are being considered.

Need help validating your experiments to identify their value?

Step 5: foster accountability in your team.

Lastly, it’s important that everyone on your team understands the work that they are doing, and the value they bring to the company with the growth projects they are running.

By getting specific individuals on your team to share the tests they released, as well as what they learned in a given week, you are encouraging them to consistently produce results .

Results and Releases Templates

In your weekly meetings , show the rest of the company what was launched, and what results were achieved. Get each person to speak to their own growth experiments so that they can feel accountable for the work they do .

If there are underperformers that have a tendency to work at a slower pace or reap less valuable insights, this growth strategy template will push them to increase their output.

At any rate, the rest of the company will see who the A-players are , and who is falling short, which is often a wake-up call for the latter.

Start tracking which experiments your team members are working on, and monitoring what results they are getting.

There is no silver bullet or quick “hack” that will lead to explosive growth.

In fact, growth is a long process and requires a strong focus and understanding of the data and metrics that influence the various moving parts of an organization. That is why you need a well thought out growth strategy to really succeed.

You can then start the new year right by setting ambitious business goals, and breaking them down into easily digestible inputs.

By continuing to test out various experiments, and analyzing the results of those experiments–in time you will find that achieving the goals your set for yourself and for your company seem a lot more within reach.

More business communication guides:

30+ Business Report Templates That Every Business Needs [+ Design Tips]

30+ Business Report Templates That Every Business Needs

How to Write a Growth Plan

Last Updated: April 21, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Gina D'Amore . Gina D'Amore is a Financial Accountant and the Founder of Love's Accounting. With 12 years of experience, Gina specializes in working with smaller companies in every area of accounting, including economics and human resources. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from Manhattanville College and a Bookkeeping Certificate from MiraCosta College. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 138,666 times.

If you’re lucky, your business will grow without much effort. However, most business owners need a plan. A well-drafted growth plan will identify potential growth opportunities and the amount of money you will need to fund the expansion. Your plan should have multiple parts, including a marketing strategy and different financial documents. If you need help, you should visit a business development center.

Analyzing Growth Opportunities

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Drafting Your Growth Plan

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Securing Financing

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Expert Q&A

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About This Article

Gina D'Amore

A well-drafted growth plan will help you identify growth opportunities and budget for the expansion. To write your growth plan, start by identifying areas of potential growth, such as adding new products or services, expanding into new territories or markets, and increasing your marketing to sell more existing products. Once you’ve decided on a direction for your growth, take a look at your goal and figure out what your business is already doing well and where it needs to improve. Use this to write a 5-year growth plan, detailing the steps you’ll take to put the plan in motion. Then, write a financial plan, including your current financial situation, the amount of capital you need to raise, and how you’ll secure it. If you need to hire extra staff for your expansion, include this in the plan and how much it’ll cost. For more tips, including how to get a business loan to support your growth plan, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Growth Plan: What is it & How to Create One? (Steps Included)

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“I want to increase sales this quarter. I want to expand my business this year. I want to hire new employees this month. I want to improve the quality of my product by the end of this year. I want to hit a new market target.”

If you run a business, you’ve probably said these things or something similar a thousand times. After all, every business has a list of goals they want to achieve by a particular time.

In a perfect world, we’d set goals, and we’d reach them without much effort. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are a lot of things we need to do after setting goals, like creating a growth plan.

A growth plan isn’t just about the goals and future of your business, but also the strategies you would implement to make sure that your vision comes to life.

Considering the fact that 50% of businesses fail during their first five years and 66% fail during their first ten, creating a solid growth plan is quintessential.

So, in this blog post, we’re going to tell you all about growth plans and how you can create one that works like a charm. So buckle up because you’re in for a ride.

Growth Plan: What Exactly is it? (Definition)

A growth plan is a strategic plan about how every aspect of your business will walk towards attaining the business goals. With a growth plan in hand, you’ll know exactly what to do, how, and when to do it.

Even though a growth plan sounds like the marketing tactics you’d implement to grow your business, it’s a lot more than that. It encompasses an overview of everything you’d be doing to grow your business.

Let’s understand the concept of a growth plan better with an example.

Two employees setting goals for the company

Suppose you’re running a gaming laptop business. Your goal is to increase your sales by 60% over the next five years. To achieve this goal, you might need to carry out a plethora of tasks like:

Now, you’d be writing all these things in your growth plan, along with other details like timeline, budget, name of the people responsible for carrying out a particular task, and more.

Want to know some other reasons why you need to create a growth plan? Let’s find out! Home Page CTA

Read more:  Growth Marketing: What is it & How to Carry it out for your Business?

3 Reasons Why You Should Create a Growth Plan

1. keeps you focused.

When you’re running a business, you usually try to flap your wings around in different places.

But, when some places don’t give you the results you expected, you get frustrated and realize that you wasted so much of your time and effort that you could’ve invested in other areas.

Well, a growth plan can help you avoid that frustration. With a growth plan, you’d know exactly what areas you should be focusing on and what areas you don’t need to pay attention to.

The result? You won’t be wasting any time and effort on places you won’t get any return from.

Read more:  Business Development Plan: What Is It And How To Create A Perfect One?

2. Helps You When Things Go Sideways

We don’t want to scare you, but the landscape of the market is changing at a rapid pace.

That means things in your business can go haywire at any time. But, you really don’t need to worry about that if you have got a strong growth plan in place.

Like we said above, in a growth plan, you write all the strategies that’d lead you to growth. When things go wrong, you can just pick one of the strategies, modify them according to the current scenario, and you’re good to go!

3. Gives You a Direction

Your business isn’t a road trip. You can’t go rogue and see where the road takes you. You need a roadmap, a direction…and that’s exactly what a growth plan gives you.

A growth plan shows you the way towards achieving your goals. It tells you the route you need to take to reach your goals . Without it, you might end up taking the wrong turn and reach a dead end.

To put it simply, when you have a growth plan with you, you’ll know all about what you need to do to make your business successful.

Considering the importance of a growth plan, creating it is not something you can rush through. There are some steps that you need to follow, and we’re going to tell you all about them.

How to Create a Growth Plan In 5 Easy-Peasy Steps?

Set 1. set goals.

Every plan starts with setting business goals , and a growth plan is no different.

After all, you can’t just say “I want this” and expect something to happen automatically. You need to define what exactly you want to achieve, i.e., you need to set your goals.

Also, always make sure that your goals are not vague but realistic and measurable. For instance, “ Increasing sales ” isn’t a solid goal. “ Increasing sales by 20% over the next 6 months ” is the kind of goal you can measure.

Step 2. Conduct Market Research

You might think that once you’ve decided on your goals, you can just go ahead and start creating strategies. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

There’s another important step that you need to follow: carrying out market research. Creating strategies without considering the market is not going to help you achieve your goals.

Examine your target audience, the condition of the market, and your competitors. Evaluate what your audience is looking for, how saturated the market is, and what your competitors are doing.

Step 3. Evaluate Your KPIs

Once you’ve done the market research, it’s time to get back home, aka your business, and do some digging. You need to find out what’s working for your business and what’s not.

The best way to figure that out is by evaluating your KPIs. For those who don’t know, KPIs stand for Key Performance Indicators. They are the metrics that are “key” in determining your business’s success.

By assessing your KPIs, you’ll find out the key areas that are giving you the most fruitful results. You can then target these areas while you’re brainstorming strategies for growth. This brings us to the next step:

Read more: KPI Report: What it is & How to Create a Perfect One?

Step 4. Create Strategies

Okay, so now you know everything about the market and your company, so you’re all set to create strategies that you’d be implementing to achieve your goals.

From hiring new sales reps to upgrading your existing product – your strategies can be anything, as long as they help you achieve your goals.

We don’t need to say this, but make sure that your strategies align with your present and future budget. You don’t want to overspend right now and then be short of money when you execute a future strategy.

Step 5. Execute Your Plan

Brace yourselves because it’s time to get the ball rolling and execute the plan. Start implementing all the strategies according to the timeline you’ve set.

However, there’s something that you need to remember: Your plan isn’t a static piece of document. You need to keep modifying and updating it as you go.

Just follow the old saying, ‘ grow through what you go through .’ A strategy isn’t giving the results you expected? Change it. A strategy is working too well? Increase its timeline. A strategy isn’t in trend anymore? Slash it.

Yay! You’ve now learned how to create a solid growth plan.

Now, all that’s left for you to learn is how to create it the right way . See, your growth plan is a VERY essential document. You can’t just type all the strategies out and think that your growth plan is ready.

Your plan needs to have a proper structure and layout. It needs to be easy on the eyes and easy to comprehend. Most of all, it needs to be written after getting inputs from all the departments in your business.

It seems like a tough and long process, doesn’t it? It’s not, because is a platform where you can do all this and more. Want to know more about Read on!

Read more:   Growth Hacking: What is it & 21 Tools that can Help! – The Perfect Tool for Creating Growth Plans & Other Business Documents Tool for creating growth plans

Yes, that’s the essence of – a document collaboration platform where you can create, organize, share and manage all company documents and other content.

You do not have to worry about formatting or designing your growth plan at all – just pick a template, and put all your strategies in it. Did you know that Bit gives you the option to choose from over 70 templates ?!

This nifty platform lets you and your team collaborate in real-time by co-editing, making inline comments, chatting via document chat, @mentions, and much more.

Want to make your growth plan more robust and comprehensive? Add rich media into it! Bit lets you add excel sheets, social content, cloud files, charts, surveys/polls, code, presentations, and much more to your documents.

One feature that makes Bit stand out is ‘smart workspaces’. On Bit, you can create infinite workspaces around projects and teams. This will help you in keeping all your documents related to your growth plan organized! makes creating documents as easy as ABC, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try.

Wrapping Up

There are some things in business you just can’t avoid, and creating a growth plan is one of them. If you don’t want your business to disappear into thin air, you need to create a proper growth plan.

A growth plan literally has the power to take your business to heights, but only if you create it properly and accurately. It’s not even a gigantic task, considering that you have with you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, start working on your growth plan and skyrocket the growth of your business. We’re totally rooting for you!

Got any questions or suggestions? Feel free to tweet us @bit_docs. We’d get back to you as soon as possible.

Further reads: 

Financial Plan: What is it & How to Create an Impressive One?

13 Growth Marketing Strategies You Must Know About!

Mitigation Plan: What Is It & How To Create One?

12 Sales KPIs Your Sales Department Should Measure!

Go-To-Market Strategy Guide for Businesses!

Communication Plan: What is it & How to Create it? (Steps included)

How To Develop a Growth Mindset That Will Change Your Future?

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12 Marketing Goals You Must Include In Your Plan!

Performance Report: What is it & How to Create it? (Steps Included)

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business growth strategies

7 Proven Business Growth Strategies that Work (+ Examples)

Aug 20, 2021 | Read time: 12 min.

RJ Licata, Director of Marketing

You don’t need to be a billion dollar global brand to muscle market share away from your competitors. What you need is an unstoppable business growth strategy.

Of course, with growth comes risk. So, truly successful businesses rarely rely on a single plan of action. Instead, they combine multiple growth strategies to win, including market development, disruption, product expansion, channel expansion, strategic partnerships, acquisitions, and organic growth.

Read on to learn seven of the most effective business growth strategies that brands use to topple the competition.

What makes a business growth strategy effective?

Before we look at specific growth strategies, let’s talk about some high-level principles regarding what makes any growth strategy effective .

First and foremost, you need to have a clear grasp on your brand identity and DNA. You also need to know your strengths, positioning, and differentiation.

Growth comes from a relentless focus on your core competencies. Walmart is a prime example of this. By delivering the lowest prices for customers, they’ve created stratospheric growth.

Second, deep audience insight is crucial for any successful business growth strategy. You must know your customers’ pain points and desires, and satisfy their needs better than your competitors. As a result, you’ll build customer loyalty and more word-of-mouth (WOM) referrals.

And, most importantly, growth marketing requires nimbleness. You’ll certainly need to pivot in small ways, such as changing marketing tactics to match current trends or customer behavior . But, you also might need to make large scale changes to achieve growth objectives.

For example, Shopify started out selling snowboard equipment, but ultimately realized they were better at creating ecommerce software. A willingness to change in both small and large ways can significantly accelerate business growth.

Types of business growth strategies

Traditionally there have been four major business growth strategies. However, I expanded on the existing framework to include a few more. So, here are seven specific types of business growth strategies that you can use to fuel growth for your brand.

1. Market development (market penetration)

Market penetration strategy (or market development) is a business growth strategy in which you attempt to sell your existing products into untapped markets. This involves identifying new markets that would be a good fit for your current product line.

Market development is a common growth strategy because it allows you to move beyond your existing customers. As a result, you’ll expand your share of the market. This type of segmentation may involve targeting a new industry, new demographic, new corporate department (e.g., going from HR to finance), or new geographical location.

Bain & Company studied growth-driving moves by 1,850 companies to determine how successful companies achieve sustainable, profitable growth. They found companies realize the most profitable growth when they move into an adjacent target market.

Facebook is an obvious example of using market development as a business growth strategy.

They started as a product accessible only to Harvard University students. From there, they expanded to include Stanford, Columbia, and Yale. Next they opened the platform to all Ivy League and a number of Boston-area schools. Then, they expanded access to colleges around the U.S. and Canada.

If you plan to enter a new market, you’ll need to understand the complete competitive landscape. Think beyond direct competitors. Who commands consumer attention in the space? Which brands control the largest share of mind, and who controls key decision-making moments?

Want to see where you stand in your existing market or one you want to enter? Request a free search market share analysis !

Market disruption involves coming into a well-established industry that is usually dominated by a few legacy brands and proceeding to do things completely differently than everyone else. There are a number of ways you can potentially disrupt a market, including:

Think of how Dollar Shave Club disrupted the male razor market with a direct to consumer model. In a sign of capitulation, Unilever acquired them roughly five years later for $1 billion.

3. Product expansion or diversification

Developing new products or adding new features to existing ones can be a highly effective business growth strategy. Product development opens your brand up to new audiences who weren’t interested in your brand before.

Semrush is an example of a company that started with a rudimentary SEO and paid search platform.

The company launched new features over the years, and it’s now a comprehensive software suite. Although the target audience never changed, new functionality appealed to a wider segment of that audience.

This business growth strategy worked well for Semrush which has a current market capitalization of more than $2.7 billion.

New distribution channels rank among the top 10 business strategies for growth because they propel revenue growth without any product changes. Ecommerce businesses like Allbirds have increased revenue by also growing their brick-and-mortar presence. Whereas Allbirds was exclusively online in the beginning, they currently boast 29 real-world stores.

Sometimes, one company’s identification of a new distribution channel can trigger a tsunami of change throughout the industry. Take Salesforce. They introduced the idea of cloud-based, subscription software in an industry dominated by large, expensive, complex enterprise software requiring an army of professional service reps to get it to work. Salesforce went on to grow rapidly, and today it’s a $21 billion+ entity. The software industry transformed, and today is completely filled with other SaaS offerings.

Strategic partnerships with other brands can generate growth that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. For example, if you partner with a company that offers a product or service that complements yours, you get access to their audience, and vice-versa. You also receive referrals from your strategic partner and benefit from the goodwill built up around their brand.

An example of a strategic partnership that worked well is the one between Lyft and Taco Bell. Lyft offered Taco Bell delivery service to its customers, in which a Lyft passenger could request a mid-trip stop at a local Taco Bell (“Taco Mode”) with a simple tap within the Lyft app. The partnership led to free publicity for both companies and an increase in sales for Taco Bell.

Strategic partnerships can also focus on an improved or unique product. Once again, looking at Taco Bell, a partnership with Doritos resulted in the creation of the Doritos Locos Taco. To say it was a massive hit is an understatement. Within the first 18 months of the new product launch, Doritos Locos Taco sales surpassed $1 billion.

Perhaps the most obvious way to grow is through acquisitions. Acquisitions are usually only a viable growth strategy if you have significant cash flow and debt capacity available.

Acquisitions have several distinct advantages. They allow you to reduce competition by acquiring direct competitors. They allow you to gain access to proprietary technology that would take significant time and money to develop yourself. And they give you access to the acquired company’s customer base.

Among the various business growth strategies, rollups are one of the most efficient and reliable.

A rollup involves acquisition of multiple smaller companies in the same market. The aim is to achieve greater cost savings and efficiencies through economies of scale.

Alera Group, an employee benefits and HR solutions company, is one example of this. They grew to 1,700 employees mostly through a continual stream of acquisitions.

“ Alera Group grew to 1,700 employees mostly through a continual stream of acquisitions. TERAKEET

Out of all the business growth strategies, organic growth is by far the ideal. It means you’re able to spur growth without the reliance on mergers and acquisitions. As for your marketing strategy , it means you’re growing without the need for advertising, where once you stop spending, you stop growing.

Largely through organic growth, a home goods startup in a $29 billion market went from zero to a 3% market share within 5 years. Organic search was a major factor in the rapid growth, with the startup attracting 4.1 million organic visits to its website each year.

With organic growth, your customer acquisition cost is lower, your return on marketing spend is higher, and it puts you on a frictionless upward trajectory. The more organic growth you can achieve, the less you have to spend on marketing and the more you can invest in further developing your brand, developing new products, and delighting your customers.

Combine business growth strategies to win

Klarna is disrupting the online payments market by implementing several growth strategies in business simultaneously.

The fintech company, founded in 2005 in Stockholm, Sweden, enables consumers to make product purchases without full payment at checkout. Rather than pay in full, shoppers can divide their payments into four interest-fee installments, pay the full amount within 30 days, or extend payment up to three years. The result is a 45% increase in average order value from shoppers paying with flexible installments.

Klarna has also been focused on geographical expansion , entering new markets across Europe and finally the U.S. Today, Klarna delivers flexible purchase options to 90 million consumers across 250,000+ merchants in 17 countries. More than 2 million transactions are processed globally through Klarna technology daily.

There are a variety of business growth strategies that are effective. By combining multiple strategies, companies like Klarna are able to forge massive growth in a short period of time.

Most companies, like Klarna, strive for growth. The challenge, of course, is knowing which strategies will be most successful for your company and how to effectively execute on that plan.

Components of a successful business growth strategy

So how do you execute a successful business growth strategy? Let’s look at the most critical elements.

Conduct market research

No matter which growth strategies you implement, start with market research. Research gives you insight into your current customers as well as potential new business from untapped markets. This step reveals trends, growth opportunities, and potential barriers to entry that could limit your success in a new market.

Audience research helps you tap into new areas of your current market, as well as new audience segments that could benefit from your offerings. You’ll uncover valuable insights about buying behavior and product preferences in addition to the channels they use most frequently. Use this data to inform your customer acquisition efforts and broader marketing strategy.

Competitive research highlights your positioning relative to competitors in your current market. It also identifies market share leaders in new areas so you can assess their vulnerabilities and capitalize on opportunities.

Finally, keyword research helps you understand how your audience thinks. It reveals what your existing and potential customers search for as they move through the customer journey . You can use the data from keyword research to create a content strategy , identify topics they care about, and craft the right experience for each customer touchpoint along the journey.

Establish growth goals

Once you have a clear understanding of your current market as well as where you want to grow (new markets or existing markets), you can then establish specific growth goals. Goals are key to any growth strategy because they drive the actions that lead to success.

All growth goals should be measurable, and quantitative goals should be time-bound with deadlines.

By establishing clear goals, you can measure your success and optimize your activities over time. You can adjust your strategy as necessary in order to ensure the achievement of your growth objectives.

Determine your growth strategy

After you set growth goals, decide which growth strategy you’ll implement to acquire new customers and achieve your goals.

Will you target organic growth, or use an acquisition strategy? Alternatively, you might combine several strategies to achieve your goals. It’s obviously more complex to implement multiple business growth strategies. But, as we saw with Klarna, it’s certainly a method to maximize your results.

The strategy or strategies you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including your budget, goals, opportunities, competition, timelines, and calculated market share targets.

If you’re a startup entering an already crowded market, you may need to rely on market disruption strategies. Or, if you’re a large retailer with a massive budget and you need immediate short-term gains, you could utilize strategic partnerships.

However, if you seek long-term organic growth, you’ll need to invest in SEO and content marketing .

Create your execution plan

Your execution plan contains the nitty-gritty details of your growth strategy. It’s the concrete actions you’re going to take to make your growth strategy a reality. For example, if you’re going to use acquisitions as a growth strategy, define the specific gaps you’re aiming to fill or the new audience segments you’re trying to capture.

Don’t be vague with your execution plan. Spell out all the details of your growth strategy so that you and your team members know what needs to be executed, when it needs to be done, and how it will be achieved. All of this planning creates accountability and helps ensure that you hit your intended growth goals more reliably.

Monitor and measure success

Once you have established your growth strategy and have started executing it, regularly measure the key metrics that indicate your progress toward achieving your goals. The metrics you choose should be closely tied to your overall growth goals, not vanity metrics that have no real-world bearings on actual results.

For example, if your goal is to increase revenue for a particular business line by 20% within two years through a geographic expansion strategy, the size of your social media following isn’t going to be the best metric to track. Rather, you might want to track location-specific metrics, along with site traffic and conversion metrics from traffic sourced from your newest regions.

Optimize business growth strategies for what’s working

The more you monitor and measure your growth efforts, the more you’ll begin to see which parts of your execution plan are producing results and which aren’t. If something is working particularly well, double down on it. If a particular tactic isn’t effective, try to make corrective adjustments. Consider pivoting if that doesn’t work.

Even though you’re making serious investments with any of the business growth strategies listed above, there needs to be elements of flexibility in your approach. You may discover that certain growth efforts simply don’t result in sufficient market traction. Perhaps a new geographical focus is lacking product-market fit, whereas a different location may produce the originally desired results instead. Or, if you’re an online business that’s now opening brick and mortar stores, accelerate the pace of your new store openings if you see positive results from your initial set of stores.

Continually optimize the activities of your business growth strategies, and you’re bound to come out ahead in the end.

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Top 10 Business Growth Plan Templates with Samples and Examples

Top 10 Business Growth Plan Templates with Samples and Examples

Mohammed Sameer


Every organization should have a strategic business growth plan that aligns with the company’s goals. A strategy with attainable and measurable goals can be the difference between success and stagnation.

This is true for most people, from entrepreneurs to athletes. Identifying where you want to go, and the steps you need to take to get there will ensure that your company meets all objectives with ease.

A growth strategy integrates all functional areas of the business to achieve your long-term goals. Every department, from sales and marketing to product development, must contribute to the detailed development of this plan. This collaboration aids in achieving synergy and enables your business to achieve unparalleled efficiencies. 

We've compiled a list of the top 10 Business Growth Plan Templates to ensure that business leaders can reap the benefits.

Business Growth Templates Your Company Needs

Napoleon Hill once said, "Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle." And without a proper plan in place, all your efforts and struggles could be futile. Growth planning is a strategic exercise that allows business owners to schedule and monitor the progress of their revenue. SlideTeam's Business Growth Plan Templates make it easier and faster to create these plans. Let's explore them.

Template 1: Business growth plan PPT Template

Draft an inclusive business growth plan leveraging our content-ready PPT Template. It covers the heart and soul of an effective business growth plan. It emphasizes the importance of revenue streams, SWOT Analysis , PESTEL Analysis, financial plan, and risk control. It’s a resource that is a must-have. Download it now.

Business Growth Plan PPT Template

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Template 2: Business Growth And Development Plan

In the deck of all kings , this illustrative template is an Ace of Spades. It is ripe with knowledge and aesthetically-pleasing graphics that make the perfect blend of memorable and impactful presentations. A download of it will ensure you and your team has a concrete business growth plan to work on and take your organization to the heights of success. Get it now.

Business Growth And Development Plan PPT Template

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Template 3: Business Growth Planning PPT Framework

Business growth never comes easy. You have to be relentless in your work and diligent in your efforts to give a fair shot to your business to reach success (which is still not guaranteed). SlideTeam has prepared this PowerPoint Presentation to make your life easy. This template helps you frame an effective and workable business growth plan. Get it now.

Business Growth Planning PowerPoint Template

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Template 4: Business Growth Strategy And Revenue Model

Here’s a star PPT Template for preparing a business growth strategy that aligns with your company’s brand and vision. From business growth model and revenue model to go-to-market strategy and marketing strategy, this presentation template has everything that makes a business plan a success. Get it now.

Business Growth Strategy And Revenue Model PPT Template

Template 5: Business Growth and Strategy Planning 

Business growth and strategic planning can be daunting tasks to accomplish. With SlideTeam as your PPT Presentation partner, you can rest assured that you never have to worry about anything. We have built this PPT Template on extensive research and analysis to ensure you have the best resource for your business. Grab it now.

Business Growth & Strategy Planning PPT Template

Template 6: Two-Stage Business Growth Plan

Here’s a two-stage business growth plan that can help your enterprise break free of the grip of stagnation. Improve your business’ visibility and take steps to move from mere existence to a stage where your key decision-makers have the maturity to offer new products. Use this slide to showcase business growth in two steps and the attractive backdrop to convince clients of your resolve to grow your business. Download it now.

2 Stage Business Growth Plan of Company PPT Template

Template 7: Growth-Oriented Business Plan PowerPoint Presentation Slides

This business growth template contains the overview, financial highlights of the company, revenue streams, growth strategies, and much more. Using it, you can easily present the financial highlights covering turnover, net assets, and EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation). You can quickly identify and analyze the company's strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities. Showcase PESTLE analysis that examines external and internal business factors affecting your organization's performance.

Growth Oriented Business Plan PPT Template

Template 8: Next Year Annual Business Growth Plan

As 2022 is almost over, it is time to plan for the year ahead. One of the absolute essentials for any business is to have a solid business growth plan. Not sure about how to make the next year’s annual business growth plan? Fret not; SlideTeam is here to help. By downloading this template, you can have all the right resources critical to framing a relevant business growth plan.

Next Year Annual Business Growth Plan PPT Template

Template 9: Key Essential of Business Growth Plan

As a business development manager, building a business growth plan without knowing the key essentials is suicidal. It is also akin to giving directions to a location you have no clue about. Your business will end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. Here’s an exemplary PPT Template that describes the key essentials necessary to draft an effective business growth plan. Grab it now.

3 to 1 Key Essentials of Business Growth Plan PPT Template

Template 10: Strategies for Business Growth PPT Template

Business growth is not an overnight achievement. You need proven strategies to guide your business to success. With a lot already on your plate, you will need assistance in strategizing. SlideTeam acknowledges that constraint and has developed an illustrative PPT Template that describes the strategies for business growth. Grab it now.

Strategies for Business Growth PPT Template

Before We Bid Adieu

There is no quick fix or silver bullet that will result in exponential growth.

Indeed, growth is a lengthy process that necessitates a keen focus and understanding of the data and metrics that influence the moving parts of an organization. That is why, in order to truly succeed, you must have a well-thought-out growth strategy (and our business growth plan templates to build one).

FAQs on Business Growth Plan

How do i write a business growth plan.

Steps to Make a Growth-Oriented Business Plan:

What are the 4 types of business growth strategies?

The following are the four primary growth strategies:

Market Penetration

This strategy aims to increase sales of existing products or services in markets where you are already present, giving you an increased share. You can accomplish this by luring customers away from competitors and ensuring that your existing customers purchase your products or services more frequently. It can be achieved through price reductions, increased promotion and distribution support, acquiring a competitor in the same market, or minor product refinements.

Market Development

It entails expanding existing product or service sales into previously untapped markets. Market expansion entails determining how a company's existing products can be sold in new markets or how to grow the existing market. It can be accomplished through a study of customer segments, such as industrial buyers, for a product that was previously only sold to households. Example: Internet service providers targeted employers for using their product, when it was not so ubiquitous.

Product Development

The goal is to introduce new products or services into existing markets. Product development can be used to expand the offer to current customers to increase ARPU (Average Revenue Per User). These products can be obtained by investing in additional product research and development, acquiring the rights to manufacture someone else's product, purchasing the product, and "branding" it.


It entails introducing new products or services into previously untapped markets. Diversification involves higher business risk. It involves the company marketing completely new products and services in a completely unknown market.

What is a growth plan in a business plan?

Business and growth planning are similar. A growth plan primarily focuses on revenue generation or expansion and the actions required to achieve it.

It is a detailed, systematic record of your company's future goals. It outlines your company's goals and objectives and clear strategies and tactics for achieving these.

A growth plan considers the following:

What is the 5 Ps strategy?

Mintzberg developed his 5 Ps of Strategy as five distinct definitions of (or approaches to) strategy development. He first discussed the 5 Ps of Strategy in 1987. Each of the 5 Ps represents a distinct approach to strategy. 

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8 Growth Plan Examples for Your Business

Table of Contents

When it comes to business growth, companies have plenty of opportunities to invest. But because there are so many options of where and how to invest, deciding what’s right for your organization can be overwhelming.

This article covers eight growth plan examples to reach a more extensive customer base, surpass competitors, and expand your business.

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What Are Business Growth Plan Strategies?

Business growth plan strategies help a company grow, allowing the company to potentially become stronger, larger, and more profitable. Growth might occur through raising capital from strategic investors, developing new products, and reducing advertising costs to lead to a better outcome.

Business growth plans are dynamic tools used by management to grow the company’s size and market share. But the plan itself is typically designed with investors in mind. This is so that investors may understand how the company they’ve invested in intends to spend their money and develop as a business. A thorough business growth plan will achieve that objective.

Why Are Growth Strategies Important?

A growth strategy is a set of actions and decisions meant to increase the size of your business over a specified period of time. This can be anything from opening a new store to entering a new market in order to gain market share. This can result in a growth in revenue, profit, or other variables of your business.

Moreover, growth plans provide your business with a goal and long-term direction. You can maintain your focus on the future by laying out a plan of action for areas where your business might be improved.

Through these growth strategies, You may enhance upon what is already effective and make changes to things that require improvement.

Finding the most effective plan for your business is vital because no growth strategies are universal. However, breaking down your ideas into smaller bits will help you analyze scopes of improvement and accomplish specific objectives.

Types of Growth Plans for Your Business

The types of growth plan vary based on what goals you’re trying to meet. An effective growth plan is one that is as specific as your goal and as flexible as your team. The most common types of business plans are:

Market Strategy

Growth plans should be designed around the market strategy; these range from a target market approach to a revenue-generating strategy. If you have just begun your company, these strategies might be simple and small to keep the company’s growth manageable.

Speak to your current and potential customers to learn what they want and are looking for while formulating your strategy.

Development Strategy

A development strategy tries to open up a new market for the goods and services offered by your business. This comprises creating consumer profiles and looking for new market segments and demographics to target with marketing and advertising.

Product Strategy

A product strategy plan helps entrepreneurs find new and innovative products for their company and develop a marketing plan to generate sales.

Such a plan aims to balance the need for a creative new product with the need for stability and scalability. A product strategy plan also helps the entrepreneur create a successful product launch, ensuring strong sales.


Development and product strategy are both elements of diversification. Chunking down product sales can be an excellent way to grow your business by diversifying your offerings.

You can increase your revenue by getting into other markets and pricing your product differently. You can also increase your influence by providing a similar product in another market with the same benefits. This will help you interact with new customers and create opportunities for new sales.

example business growth plan

Top 8 Growth Plan Examples

A growth plan is a business development strategy designed to help an enterprise grow and increase profitability. It helps plan out long-term and short-term goals and focuses on how an enterprise can grow cash flow, sales, and other metrics.

Following a suitable growth plan can help you reach a more significant portion of the market share. Below are the top eight growth strategies frequently used by businesses.

1. Start Promotions

Promotion starts with community engagement. This can be accomplished through social media marketing and is key at any stage of your company’s growth plan. Building brand awareness and incorporating social advertising into your current marketing mix will help propel you to the next level.

2. Viral Loops

Viral loops are a marketing technique designed to generate word-of-mouth advertising. Viral loops work by creating a loop, which is a back-and-forth process that establishes and reinforces a relationship between two or more people.

3. Check Pricing

Pricing is a marketing activity that relies on the knowledge and experience of your business’s goals and the market’s needs. Companies could use low prices as a growth strategy. Consumers are frequently drawn to your brand when you provide a more affordable option than your competitors.

4. Ensure Quality

A business reflects its quality by measuring its team and customers, as well as its ability to generate revenue and competitive advantage. Businesses that frequently concentrate on raising the quality of their goods and services reap the rewards.

With a business plan, you can create a quality company culture. As a result, you can have an efficient sales and marketing strategy with increased customer trust and recommendations.

5. Word of Mouth

Word of mouth can be a great growth strategy. If you need it to be, you need to promote your products or services in a way that brings in talk.

Provide perks for influential people in your industry, such as celebrities, influencers, and top journalists. They will most likely help promote your product for you. All the more reason to learn leadership skills!

6. Strong Branding

If you want your business to grow, it’s vital that you have a strong brand. Building a strong brand means not just promoting your business but also guaranteeing your customer a consistent experience and the trust of a brand.

One way to implement a strong brand is by creating a unique value proposition for your customers that other companies cannot offer.

7. Targeted Emails

Targeted emails are an effective way of determining the most effective way of improving your business. They can be sent to targeted customers, departments, employees, and clients. They may be sent to a group of people in a personalized manner using keyword phrases that reflect their role or level of importance. You may send emails based on age, shopping habits, and region to increase engagement through relevancy.

8. Customer Experience

Good customer experience is not just about a great product. It’s also about how you and your team create unforgettable interactions with customers, investors, and partners.

You can do this by offering a live chat feature for customers on your website. You can also send personalized emails thanking customers and suggesting additional products based on past purchases.

These methods boost customer loyalty, increasing your possibility of gaining repeat customers.

Growing a business is not easy. Today we have thousands of ways to build a business and build an exit strategy. But we must have business growth plans to help guide our decisions in the short and long term. So before you strategize your first growth plan, go through these top 8 examples and analyze the areas of improvement for your business expansion.

8 Growth Plan Examples for Your Business

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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Company Growth Strategy: 7 Key Steps for Business Growth & Expansion

Sujan Patel

Published: April 17, 2023

A concrete growth strategy is more than a marketing strategy, it's a crucial cog in your business machine. Without one, you're at the mercy of a fickle consumer base and market fluctuations.

graphic showing person building a business growth strategy

So, how do you plan to grow?

Download Now: Free Growth Strategy Template

If you're unsure about the steps needed to craft an effective growth strategy, we've got you covered.

Business Growth

Business growth is a stage where an organization experiences unprecedented and sustained increases in market reach and profit avenues. This can happen when a company increases revenue, produces more products or services, or expands its customer base.

For the majority of businesses, growth is the main objective. With that in mind, business decisions are often made based on what would contribute to the company’s continued growth and overall success. There are several methods that can facilitate growth which we'll explain more about below.

Types of Business Growth

As a business owner, you have several avenues for growth. Business growth can be broken down into the following categories:

With organic growth, a company expands through its own operations utilzing its own internal resources. This is in contrast to having to seek out external resources to facilitate growth.

An example of organic growth is making production more efficient so you can produce more within a shorter time frame, which leads to increased sales. A perk of utilizing organic growth is that it relies on self-sufficiency and avoids taking on debt. Additionally, the increased revenue created from organic growth can help fund more strategic growth methods later on. We’ll explain that below.

2. Strategic

Strategic growth involves developing initiatives that will help your business grow long term. An example of strategic growth could be coming up with a new product or developing a market strategy to target a new audience.

Unlike organic growth, these initiatives often require a significant amount of resources and funding. Businesses often take an organic approach first in hopes that their efforts will generate enough capital to invest in future strategic growth initiatives.

3. Internal

Internal growth strategy seeks to optimize internal business processes to increase revenue. Similar to organic growth, this strategy relies on companies using their own internal resources. Internal growth strategy is all about using existing resources in the most purposeful way possible.

An example of internal growth could be cutting wasteful spending and running a leaner operation by automating some of its functions instead of hiring more employees. Internal growth can be more challenging because it forces companies to look at how their processes can be improved and made more efficient rather than focusing on external factors like entering new markets to facilitate growth.

4. Mergers, Partnerships, Acquisitions

Although riskier than the other growth types, mergers, partnerships, and acquisitions can come with high rewards. There’s strength in numbers and a well-executed merger, partnership, or acquisition can help your business break into a new market, expand your customer base, or increase your products and services on offer.

Business Growth Strategy

A growth strategy is a plan that companies make to expand their business in a specific aspect, such as yearly revenue, number of customers, or number of products. Specific growth strategies can include adding new locations, investing in customer acquisition, or expanding a product line.

A company's industry and target market influence which growth strategies it will choose. Strategize, consider the available options, and build some into your business plan. Depending on the kind of company you're building, your growth strategy might include aspects like:

Your particular industry and target market will influence your decisions, but it's almost universally true that new customer acquisition will play a sizable role. That said, there are different types of overarching growth strategies you can adopt before making a specific choice, such as adding new locations. Let’s take a look.

Types of Business Growth Strategies

There are several general growth strategies that your organization can pursue. Some strategies may work in tandem. For instance, a customer growth and market growth strategy will usually go hand-in-hand.

Revenue Growth Strategy

A revenue growth strategy is an organization’s plan to increase revenue over a time period, such as year-over-year. Businesses pursuing a revenue growth strategy may monitor cash flow , leverage sales forecasting reports , analyze current market trends, diminish customer acquisition costs , and pursue strategic partnerships with other businesses to improve the bottom line.

Specific revenue growth tactics may include:

Customer Growth Strategy

A customer growth strategy is an organization’s plan to boost new customer acquisitions over a time period, such as month-over-month. Businesses pursuing a customer growth strategy may be more open to making large strategic investments, as long as the investments lead to greater customer acquisitions.

For this strategy, you may track customer churn rates , calculate customer lifetime value , and leverage pricing strategies to attract more customers. You might also spend more on marketing, sales, and CX , with new customer sign-ups as the north star metric.

Specific customer growth tactics may include:

Marketing Growth Strategy

A marketing growth strategy — which is related, but not the same as, a market development strategy — is an organization’s plan to increase their total addressable market (TAM) and increase existing market share. Businesses pursuing a marketing growth strategy will research different verticals, customer types, audiences, regions, and more to measure the viability of a market expansion.

Specific marketing growth tactics may include:

Product Growth Strategy

A product growth strategy is an organization’s plan to increase product usage and sign-ups, or expand product lines. This type of growth strategy requires a significant investment into the organization’s product and engineering team (at SaaS organizations). In the retail industry, a product growth strategy may look like partnering with new manufacturers to expand your product catalog.

Specific tactics may include:

Not sure what all of this can look like for your business? Here are some actionable tactics for achieving growth.

How to Grow a Company Successfully

1. Use a growth strategy template [Free Tool] .

HubSpot Growth Strategy Template

5. Plan your course of action.

Next, outline how you’ll achieve your growth goals with a detailed growth strategy. Again – we suggest writing out a detailed growth strategy plan to gain the understanding and buy-in of your team.

Growth Action Plan Downloadable Template

1. Viral Loops

Some growth strategies are tailored to be completely self-sustainable. They require an initial push, but ultimately, they rely primarily (if not solely) on users' enthusiasm to keep them going. One strategy that fits that bill is the viral loop.

The basic premise of a viral loop is straightforward:

  • Someone tries your product.
  • They're offered a valuable incentive to share it with others.
  • They accept and share with their network.
  • New users sign up, see the incentive for themselves, and share with their networks.

For instance, a cloud storage company trying to get off the ground might offer users an additional 500 MB for each referral.

Ideally, your incentive will be compelling enough for users to actively and enthusiastically encourage their friends and family to get on board. At its best, a viral loop is a self-perpetuating acquisition machine that operates 24/7/365.

That said, viral loops are not guaranteed to go viral, and they’ve become less effective as they’ve become more commonplace. But the potential is still there.

Part of the appeal is that the viral loop flips the traditional funnel upside-down:

Growth strategy viral loop

For example, a business might include different or increasingly enticing incentives that come with one, five, and 10 referrals as opposed to a fixed incentive for each referral. A company will often leverage this strategy to encourage users to bring on a volume of friends and family that suits its specific business goals.

The strategy also adds an engaging element to the referral process. When done right, milestone referrals are simple to share with relatively straightforward objectives and enticing, tangible products as rewards.

3. Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth is organic and effective. Recommendations from friends and family are some of the most powerful incentives for consumers to purchase or try a product or service.

The secret of word-of-mouth’s effectiveness lies in a deeply rooted psychological bias all people have — we subconsciously believe the majority knows better.

Social proof is central to most successful sales copywriting and broader content marketing efforts. That's why businesses draw so much attention to their online reputations.

They know in today's customer-driven world — one where communication methods change and information is available to all — a single negative blog post or tweet can compromise an entire marketing effort.

Pete Blackshaw , the father of digital word-of-mouth growth, says, "satisfied customers tell three friends; angry customers tell 3,000."

The key with word-of-mouth is to focus on a positive user experience. You need to grow a base of satisfied customers and sustain the wave of loyal feedback that comes with it.

With this method, you have to focus on delivering a spectacular user experience, and users will spread the word for you.

4. The "When They Zig, We Zag" Approach

Sometimes the best growth strategy a company can employ is standing out — offering a unique experience that sets it apart from other businesses in its space. When monotony defines an industry, the company that breaks it often finds an edge.

Say your company developed an app for transitioning playlists between music streaming apps. Assume you have a few competitors who all generate revenue through ads and paid subscriptions — both of which frustrate users.

In that case, you might be best off trying to shed some of the baggage that customers run into trouble with when using your competitors' programs. If your service is paid, you could consider offering a free trial of an ad-free experience — right off the bat.

The point here is that there's often a lot of value and opportunity in differentiating yourself. If you can "zig when they zag", you can capture consumers' attention and capitalize on their shifting interests.

5. In-Person Outreach

It might be a while before this particular approach can be employed again, but it's effective enough to warrant a mention. Sometimes, adding a human element to your growth strategy can help set things in motion for your business.

Prospects are often receptive to a personal approach — and there's nothing more personal than immediate, face-to-face interactions. Putting boots on the ground and personally interfacing with potential customers can be a great way to get your business the traction it needs to get going.

This could mean hosting or sponsoring events, attending conferences relevant to your space, hiring brand ambassadors, or any other way to directly and strategically reach out to your target demographic in person.

6. Market Penetration

Competition is a necessary part of business. Imagine that two companies in the same industry are targeting the same consumers. Typically, whatever customers Business A has, Business B does not. Market penetration is a strategy that builds off of this tug-of-war.

Market penetration increases the market share — the percentage of total sales in an industry generated by a company — of a product within a given industry. Coca-Cola, the most popular carbonated beverage in the United States, has a 42.8% market share. If competitors like Pepsi and Sprite were looking to increase market penetration, they would need to increase market share. This increase would imply that they are acquiring customers that were previously buying Coca-Cola or other carbonated beverage brands.

While lowering prices and advertising are two costly yet effective tactics to increase market share, they are part of a series of methods businesses can use for overall sales and customer retention.

7. Development

If a company feels as if they have plateaued and its current market no longer has room for growth, it might switch strategies from market penetration to market development. While market penetration focuses on a company and its current market, market development strategies lead businesses to tap into a new one.

Companies can decide to manufacture new products or find an innovative use for their project. Take Uber. Although few would say that the rideshare company has plateaued, six years after its launch in 2009, Uber launched UberEats, its online food ordering, and delivery platform. The company already had drivers set to take passengers to their destinations. Uber expanded their idea and has become one of the biggest names in the food delivery industry.

8. Product Development

For growth, many businesses need to introduce something new. Product development — the creation of a new product or the enhancement of an existing one — allows companies to attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Online fast-fashion retailers are an example of this. A company like ASOS built its brand off of clothing. To appeal to a bigger customer base, it has since added face and body products, a collection made up of ASOS products and other popular brands. If an interested customer prefers to shop for their clothes, makeup, and skincare products at once, the brand now serves as a big draw.

9. Growth Alliances

Growth alliances are strategic collaborations between companies. They further the growth goals of the involved parties. Take JCPenney and Sephora. For Sephora, it can’t hurt for the makeup retailer to have more stores across the country. JCPenney, however, needed to keep up with powerhouses like Macy’s and its fully-fledged makeup section.

In 2006, Sephora began opening stores inside JCPenney. As of 2022, Sephora Inside JCPenney is now in over 574 stores. Simultaneously, JCPenney now carries a selection of makeup to rival competitors.

10. Acquisitions

Companies can use an acquisition strategy to promote growth. By acquiring other businesses, companies expand their operations through creating new products or expanding into a new industry. One of the more obvious ideas for growth, this strategy offers significant benefits to companies. They allow for faster growth, access to more customers, lower business risk, and more.

Founded in 1837, Procter & Gamble is a consumer goods company known for its acquisitions. It initially started in soaps and candles but currently has 65 acquired companies that have allowed it to expand into different markets. The list includes Pampers, Tide, Bounty, Tampax, Old Spice, and more. Although its sales dipped between 2016-2019, Procter & Gamble’s net sales for 2021 were $76 billion, its best year within the last decade.

11. Organic Growth

As mentioned previously, organic growth is the most ideal business growth strategy. It could look like focusing on SEO, developing engaging content, or prioritizing advertisements. Instead of focusing on external growth, organic growth is a sustainable strategy that promotes long-term success.

12. Leverage Social Media

Having a strong social media presence can be invaluable to marketing and business growth. Be sure to establish brand pages on all social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, etc. Social media can help you increase engagement with your target audience and make it easier for potential customers to find your brand. It’s also great for word-of-mouth promotion as existing customers will likely share your content with their network.

13. Provide Excellent Customer Service

It can be tempting to focus on acquiring new customers, but maintaining loyalty with your existing customers is just as important. Providing an excellent customer service experience ensures that you’ll continue to keep the customers you have, and there’s a good chance you’ll reap some referrals too.

The Key to Growing Your Business

Controlled, sustainable growth is the key to successful businesses. Industries are constantly changing, and it is the responsibility of companies to adapt to these changes.

Successful companies plan for growth. They work for it. They earn it. So what's your plan?

Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Write a business development plan

Now that you’re in the growth stage of your business, set things in motion with a business development plan.

A business development plan sets goals for growth and explains how you will achieve them. It can have a short-term or long-term focus. Review and revise your plan as often as you can. And keep building on it as your business evolves.

How to write a business development plan

Your business development plan is your roadmap to growth, so make it clear, specific and realistic.

What to include in a business development plan

  • Opportunities for growth: Identify where growth will come from – whether it’s in creating new products, adding more services, breaking into new markets, or a combination of these.
  • Funding plan: Determine how you’ll fund your business growth. How much capital do you already have? How much more do you need and how will you get it? Check out our guide on financing your business.
  • Financial goals: Work out what revenue, costs and profits you’ll have if things stay the same. Use those numbers as a basis for setting new, more ambitious financial goals.
  • Operational needs: Identify what things about your business will need to change in order to achieve growth. Will you need extra people, more equipment, or new suppliers?
  • Sales and marketing activities: Figure out what sales and marketing efforts will effectively promote growth and how these efforts will change as the business gets bigger and better. Make sure your sales and marketing plan is sturdy enough to support your growing business.
  • Team needs: You may need people to take on some of the tasks you’ve been doing. Think about what parts of running the business you enjoy most – and you’re good at – and what parts you might want to delegate to others. And give some thought to the culture you want to develop in your business as it grows. Check out our guide on hiring employees.

A sample business development plan

Avoid these common business development mistakes.

  • Thinking short-term instead of long-term
  • Underestimating how much money it will take to grow
  • Not budgeting enough money to cover the costs of growth
  • Focusing on too many growth opportunities: think quality, not quantity

Micro-planning can keep you focused

You may want to create some micro-plans for specific growth projects so their details don’t get overlooked. And you can build in some KPIs to measure your progress and successes. As your business grows, take note of your progress and make periodic adjustments to your business development plan to make sure it’s still relevant.

Support is out there

Remember you’re not the first to go through this. Seek out mentors, advisors or other business owners who can help you with your planning. Your accountant or bookkeeper may also be able to help or point you in the direction of the right people.

Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

Growing your business

Are you ready to drop the hammer and take your business to the next level? Let’s look at how to grow.

Before you leap into growth, reflect on where you’ve come from. Find out the stage of business growth you’re at.

Understanding your business performance will help you grow. Check out common examples of small business KPIs.

Increasing sales revenue is one obvious way to help grow your business. But how do you sell more?

You can grow your business by selling more things to more people, or fewer things to fewer people. Let’s look at how.

You’re all set to grow your business. But there’s so much to keep track of. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

Download the guide to growing your business

Learn how to grow a business, from planning to expansion. Fill out the form to receive this guide as a PDF.

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Access all Xero features for 30 days, then decide which plan best suits your business.

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  • January 23, 2018

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A Strategic Plan for Business Implementation: 3 Steps to Getting Business Growth Done

Let me ask you a question:

What’s the ONE thing your business needs to take the next BIG step in its growth?

Is it more ideas? More knowledge? More information?

You need to have a good system in place to make sure your ideas are being prioritized intelligently and implemented efficiently.

Probably not.

If you’re like most marketers, entrepreneurs, and business owners I know, you already have a whole pile of notes, ideas, and to-do lists still waiting to be implemented.

If anything, you might have TOO MANY ideas. Too many projects.

And the problem is that you need to get better at implementing those projects. Actually getting them DONE.

Am I right?

If your to-do list has 50 growth strategies on it, you certainly don’t need any more growth strategies. No, what you need instead is a method to…

  • Decide which project to tackle first, and…
  • Actually DO IT in an effective and efficient way

And that’s what this post is all about.

The framework you’re about to learn is the exact same process we use internally at DigitalMarketer to implement our business growth strategies.

It came out of the frustrations we had in our own recent growth…

As a company, DigitalMarketer went from being a small team of two to three people to being a team of over 50 people in a relatively short time.

But here’s the crazy part…

Even though our team ballooned in size by 25x, we didn’t actually get that much more work done!

See, you can’t just throw more money and people at a problem like this and hope that will fix the issue. Because it won’t.

Instead, you need to have a good system in place to make sure your ideas are being prioritized intelligently and implemented efficiently.

So, without further ado, here are the three steps to doing just that—a business growth plan for avoiding “shiny object syndrome” and actually implement a growth plan in your business …

Business Growth Plan Step 1: Align Your Team to a Single Goal

The first step is to align your team to a single goal and AVOID multiple simultaneous projects.

Instead of trying to achieve many different things at once, it’s much better to focus on one goal at a time. And don’t move on to the next goal until you’ve achieved the first one.

Goals should be sequential, never simultaneous.

Sequential goals ensure maximum efficiency because they allow you to put 100% of your focus on that one thing.

Simultaneous goals, on the other hand, are a recipe for chaos and inefficiency. And the more projects you have going at once, the less efficient you will be. Guaranteed.

This applies to your entire team, whether you’re a team of one or part of a much larger department.

One of the big mistakes that many companies make is giving a different goal or project to every employee.

For example: Bob’s project might be trying to grow the email list, while Lois is charged with increasing conversions, and Steve is in charge of trying to cut down on customer refunds.

The problem with a situation like this is that there are dependencies between these projects, and those dependencies can cause a lot of in-fighting between employees.

As a result, nobody is able to do a really great job of achieving their goal and you end up with another quarter of mediocre improvements and stagnant growth across the board.

But what if you could get your whole team—Bob, Lois, and Steve—all focused on the same goal at the same time? This way, there wouldn’t be any competing agendas. Chances are they would do a much better job than any one person could do on their own.

So, why don’t more companies work this way? The answer might surprise you.

The Secret Danger of Good Ideas

For many companies, the thing that’s stopping them from adopting a more efficient, sequential goal structure is too many good ideas.

It might sound strange, but it’s true…

Good ideas have killed far more companies than bad ideas.

It’s rare for a bad idea to bring down a company. Instead, failure is more often caused by trying to implement too many good ideas at once .

This makes sense if you think about it: we’re on the lookout for bad ideas. Anytime we try something that doesn’t work, what do we do? We stop doing it. We pivot. We try something else.

Bad ideas are usually caught and thrown out pretty quickly.

But good ideas?

Good ideas are dangerous.

Anytime we try a tactic that works well…

Anytime we come up with a new campaign that makes a lot of sense…

Anytime we see a competitor doing something that would work for us…

Anytime we come up with a marketing idea that “could be a game-changer”…

We pursue those good ideas.

Eventually, we start chasing too many things—and before you know it we’re knee-deep in “shiny object syndrome.”

This puts you in a tricky situation. Because you don’t want to ignore all those good ideas. But at the same time, you can’t afford to pursue them all at the same time.

So, what should you do?

How to Organize & Prioritize Your Good Ideas

I recommend using this four-step grid to help organize and prioritize your good ideas.

So first, draw out a grid like this on a whiteboard somewhere your whole team can see it:

The 4 Growth Levers Grid

Each column represents one of the four primary “Growth Levers.” These are the four ways you can grow a company . And the 4 Growth Levers are:

  • Acquisition: Getting new leads
  • Activation: Converting your existing leads into customers
  • Monetization: Increasing the average order value of your existing customers
  • Retention: Reducing refunds and churn rate

Then you’ll want to take each good idea and put it into the column where it fits best, like so:

The 4 Growth Levers with each grid filled out

Writing down all your ideas in a central location like this does two important things.

First, it organizes your ideas in a way that makes sense from a growth perspective AND makes it easy to focus and prioritize each idea. This will become crucial in just a moment.

Second, it gets those ideas out of your head and down on paper.

Many of us are walking around with too many ideas floating around in our heads. And trying to keep track of those ideas leads to cognitive overload.

Mentally, it feels like you have too many browser tabs open on your internet browser.

But when you write down your ideas, it’s like closing one of those tabs. It frees up some mental space because you know you don’t have to keep track of that idea in your head any longer.

Choose One Column to Focus On

OK, you now have your ideas all written down and organized according to the 4 Growth Levers.

The next thing you need to do is to choose a column to focus on for a period of time.

Because here’s the thing:

Impact doesn’t happen when you improve ten different parts of your business by 1% each. It happens when you make a giant improvement in ONE area.

So, for example, let’s say that for the next 12 weeks you decide to focus on Acquisition.

For now, you can ignore all your ideas that fall under Activation, Monetization, and Retention, and focus 100% on your Acquisition ideas:

The Acquisition Growth Lever

The next thing you need to do is to prioritize those Activation ideas. And to do this, I highly recommend using the ICE Framework. ICE stands for…

So, what you want to do is this: for each idea, measure the Impact, Confidence, and Ease of each idea on a scale from 1-10.

  • Impact : How big of an impact will this idea have on your business? A 1 means that this idea will have a minimal impact, while a 10 means that this idea is a real “needle-mover” with the potential to dramatically grow your business.
  • Confidence : How confident can you be that this idea will work? If you’ve tried it before and it worked well, this might be a 9 or 10. If it’s a gamble, it might be a 1 or 2.
  • Ease : How easy or difficult would it be to implement this idea? The easier the implementation, the higher the score.

You should make this a discussion with your whole team. Give everyone a vote and average the results for each idea.

Here’s an example of how we scored a few different ideas here at DigitalMarketer using the ICE Framework. The ideas were “testing new homepage opt-in copy” and “launching a podcast.”

Test New Homepage Opt-In Copy  

We knew that our homepage was a significant source of opt-ins. So, we knew that if we could move the needle and increase that conversion rate, it would have a high impact on our lead flow. (Impact of 10.)

At the same time, we had never tested the copy that was on the homepage. So, we were reasonably confident that we could beat that copy that was currently there. (Confidence of 9.)

Finally, because this involved changing just a few lines of text, it was super quick & easy to implement. (Ease of 10.)

ICE score: 10 + 10 + 9 = 29 / 3 = 9.7

As the ICE score suggests, this idea was really a no-brainer for us. As a result, it shot up to #1 on our list of priorities.

And we would go on to update the homepage to…

The DigitalMarketer homepage

Launch a Podcast  

We knew that if we could launch a podcast and have it do really well, that could be a huge needle-mover for our business. It could help grow our brand and generate awareness by reaching a massive number of people who listen to podcasts. (Impact of 10.)

However, we had never launched a podcast before—so we had no experience in that arena. As a result, we were not highly confident that we would be able to produce a great podcast right out of the gate. (Confidence of 2.)

And because we had never done a podcast before, implementing this was not going to be easy. It was going to involve lots of research, investing in new equipment, setting up a studio, and lots of other setup. Definitely not an easy process. (Ease of 1.)

ICE score: 10 + 2 + 1 = 13 / 3 = 4.3

This was a classic “moonshot” idea for us. Pulling it off would be tough, but the potential payoff was huge.

Keep in mind that just because it had a low ICE score, that doesn’t mean we didn’t do it. It just meant that we didn’t do it first . Instead, it got pushed down on the priority list of Acquisition ideas.

As you may know, we DID end up launching a podcast—and the Perpetual Traffic Podcast was a smash-hit beyond anything we expected. It turned out to be well worth the risk.

( RELATED: How to Launch a Podcast, Drive it to the Top of the Charts, AND Keep it There in Just 4 Steps )

The great thing about the ICE Framework is that it makes the process of project selection really transparent to the whole team, and nobody ever feels like their ideas are being ignored or disregarded.

Every idea gets scored by the team according to the ICE Framework, and everyone on the team gets a say in which projects get tackled first.

Business Growth Plan Step 2: Work in Focused Sprints (Not Exhausting Marathons)

People, teams, and companies perform best with short bursts of intense work followed by a rest.

We are NOT designed for long marathons.

(It’s interesting to note that according to legend, the first Greek runner who ever ran a marathon ended up falling down dead at the end of it.)

We tend to work much better when we can go all-out for a couple hours, then rest and recharge our batteries so that we’re fresh when we go at it again.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard for long periods of time.

What I’m saying is that your work should follow a cycle that allows you to put forth 100% effort and then recover from that effort so you can do it again.

Work really hard, rest.

…you get it. 🙂

Fortunately, this sprint-based style of project implementation works perfectly with sequential goals because it allows you to pursue one single goal for that short period of hard work …

Then you take a break before pursuing the next goal.

And when you add all those sprints together, you get what we call a “season.”

Business Growth Plan Step 3: Work in 12-Week “Seasons”

We experience life in seasons. We’re never in one consistent mode all the time.

This applies to many different timeframes. Obviously, it applies to the seasons of a year, as the weather changes from cold, snowy winter to hot, thriving summer and back again.

But it also applies on the level of a week, where we have five days of focused work followed by two days of rest and recovery.

Similarly, each day can be thought of as having its own “seasons” too; often the morning involves some ramp-up time, after which we increase to our most productive period in the late morning. From there it’s common to have a lull in the afternoon, after which we ramp up again to finish our work in time to head home at night.

So, that’s why I think it makes sense to approach growth projects using that same idea of seasons.

And when it comes to putting growth projects into action, these are the five “seasons” of implementation:

  • Learn : This is where you learn the principles that will help guide the implementation of your upcoming project. This isn’t “just in case” learning, where you’re researching something you might, maybe implement someday. It’s “just in time” learning where you’re figuring out how to implement one big idea that you’re about to work on NOW.
  • Implement : This is where the rubber meets the road. Stop attending webinars, watching videos, and reading blog posts. Now’s your chance to take ACTION. Whatever your project is, this is the time to put in the legwork to get it done.
  • Celebrate : Once you’ve finished implementing your project, take a moment to sit back and celebrate all your hard work! I don’t recommend celebrating your results at this point—because after all, not every project is going to be a win. Instead, simply celebrate the fact that you got something done. That you learned something. That you took meaningful action to grow your business.
  • Optimize : Often we will implement something, but that implementation will be shaky at best. We’ll build a bridge, but it will be a rickety bridge with lots of holes and problems. That’s why we need to take time to optimize—to improve what we’ve implemented, to fix the bugs, to iron out the kinks. This is an important step because it helps us to get the best results from whatever it is we just implemented and make sure we’re putting forth a polished and professional effort.
  • Rest/Repeat : Now that your project has been implemented and optimized, I recommend you take a little time off to rest before going at it again. This is important to recharge your batteries so that when the next season starts, you’re ready to give it all you’ve got and really kick butt on your next project.

Here at DigitalMarketer, we follow this season in 12-week cycles. We find that 12-week cycles work really well for a couple reasons.

For one thing, 12 weeks is long enough to allow you to really dig in and implement some significant solutions.

Secondly, 12 weeks gives you four quarters each year. This lines up perfectly with the 4 Growth Levers, which means you can focus on each Growth Lever once a year.

Our 12-week season looks like this:

The DigitalMarketer 12-Week Season

We take just one week to learn, followed by four weeks of implementation. After that we give ourselves a week to celebrate, then we spend the next four weeks optimizing our work. Finally, we take a short two-week break before starting all over again.

3 Business Growth Mindsets

Now that we’ve covered the three steps of implementing a growth project, I want to briefly hit on three critical mindsets to getting growth done.

Business Growth Mindset #1: Patiently Impatient Thinking  

“Patiently impatient thinking” means that you work with a sense of urgency…

Really push yourself to get your work done as quickly and efficiently as possible…

…while also understanding that results always lag behind your efforts.

A good analogy here is to think of this in terms of exercise.

You need a sense of urgency while putting in the work while being patient for the results.

If you want to lose weight and get in shape, how would you achieve that goal?

For one thing, you would probably start working out, right?

And if you wanted to get in really great shape, you would work out intensely. With a sense of urgency.

But at the same time, you have to recognize the fact that you can’t transform your body overnight.

It takes time for the results to come.

And the same thing is true of growth strategies. You need a sense of urgency while putting in the work…

…while being patient for the results—knowing that they will take some time, but they will come eventually.

Business Growth Mindset #2: High-Impact Thinking   

The second important growth mindset is to foster high-impact thinking.

And to illustrate what I mean by that, I want to warp back to high school physics class for a minute. Let’s talk about Newton’s Second Law of Motion, which states:

Force = Mass x Acceleration

What this equation basically says is that to generate a lot of force you either need a lot of mass…or a lot of acceleration.

Growth ideas are the same way.

An idea with high mass and low acceleration might be like a steamroller. A steamroller doesn’t move very fast…but it’s so big and massive that once it reaches its target, it generates a massive amount of force.

For us, launching the Perpetual Traffic Podcast was a steamroller idea. It took a lot of work to get it moving, but once it launched it made a big impact on our business.

An idea with low mass and high acceleration might be more like a bullet. Bullets aren’t very heavy. They weigh just a couple ounces. But they’re shot with so much velocity that they are able to generate a massive amount of force.

The great thing about bullets is that you can implement lots of quick and easy ideas in a short amount of time. You can fire them off one after another.

Bullet vs steamroller

In the 12-week implementation season, we spend the Learn and Implement phases focusing on steamroller strategies that will really move the needle.

Then during the Optimization phase, we focus on lots of bullets that we can implement to improve that steamroller idea as quickly as we can.

Business Growth Mindset #3: Leadership Thinking

I hear from a lot of business owners who claim to be the “visionary” for their company. They think their job is to come up with ideas, and that it’s the rest of their team’s job to implement them.

You don't need a perfect plan. You need a good plan that gets done. ~Ryan Deiss

Leaders don’t merely plan…leaders lead. They DO! Because good leaders understand that…

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”—U.S. General George S. Patton

You don’t need a perfect plan. You need a good plan that gets DONE. And as a leader, it’s your job to make sure that happens.

Here at DigitalMarketer, our leaders do the most work. They lead by example.

Don’t be one of those leaders who sits in your ivory tower and just dictates orders down the mountain. Instead, roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty doing the work yourself.

That’s why this growth implementation plan is so important.

And that’s how you lead a company.

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6 Key Levers of a Successful Organizational Transformation

  • Andrew White,
  • Michael Wheelock,
  • Adam Canwell,
  • Michael Smets

example business growth plan

Leaders, don’t overlook your employees’ emotional journey.

Organizational transformations are extremely difficult on a personal level for everyone involved. A team of researchers found that in successful transformations, leaders not only made sure their teams had the processes, resources, and technology they needed — they also built the right emotional conditions. These leaders offered a compelling rationale driving the transformation, and they ensured employees had the emotional support they needed to execute. This meant that when the going inevitably got tough, employees felt appropriately challenged and ultimately energized by the stress. By contrast, leaders of the unsuccessful transformations didn’t make the same emotional investment. When their teams hit the inevitable challenges, negative emotions spiked, and the team entered a downward spiral. Leaders lost faith and looked to distance themselves from the project, which led employees to do the same. The researchers identified six behaviors that consistently improved the odds of transformation success.

Disruption used to be an exceptional event that hit an unlucky few companies — think of the likes of Kodak, Polaroid, and Blackberry. But in today’s complex and uncertain world, as we face challenges ranging from climate change to digitization, geopolitics to DEI, organizations must treat transformation as a core capability to master, as opposed to a one-off event.

At the same time, leaders must recognize that transformation is fraught with risk. In 1995, John Kotter found that 70% of organizational transformations fail , and nearly three decades later, not much has changed. Our own research, in which we spoke to more than 900 C-suite managers and more than 1,100 employees who had gone through a corporate transformation, showed similar results: 67% of leaders told us they had experienced at least one underperforming transformation in the last five years.

Considering that organizations will spend billions on transformation initiatives over the next year, a 70% failure rate equates to a significant erosion of value. So, what can leaders do to tilt the odds of success in their favor? To find out, we interviewed 30 leaders of transformations and surveyed more than 2,000 senior leaders and employees in 23 countries and 16 sectors. Half of our respondents had been involved in a successful transformation, while the other half had experienced an unsuccessful transformation.

So what tactics did the leaders of successful transformations use to manage the emotional journey? To find out, we built a model to predict the likelihood that an organization will achieve its transformation KPIs based on the extent to which it exhibited 50 behaviors across 11 areas of the transformation. This model revealed that behaviors in six of these areas consistently improved the odds of transformation success. Organizations that are above average in these areas have a 73% chance of meeting or exceeding their transformation KPIs, compared to only a 28% chance for organizations that are below average. Our research suggests that any organization that can effectively implement these six levers will maximize their chances of success.

Our research also found that a key difference in successful transformations was that leaders embraced their employees’ emotional journey . Fifty-two percent of respondents involved in successful transformations said their organization provided the emotional support they needed during the transformation process “to a significant extent” (as opposed to 27% of respondents who were involved in unsuccessful transformations).

Managing Change

Transformations are extremely difficult on a personal level for everyone involved. In the successes we studied, leaders not only made sure their teams had the processes, resources, and technology they needed — they also built the right emotional conditions. These leaders offered a compelling rationale driving the transformation, and they ensured employees had the emotional support they needed to execute. This meant that when the going inevitably got tough, employees felt appropriately challenged and ultimately energized by the stress.

By contrast, leaders of the unsuccessful transformations didn’t make the same emotional investment. When their teams hit the inevitable challenges, negative emotions spiked, and the team entered a downward spiral. Leaders lost faith and looked to distance themselves from the project, which led employees to do the same.

The Six Key Levers of Transformations

So what tactics did the leaders of successful transformations use to manage the emotional journey? The six levers that maximize the chances of success, according to our research are:

1. Leadership’s own willingness to change

Many people believe that a leader’s job is to look outward and give others guidance, but our research suggests that to help their workforce navigate a transformation, leaders need to look inward first and examine their own relationship with change. “If you are not ready to change yourself, forget about changing your team and your organization,” as Dr. Patrick Liew, executive chairman at GEX Ventures, told us.

In our interviews, leaders spoke of working on their own development, including engaging more with their emotions and becoming accustomed to the discomfort that accompanies personal growth. Leaders needed to “look into a mirror,” as one told us, and realize that they were part of the problem before the shift to a positive trajectory could take place. They needed to remove their own fear before they could help their employees get through this change.

“As someone who was tasked to lead this [transformation], if I’m being honest with you, it was pretty unsettling at the start, because I think by nature most of us like to know the path we’re going on,” as one COO from the automative industry told us. And a senior vice president in the global business services industry described needing to become more vulnerable and honest on their path to self-discovery: “I think I became even more aware of myself, who I am.”

2. A shared vision of success

Creating a unified vision of future success is another all-important foundation point of a transformation. In our research, 50% of respondents involved in successful transformations said the vision energized and inspired them to go the extra mile to a significant extent (as compared 29% of respondents in low-performing transformations).

Employees must understand the urgent need to disrupt the status quo. A compelling “why” can help them navigate the inevitable challenges that will arise during a transformation program. Many of the workers who took our survey said that they “wanted” and “needed” the vision to be communicated clearly. When leaders share a clear vision, the workforce is more likely to get on board. But if people don’t understand the vision or need for transformation, success is hard to achieve.

“It’s not about me telling people ‘This is what’s going to happen,’” as a managing director in the medical device industry told us. “It’s about me creating this shared sense of ownership…and then [coaching] my team on what they need to achieve. We very consciously want our teams to really buy into this is how we, as a collective, want to work.”

3. A culture of trust and psychological safety

Trust and care from leaders can make a difficult transformation more emotionally manageable. At the most basic human level, we all know what it feels like to be seen, listened to, and heard by another person. It can validate our effort, motivate us to work harder, and help assuage emotions like doubt, fear, anger, and sadness. Workers in our study shared that they wanted leaders who were patient and who also had, in the words of one employee, a “calm and teachable spirit.”

In a workplace with a high degree of psychological safety , employees feel confident that they can share their honest opinions and concerns without fear of retribution. When trust and psychological safety are missing, it’s difficult to persuade your workforce to make necessary changes. For example, one senior leader told us that employees at their company were extremely fearful of the transformation and didn’t feel that they could speak up about the problems they saw. Not surprisingly, the transformation did not go well.

4. A process that balances execution and exploration

Transformations obviously need disciplined project management to drive the program forward. But our research showed that leaders of successful transformations created processes that balanced the need to execute with giving employees the freedom to explore, express creativity, and let new ideas emerge. This empowers the workforce to identify solutions or opportunities that better meet the long-term goals of the transformation.

“Innovation requires the right people and processes,” said one respondent to our anonymous survey. “Both are critical to encourage collaboration and experimentation.”

We also found that creating space for small failures can ultimately lead to big success, whereas fear of any failure can lead to missed opportunities. Forty-eight percent of our respondents involved in successful transformations said the process was designed so that failed experimentation would not negatively impact their career or compensation to a significant extent. By contrast, only 29% of respondents in unsuccessful transformations said the same.

5. A recognition that technology carries its own emotional journey

The leaders in our study ranked technology as the biggest challenge they faced in their transformation efforts. There are a lot of emotions to manage when new systems or technology are introduced, from stress over how it works to fear about whether it will cause job loss or slow down the system.

In the underperforming transformations we studied, we saw the narrative shift away from the vision to focus on the technology itself. Whereas in the successful transformations, leaders ensured that technology was seen as the means to achieve the strategic vision. Furthermore, they prioritized quick implementations of new technology — focusing on a minimum viable product rather than perfect implementation. Lastly, they invested resources into skill development to ensure the workforce was ready to create value using the new technology.

“There were kickoff sessions with our senior managers to bring them in at the beginning of the process,” a vice president of a company in the media/advertising industry explained. “These sessions aimed to show them that what was being built was something that they had helped design, rather than something that was presented to them as a fait accompli…This minimized the numbers of active detractors.”

6. A shared sense of ownership over the outcome

In the successful transformations we studied, leaders and employees worked together to co-create an environment where everyone felt a shared sense of ownership over the transformation vision and outcome.

A prime example of this is many companies’ rapid shift to virtual and remote working during the pandemic. Because of the speed and urgency of the change, leaders needed to collaborate closely with the workforce to create new ways of working and be much more responsive to their views on what was or wasn’t going well. This mass co-creation helped build a sense of pride and shared ownership across both leadership and the workforce.

“In a transformation, things pop up all the time,” as Christiane Wijsen, head of corporate strategy at Boehringer Ingelheim, told us. “When you have a movement around you, supporters will buffer it and tweak it each time. When you don’t have this movement, then you’re alone.”

To conclude, it’s worth reiterating that all transformations are tough. Even during successful programs, there will come a time where people start to feel stressed. The skill at this difficult stage is being able to energize your workforce and turn that heightened pressure into something productive, as opposed to letting the transformation spiral downward into pessimism and underperformance.

What we saw throughout our research is that leaders who are truly working with their employees are much more successful. They acknowledge and manage emotions, rather than pushing them aside or ignoring them. The best leaders create vision across the organization and a safe environment to work together and listen to each other.

“You’ve got to be very, very respectful of people at a working level,” as Thomas Sebastian, CEO of London Market Joint Venture at DXC Technology, told us. “You’ve got to understand the emotional side and consider a completely different perspective, such as how is this transformation going to make their life easier.”

Success begets success. Once a workforce has undergone a successful transformation, they will be ready to go again. And given the pace of change in the world, organizations have got to be ready to go again.

  • Andrew White is a senior fellow in management practice at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, where he directs the advanced management and leadership program and conducts research into leadership and transformation. He is also a coach for CEOs and their senior teams.
  • MW Michael Wheelock leads a primary research and advanced analytics team in EY Knowledge. His team designs and delivers global, mixed methods research programs to support EY’s flagship thought leadership.
  • AC Adam Canwell is head of EY’s global leadership consulting practice. Adam has published extensively on leadership and strategic change. Adam has sold and delivered transformation programs across multiple industries in both the UK and Australia, working with FTSE 100 (or their equivalent) organizations .
  • Michael Smets is a professor of management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. His work focuses on leadership, transformation, and institutional change.

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Growth Business Plan Template

This template helps you to create a business plan for a growth-oriented company. Use this resource to speed up the preparation process with a proven outline to communicate your business plan in a professional, compelling format that will improve your chances of attracting a banker or equity investors.

Although positioned at the beginning of the plan the executive summary is best completed at the end. It's primary purpose is to "sell" the plan to the intended audience, enticing them to read on. It should be an easy-to-read overview presented concisely, ideally on one side of A4.

What will your business be doing in 5 years time? What will it have achieved? What are the main growth targets for sales revenue and profit by the end of year 3? By the end of year 5?

What does the product or service do (the features)? What benefits make the offer unique, or just different? What customer problem does your product or service solve? How would you describe a typical customer for the offer? How do you know they will spend money on your product and/or service?

What is the market potential in terms of sales revenue? Is the market growing, staying the same, or declining? What is causing this? Who are your main competitors? Describe their strengths and weaknesses. How will the business compete and grow in the market (e.g. faster service, lower cost etc.)?

Which routes to access your target customers will you choose (e.g. shop, distributor, website etc.)? What is your basic approach to pricing (e.g. high price/low volume, low price/high volume)? What range of promotional methods will you use (e.g. email, social media, advertising, discounts etc.)? How will the pattern of your sales develop and grow over the next 3 years?

What assets (e.g. equipment, machinery etc.) are needed to get started and grow your business? What are the ongoing resource requirements (e.g. premises, outsourced services etc.)? What are the key processes in your business (the activities that makes the most difference for your customer)? How do you measure and cost the capacity available for supplying your product and/or service? Who are your key partners (e.g. suppliers, subcontractors) and what is their role?

Who are the key team members, their roles and profiles (e.g. skills, experience) Are there any important gaps in skills and/or experience to fill? How will these gaps be filled now, and in future to achieve your growth targets (e.g. employ, specialist consultant)? Who will act as your mentor/adviser?

What are the key internal measures of performance that must be closely monitored (e.g. unit costs, response times etc.)? What are the key external measures of performance (e.g. monitoring customer satisfaction and needs, market and competitor intelligence)? What potential events would have a significant adverse impact on your business or prevent its growth? What is their likelihood? What specific countermeasures will you take?

List the main goals, activities and/or events in the next 12 months that will help you to reach your growth targets.

What is your financial contribution to the business? Is there any additional funding needed? Where will it come from (e.g. friends, family, bank, business angels, venture capital)? What will it be used for? You may wish to add comments and highlights on the financial projections below such as financial milestones already achieved (e.g. break even) and/or the assumptions made (e.g. about the rate of forecast growth).

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Plan for the future, no matter what your business plans are or the size of your business with these designs and templates. whether it's just one big project or an entire organization's worth of dreams, these templates will keep you and your company on track from ideation to completion..

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Put your ideas to work with simple templates for every business plan

Every successful business took a lot of planning to get there, and these templates will be cornerstones of your future success. Whether you’re looking to attract new business, pitch your services or reimagine your company, with these simple, customizable templates at your fingertips you can turn complexity into something tangible. These templates can become marketing assets or simply remain internal touchpoints for your team. And as your dreams change, you’ll always have this template to refer to – it’s easy to change what exists on paper. If you’re a small business, focusing on your niche can help you dominate in your field, and you can forge a plan to figure out exactly what that niche might be and how to target your ideal customer . When it’s time to share your vision with stakeholders, craft a presentation that outlines your plan succinctly and with style. Let these templates from Microsoft Designer be your partner in business strategy for years to come.

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How to Write a Five-Year Business Plan

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Noah Parsons

15 min. read

Updated March 8, 2023

Male entrepreneur looking out into the distance considering the future and deciding if he needs a long-term plan.

Learn why the traditional way of writing a five-year business plan is often a waste of time and how to use a one-page plan instead for smarter, easier strategic planning to establish your long-term vision. 

In business, it can sometimes seem hard enough to predict what’s going to happen next month, let alone three or even five years from now. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for the long term. After all, your vision for the future is what gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates your team. It’s those aspirations that drive you to keep innovating and figuring out how to grow.

On this page

What is a long-term plan?

Are long-term business plans a waste of time, why write a long-term business plan, what a 5-year plan should look like, how to write a five-year business plan, vision setting is the purpose of long-term planning.

A long-term or long-range business plan looks beyond the traditional 3-year planning window, focusing on what a business might look like 5 or even 10 years from now. A traditional 5-year business plan includes financial projections, business strategy, and roadmaps that stretch far into the future.

I’ll be honest with you, though—for most businesses, long-range business plans that stretch 5 and 10 years into the future are a waste of time. Anyone who’s seriously asking you for one doesn’t know what they’re doing and is wasting your time. Sorry if that offends some people, but it’s true.

However, there is still real value in looking at the long term. Just don’t invest the time in creating a lengthy version of your business plan with overly detailed metrics and milestones for the next five-plus years. No one knows the future and, more than likely, anything you write down now could be obsolete in the next year, next month, or even next week. 

That’s where long-term strategic planning comes in. A long-term business plan like this is different from a traditional business plan in that it’s lighter on the details and more focused on your strategic direction. It has less focus on financial forecasting and a greater focus on the big picture. 

Think of your long-term strategic plan as your aspirational vision for your business. It defines the ideal direction you’re aiming for but it’s not influencing your day-to-day or, potentially, even your monthly decision making. 

No one knows the future. We’re all just taking the information that we have available today and making our best guesses about the future. Sometimes trends in a market are pretty clear and your guesses will be well-founded. Other times, you’re trying to look around a corner and hoping that your intuition about what comes next is correct.

Now, I’m not saying that thinking about the future is a waste of time. Entrepreneurs are always thinking about the future. They have to have some degree of faith and certainty about what customers are going to want in the future. Successful entrepreneurs do actually predict the future — they know what customers are going to want and when they’re going to want it.

Entrepreneurship is unpredictable 

Successful entrepreneurs are also often wrong. They make mistakes just like the rest of us. The difference between successful entrepreneurs and everyone else is that they don’t let mistakes slow them down. They learn from mistakes, adjust and try again. And again. And again. It’s not about being right all the time; it’s about having the perseverance to keep trying until you get it right. For example, James Dyson, inventor of the iconic vacuum cleaner, tried out 5,126 prototypes of his invention before he found a design that worked.

So, if thinking about the future isn’t a waste of time, why are 5-year business plans a waste of time? They’re a waste of time because they typically follow the same format as a traditional business plan, where you are asked to project sales, expenses, and cash flow 5 and 10 years into the future. 

Let’s be real. Sales and expense projections that far into the future are just wild guesses, especially for startups and new businesses. They’re guaranteed to be wrong and can’t be used for anything. You can’t (and shouldn’t) make decisions based on these guesses. They’re just fantasy. You hope you achieve massive year-over-year growth in sales, but there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen. And, you shouldn’t make significant spending decisions today based on the hope of massive sales 10 years from now.

Start your plan

So, what is the purpose of outlining a long-term plan? Here are a few key reasons why it’s still valuable to consider the future of your business without getting bogged down by the details.

Showcase your vision for investors

First, and especially important if you are raising money from investors, is your vision. Investors will want to know not only where you plan on being in a year, but where the business will be in five years. Do you anticipate launching new products or services? Will you expand internationally? Or will you find new markets to grow into? 

Set long-term goals for your business

Second, you’ll want to establish goals for yourself and your team. What kinds of high-level sales targets do you hope to achieve? How big is your company going to get overtime? These goals can be used to motivate your team and even help in the hiring process as you get up and running.

That said, you don’t want to overinvest in fleshing out all the details of a long-range plan. You don’t need to figure out exactly how your expansion will work years from now or exactly how much you’ll spend on office supplies five years from now. That’s really just a waste of time.

Instead, for long-range planning, think in broad terms. A good planning process means that you’re constantly revising and refining your business plan. You’ll add more specifics as you go, creating a detailed plan for the next 6-12 months and a broader, vague plan for the long term.

You have a long development time

Businesses with extremely long research and development timelines do make spending decisions now based on the hope of results years from now. For example, the pharmaceutical industry and medical device industry have to make these bets all the time. The R&D required to take a concept from idea to proven product with regulatory approval can take years for these industries, so long-range planning in these cases is a must. A handful of other industries also have similar development timelines, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.

Your business is well-established and predictable 

Long-term, detailed planning can make more sense for businesses that are extremely well established and have long histories of consistent sales and expenses with predictable growth. But, even for those businesses, predictability means quite the opposite of stability. The chances that you’ll be disrupted in the marketplace by a new company, or the changing needs and desires of your customers, is extremely high. So, most likely, those long-range predictions of sales and profits are pretty useless.

With the exception of R&D-heavy businesses, most 5-year business plans should be more like vision statements than traditional business plans. They should explain your vision for the future, but skip the details of detailed sales projections and expense budgets. 

Your vision for your business should explain the types of products and services that you hope to offer in the future and the types of customers that you hope to serve. Your plan should outline who you plan to serve now and how you plan to expand if you are successful.

This kind of future vision creates a strategic roadmap. It’s not a fully detailed plan with sales forecasts and expense budgets, but a plan for getting started and then growing over time to reach your final destination.

For example, here’s a short-form version of what a long-term plan for Nike might have looked like if one had been written in the 1960s:

Nike will start by developing high-end track shoes for elite athletes. We’ll start with a focus on the North West of the US, but expand nationally as we develop brand recognition among track and field athletes. We will use sponsored athletes to spread the word about the quality and performance of our shoes. Once we have success in the track & field market segment, we believe that we will be able to successfully expand both beyond the US market and also branch out into other sports, with an initial focus on basketball.

Leadership and brand awareness in a sport such as basketball will enable us to cross over from the athlete market into the consumer market. This will lead to significant business growth in the consumer segment and allow for expansion into additional sports, fashion, and casual markets in addition to building a strong apparel brand.

Interestingly enough, Nike (to my knowledge) never wrote out a long-range business plan. They developed their plans as they grew, building the proverbial airplane as it took off.

But, if you have this kind of vision for your business, it’s useful to articulate it. Your employees will want to know what your vision is and your investors will want to know as well. They want to know that you, as an entrepreneur, are looking beyond tomorrow and into the future months and years ahead.

Writing out your long-term vision for your business is a useful exercise. It can bring a sense of stability and solidify key performance indicators and broad milestones that drive your business. 

Developing a long-range business plan is really just an extension of your regular business planning process. A typical business plan covers the next one to three years, documenting your target market, marketing strategy, and product or service offerings for that time period. 

A five-year plan expands off of that initial strategy and discusses what your business might do in the years to come. However, as I’ve mentioned before, creating a fully detailed five-year business plan will be a waste of time. 

Here’s a quick guide to writing a business plan that looks further into the future without wasting your time:

1. Develop your one-page plan

As with all business planning, we recommend that you start with a one-page business plan. It provides a snapshot of what you’re hoping to achieve in the immediate term by outlining your core business strategy, target market, and business model.

A one-page plan is the foundation of all other planning because it’s the document that you’ll keep the most current. It’s also the easiest to update and share with business partners. You will typically highlight up to three years of revenue and profit goals as well as milestones that you hope to achieve in the near term.

Check out our guide to building your one-page plan and download a free template to get started.

2. Determine if you need a traditional business plan

Unlike a one-page business plan, a traditional business plan is more detailed and is typically written in long-form prose. A traditional business plan is usually 10-20 pages long and contains details about your product or service, summaries of the market research that you’ve conducted, and details about your competition. Read our complete guide to writing a business plan .

Companies that write traditional business plans typically have a “business plan event” where a complete business plan is required. Business plan events are usually part of the fundraising process. During fundraising, lenders and investors may ask to see a detailed plan and it’s important to be ready if that request comes up. 

But there are other good reasons to write a detailed business plan. A detailed plan forces you to think through the details of your business and how, exactly, you’re going to build your business. Detailed plans encourage you to think through your business strategy, your target market, and your competition carefully. A good business plan ensures that your strategy is complete and fleshed out, not just a collection of vague ideas.

A traditional business plan is also a good foundation for a long-term business plan and I recommend that you expand your lean business plan into a complete business plan if you intend to create plans for more than three years into the future.

3. Develop long-term goals and growth targets

As you work on your business plan, you’ll need to think about where you want to be in 5+ years. A good exercise is to envision what your business will look like. How many employees will you have? How many locations will you serve? Will you introduce new products and services? 

When you’ve envisioned where you want your business to be, it’s time to turn that vision into a set of goals that you’ll document in your business plan. Each section of your business plan will be expanded to highlight where you want to be in the future. For example, in your target market section, you will start by describing your initial target market. Then you’ll proceed to describe the markets that you hope to reach in 3-5 years.

To accompany your long-term goals, you’ll also need to establish revenue targets that you think you’ll need to meet to achieve your goals. It’s important to also think about the expenses you’re going to incur in order to grow your business. 

For long-range planning, I recommend thinking about your expenses in broad buckets such as “marketing” and “product development” without getting bogged down in too much detail. Think about what percentage of your sales you’ll spend on each of these broad buckets. For example, marketing spending might be 20% of sales. 

4. Develop a 3-5 year strategic plan

Your goals and growth targets are “what” you want to achieve. Your strategy is “how” you’re going to achieve it.

Use your business plan to document your strategy for growth. You might be expanding your product offering, expanding your market, or some combination of the two. You’ll need to think about exactly how this process will happen over the next 3-5 years. 

A good way to document your strategy is to use milestones. These are interim goals that you’ll set to mark your progress along the way to your larger goal. For example, you may have a goal to expand your business nationally from your initial regional presence. You probably won’t expand across the country all at once, though. Most likely, you’ll expand into certain regions one at a time and grow to have a national presence over time. Your strategy will be the order of the regions that you plan on expanding into and why you pick certain regions over others.

Your 3-5 year strategy may also include what’s called an “exit strategy”. This part of a business plan is often required if you’re raising money from investors. They’ll want to know how they’ll eventually get their money back. An “exit” can be the sale of your business or potentially going public. A typical exit strategy will identify potential acquirers for your business and will show that you’ve thought about how your business might be an attractive purchase.

5. Tie your long-term plan to your one-page plan

As your business grows, you can use your long-term business plan as your north star. Your guide for where you want to end up. Use those goals to steer your business in the right direction, making small course corrections as you need to. 

You’ll reflect those smaller course corrections in your one-page plan. Because it is a simple document and looks at the shorter term, it’s easier to update. The best way to do this is to set aside a small amount of time to review your plan once a month. You’ll review your financial forecast, your milestones, and your overall strategy. If things need to change, you can make those adjustments. Nothing ever goes exactly to plan, so it’s OK to make corrections as you go.

You may find that your long-term plan may also need corrections as you grow your business. You may learn things about your market that change your initial assumptions and impacts your long-range plan. This is perfectly normal. Once a quarter or so, zoom out and review your long-range plan. If you need to make corrections to your strategy and goals, that’s fine. Just keep your plan alive so that it gives you the guidance that you need over time. 

Part of what makes entrepreneurs special is that they have a vision. They have dreams for where they want their business to go. A 5-year business plan should be about documenting that vision for the future and how your business will capitalize on that vision.

So, if someone asks you for your 5-year business plan. Don’t scramble to put together a sales forecast and budget for 5 years from now. Your best guess today will be obsolete tomorrow. Instead, focus on your vision and communicate that. 

Explain where you think your business is going and what you think the market is going to be like 5 years from now. Explain what you think customers are going to want and where trends are headed and how you’re going to be there to sell the solution to the problems that exist in 5 and 10 years. Just skip the invented forecasts and fantasy budgets.

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan.

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AI-powered marketing and sales reach new heights with generative AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in marketing and sales. And now, with the ongoing step-change evolution of generative AI (gen AI), we’re seeing the use of open-source platforms penetrating to the sales frontlines, along with rising investment by sales-tech players in gen AI innovations. Given the accelerating complexity and speed of doing business in a digital-first world, these technologies are becoming essential tools.

Inevitably, this will impact how you operate—and how you connect with and serve your customers. In fact, it’s probably already doing so. Forward-thinking C-suite leaders are considering how to adjust to this new landscape. Here, we outline the marketing and sales opportunities (and risks) in this dynamic field and suggest productive paths forward.

Our research suggests that a fifth of current sales-team functions could be automated.

How AI is reshaping marketing and sales

AI is poised to disrupt marketing and sales in every sector. This is the result of shifts in consumer sentiment alongside rapid technological change.

Omnichannel is table stakes

Across industries, engagement models are changing: today’s customers want everything, everywhere, and all the time. While they still desire an even mix of traditional, remote, and self-service channels (including face-to-face, inside sales, and e-commerce), we see continued growth in customer preference for online ordering and reordering.

Winning companies—those increasing their market share by at least 10 percent annually—tend to utilize advanced sales technology; build hybrid sales teams and capabilities; tailor strategies for third-party and company-owned marketplaces; achieve e-commerce excellence across the entire funnel; and deliver hyper-personalization (unique messages for individual decision makers based on their needs, profile, behaviors, and interactions—both past and predictive).

Step changes are occurring in digitization and automation

What is generative ai.

Many of us are already familiar with online AI chatbots and image generators, using them to create convincing pictures and text at astonishing speed. This is the great power of generative AI, or gen AI: it utilizes algorithms to generate new content—writing, images, or audio—from training data.

To do this, gen AI uses deep-learning models called foundation models (FMs). FMs are pre-trained on massive datasets and the algorithms they support are adaptable to a wide variety of downstream tasks, including content generation. Gen AI can be trained, for example, to predict the next word in a string of words and can generalize that ability to multiple text-generation tasks, such as writing articles, jokes, or code.

In contrast, “traditional” AI is trained on a single task with human supervision, using data specific to that task; it can be fine-tuned to reach high precision, but must be retrained for each new use case. Thus gen AI represents an enormous step change in power, sophistication, and utility—and a fundamental shift in our relationship to artificial intelligence.

AI technology is evolving at pace. It is becoming increasingly easy and less costly to implement, while offering ever-accelerating complexity and speed that far exceeds human capacity. Our research suggests that a fifth of current sales-team functions could be automated. In addition, new frontiers are opening with the rise of gen AI (see sidebar “What is generative AI?”). Furthermore, venture capital investment in AI has grown 13-fold over the last ten years. 1 Nestor Maslej et al., “The AI Index 2023 annual report,” AI Index Steering Committee, Institute for Human-Centered AI, Stanford University, April 2023. This has led to an explosion of “usable” data (data that can be used to formulate insights and suggest tangible actions) and accessible technology (such as increased computation power and open-source algorithms). Vast, and growing, amounts of data are now available for foundation-model training, and since 2012 there’s been a millionfold increase in computation capacity—doubling every three to four months. 2 Cliff Saran, “Stanford University finds that AI is outpacing Moore’s Law,” Computer Weekly, December 12, 2019; Risto Miikkulainen, “Creative AI through evolutionary computation: Principles and examples,” SN Computer Science, 2(3): 163, March 23, 2001.

Would you like to learn more about our Growth, Marketing & Sales Practice ?

What does gen ai mean for marketing and sales.

The rise of AI, and particularly gen AI, has potential for impact in three areas of marketing and sales: customer experience (CX), growth, and productivity.

For example, in CX, hyper-personalized content and offerings can be based on individual customer behavior, persona, and purchase history. Growth can be accelerated by leveraging AI to jumpstart top-line performance, giving sales teams the right analytics and customer insights to capture demand. Additionally, AI can boost sales effectiveness and performance by offloading and automating many mundane sales activities, freeing up capacity to spend more time with customers and prospective customers (while reducing cost to serve). In all these actions, personalization is key. AI coupled with company-specific data and context has enabled consumer insights at the most granular level, allowing B2C lever personalization through targeted marketing and sales offerings. Winning B2B companies go beyond account-based marketing and disproportionately use hyper-personalization in their outreach.

Bringing gen AI to life in the customer journey

There are many gen AI-specific use cases across the customer journey that can drive impact:

A gen AI sales use case: Dynamic audience targeting and segmentation

Gen AI can combine and analyze large amounts of data—such as demographic information, existing customer data, and market trends—to identify additional audience segments. Its algorithms then enable businesses to create personalized outreach content, easily and at scale.

Instead of spending time researching and creating audience segments, a marketer can leverage gen AI’s algorithms to identify segments with unique traits that may have been overlooked in existing customer data. Without knowing every detail about these segments, they can then ask a gen AI tool to draft automatically tailored content such as social media posts and landing pages. Once these have been refined and reviewed, the marketer and a sales leader can use gen AI to generate further content such as outreach templates for a matching sales campaign to reach prospects.

Embracing these techniques will require some openness to change. Organizations will require a comprehensive and aggregated dataset (such as an operational data lake that pulls in disparate sources) to train a gen AI model that can generate relevant audience segments and content. Once trained, the model can be operationalized within commercial systems to streamline workflows while being continuously refined by agile processes.

Lastly, the commercial organizational structure and operating model may need to be adjusted to ensure appropriate levels of risk oversight are in place and performance assessments align to the new ways of working.

  • At the top of the funnel, gen AI surpasses traditional AI-driven lead identification and targeting that uses web scraping and simple prioritization. Gen AI’s advanced algorithms can leverage patterns in customer and market data to segment and target relevant audiences . With these capabilities, businesses can efficiently analyze and identify high-quality leads, leading to more effective, tailored lead-activation campaigns (see sidebar “A gen AI sales use case: Dynamic audience targeting and segmentation”). Additionally, gen AI can optimize marketing strategies through A/B testing of various elements such as page layouts, ad copy, and SEO strategies, leveraging predictive analytics and data-driven recommendations to ensure maximum return on investment. These actions can continue through the customer journey, with gen AI automating lead-nurturing campaigns based on evolving customer patterns.
  • Within the sales motion, gen AI goes beyond initial sales-team engagement, providing continuous critical support throughout the entire sales process, from proposal to deal closure. With its ability to analyze customer behavior, preferences, and demographics, gen AI can generate personalized content and messaging. From the beginning, it can assist with hyper-personalized follow-up emails at scale and contextual chatbot support . It can also act as a 24/7 virtual assistant for each team member, offering tailored recommendations, reminders, and feedback, resulting in higher engagement and conversion rates. As the deal progresses, gen AI can provide real-time negotiation guidance and predictive insights based on comprehensive analysis of historical transaction data, customer behavior, and competitive pricing.
  • There are many gen AI use cases after the customer signs on the dotted line, including onboarding and retention. When a new customer joins, gen AI can provide a warm welcome with personalized training content , highlighting relevant best practices. A chatbot functionality can provide immediate answers to customer questions and enhance training materials for future customers. Gen AI can also offer sales leadership with real-time next-step recommendations and continuous churn modeling based on usage trends and customer behavior. Additionally, dynamic customer-journey mapping can be utilized to identify critical touchpoints and drive customer engagement.
This revolutionary approach is transforming the landscape of marketing and sales, driving greater effectiveness and customer engagement from the very start of the customer journey.

Winning tomorrow’s car buyers using artificial intelligence in marketing and sales

Winning tomorrow’s car buyers using artificial intelligence in marketing and sales

Commercial leaders are optimistic—and reaping benefits.

We asked a group of commercial leaders to provide their perspective on use cases and the role of gen AI in marketing and sales more broadly. Notably, we found cautious optimism across the board: respondents anticipated at least moderate impact from each use case we suggested. In particular, these players are most enthusiastic about use cases in the early stages of the customer journey lead identification, marketing optimization, and personalized outreach (Exhibit 1).

These top three use cases are all focused on prospecting and lead generation, where we’re witnessing significant early momentum. This comes as no surprise, considering the vast amount of data on prospective customers available for analysis and the historical challenge of personalizing initial marketing outreach at scale.

Various players are already deploying gen AI use cases, but this is undoubtedly only scratching the surface. Our research found that 90 percent of commercial leaders expect to utilize gen AI solutions “often” over the next two years (Exhibit 2).

Our research found that 90 percent of commercial leaders expect to utilize gen AI solutions “often” over the next two years.

Overall, the most effective companies are prioritizing and deploying advanced sales tech, building hybrid teams, and enabling hyper-personalization. And they’re maximizing their use of e-commerce and third-party marketplaces through analytics and AI. At successful companies, we’ve found:

  • There is a clearly defined AI vision and strategy.
  • More than 20 percent of digital budgets are invested in AI-related technologies.
  • Teams of data scientists are employed to run algorithms to inform rapid pricing strategy and optimize marketing and sales.
  • Strategists are looking to the future and outlining simple gen AI use cases.

Such trailblazers are already realizing the potential of gen AI to elevate their operations.

Our research indicates that players that invest in AI are seeing a revenue uplift of 3 to 15 percent and a sales ROI uplift of 10 to 20 percent.

Anticipating and mitigating risks in gen AI

While the business case for artificial intelligence is compelling, the rate of change in AI technology is astonishingly fast—and not without risk. When commercial leaders were asked about the greatest barriers limiting their organization’s adoption of AI technologies, internal and external risk were at the top of the list.

From IP infringement to data privacy and security, there are a number of issues that require thoughtful mitigation strategies and governance. The need for human oversight and accountability is clear, and may require the creation of new roles and capabilities to fully capitalize on opportunities ahead.

In addition to immediate actions, leaders can start thinking strategically about how to invest in AI commercial excellence for the long term. It will be important to identify which use cases are table stakes, and which can help you differentiate your position in the market. Then prioritize based on impact and feasibility.

The AI landscape is evolving very quickly, and winners today may not be viable tomorrow. Small start-ups are great innovators but may not be able to scale as needed or produce sales-focused use cases that meet your needs. Test and iterate with different players, but pursue partnerships strategically based on sales-related innovation, rate of innovation versus time to market, and ability to scale.

AI is changing at breakneck speed, and while it’s hard to predict the course of this revolutionary tech, it’s sure to play a key role in future marketing and sales. Leaders in the field are succeeding by turning to gen AI to maximize their operations, taking advantage of advances in personalization and internal sales excellence. How will your industry react?

Richelle Deveau is a partner in McKinsey’s Southern California office, Sonia Joseph Griffin is an associate partner in the Atlanta office, where Steve Reis is a senior partner.

The authors wish to thank Michelle Court-Reuss, Will Godfrey, Russell Groves, Maxim Lampe, Siamak Sarvari, and Zach Stone for their contributions to this article.

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