The Simplest Growth Strategy You're Not Using

Hope as a strategy, wedge products, growth flywheels, and more!

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In November of 2017, a sales expert shared a business growth technique with me that forever changed the trajectory of my company.

If you sell high-ticket services, today’s post will be particularly interesting to learn and apply.

We’re covering:

  • How not to grow your business (take my word for it)

  • An effective growth strategy that you’re not using (yet)

  • Wedge products that create growth flywheels

  • Find your wedge with a simple framework
    free framework templates included

Let’s do it!

Hope is not a strategy

In 2017, I was seven years into running my consulting business and still had no idea how to sell or grow a business.

I hadn’t set up any proper marketing or sales systems.

If I’m being honest, I had been winging it the whole time.

I kept the company alive through a thinly-veiled strategy of word-of-mouth referrals + impeccable timing.

In other words, my growth strategy was hope.

But, of course…

When hope randomly delivered for us, opportunities landed in my lap weeks before we ran out of cash.

Otherwise, my growth “strategy” was to send out a flurry of copy-paste emails to drum up business for our high-ticket services.

This tactic never worked. In fact, it worked against us.

My customers became attuned that they’d hear from me, mostly when I wanted something from them. And so they learned to ignore me.

This constant cycle of feast or famine (more the latter) led to years of sleepless nights and burnout.

This wasn’t only a problem for my livelihood and my family’s security, but for the families of the 35 people working at the company. So I decided to take action by hiring a friend of mine, Dan.

Dan’s spent his career building sales processes, systems, and teams. I’ve learned a ton working with him over the years.

One lesson in particular became a major breakthrough. It was about growing your business with flywheels. A concept that’s especially important for businesses selling high-ticket services, with long sales cycles built on trust and credibility.

The Monkey’s Paw

Have you ever seen a massive ship docking in a harbor?

Along the bow of the ship are long, heavy ropes. To secure the ship in place, the ropes are anchored around the cleats along the dock.

The challenge is that the ropes are too heavy and far from the dock for the crew to easily fasten them.

Instead, someone from the ship starts the process by throwing down a small, lightweight rope. At the end of that rope is a ball about the size of a hand — just the perfect weight and size to toss down to the docks. It’s referred to as a “monkey’s paw.”

Monkey’s paw

The metaphor is an important, well-known concept in the sales industry. But for your typical business owner (like me), without formal sales experience, it was completely off my radar.

In business, your “monkey’s paw” is an entry-level product or service that begins a relationship with your customer. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy for you to deliver, and establishes trust between you and your customer.

Another friend refers to this as a “wedge.” A product or service offered that holds the door open (i.e. your customer’s attention) while you demonstrate your unique value proposition (UVP).

Do this right, and you’ll earn the trust of your customers. And with trust comes an overall increase in sales, as well as an increase in sales of your premium offerings.

If SaaS can do it…

We see the wedge strategy deployed throughout the SaaS industry.

Think about most of the software you’re paying for right now. You probably started with a freemium (lightweight) version or free trial.

Take the platform, beehiiv, that I use to host my newsletter. They created a wedge by allowing me a 14-day free trial on their premium Scale version.

beehiiv’s 2 wedges: free Launch version + 14-day free trial

By the time the trial ended, their premium features were so good that I decided to pay for continued access.

This journey is what we’ve come to expect with SaaS products. But if it’s proven to be effective in SaaS, why do so few service companies effectively leverage this model?

If you’re like me in late 2017, it’s simply because nobody ever showed us how and we never thought to ask.

What follows is a story + simple framework for creating your business wedge.

Discovering my company’s wedge

To help you discover a wedge for your business, let me first show you how I developed one for my consulting business, New Haircut.

In 2015, New Haircut’s core offering was app development services. Startups and technology companies hired us to build their web and mobile apps.

Since app development services are a red (crowded) ocean, it was hard for us to stand out, and therefore hard to sell.

Most of our contracts were 6-12 months long, with 6-figure budgets. Not only is that is a sizable investment for our customer, but the time-to-value is lengthy. In other words, our customers would have to wait to receive a return on their investment for 6+ months.

We needed an offer that would:

  • Showcase our unique expertise

  • De-risk our customer’s investment

  • Deliver customer value more quickly

  • Speed up our long sales cycles

  • Improve our cashflow

The wedge product that solved these joint New Haircut-customer problems was a Design Sprint.

A Design Sprint is a product discovery framework for rapid prototyping and validation of app concepts — the perfect pre-step to use before committing many months and dollars to building your app.

The design sprint became an ideal method for achieving the validation our customers needed, without having to spend a lot of money or waiting a long time for research.

Pricing design sprints

We sold our first design sprint for $5,000. After expenses, we wound up losing about $5,000. However, with the success of that sprint, we EARNED a $112,000 contract to design, build, and launch our customer’s technology platform; i.e. our premium services.

Our design sprint was sold as a loss leader, a pricing strategy where you sell something without profit in order to evoke a larger sale.

I wish I could say that strategy was intentional. In reality, we simply had no idea how to price our first sprints. We also wanted to make sure we were truly delivering unmatched value for the investment.

Sprints started our growth flywheel

Design sprints were the perfect wedge product because they simultaneously solved big problems for our customer, and for us.

For our customers, design sprints:

  • Decreased time of market research from 12+ months to 2 weeks

  • Decreased cost of market research from >$50,000 to $5,000

  • Provided market validation that de-risked their investment

For New Haircut, our design sprints:

  • Up-sold our premium tech services

  • Shortened our sales cycle, thereby improving cashflow

Prior to that first sprint, I had spent 14 months trying to win that customer’s business. Once I presented the design sprint, we had an approved contract within 3 days — a 140X increase in speed to booked revenue.

In time, our design sprints became our premium offer, and so we developed new wedge products to sell more design sprints. As we did, we assembled our growth flywheel.

Overview of the flywheel effect (credit: InVision)

Growth flywheels organize your products (and/or services) in such a way that the successful outcome/delivery/experience of one product, propels your customer to the next available product in the flywheel. From individual and disconnect offers to “stacked offers.”

As customers move through your product ecosystem — starting with your wedge product(s) — trust increases, momentum builds, and more customers enter your flywheel.

As your audience grows, more people talk about your products, spinning your flywheel faster.

The virality of your self-perpetuating growth loop increases profits. And as you re-invest those profits to improve your products (and possibly lowering prices); you increase flywheel momentum. And so on.

Here’s what New Haircut’s flywheel looks like today.

New Haircut’s product ecosystem creates a self-perpetuating growth flywheel

Our blog brings new influencer-customers into our flywheel. It delivers free, valuable content on topics related to our core services.

Each blog article points to one of our free mini-courses. The courses equip our influencer-customer to learn the content at a deeper level.

When they’re ready to practice what they’re learning, our influencer-customer pays a few hundred dollars for access to our toolkits. The toolkits provide practical tools and templates for the influencer-customer to take action on their own (DIY).

By enabling DIY wins for our influencer-customer, they then recommend us to their boss — our VP customer who purchases our high-ticket training and higher-ticket sprints.

Our VP customer then recommends us to their peers, who direct their teams to our blog, courses, and toolkits. And the cycle repeats.

In a future post, I’ll provide you with a full playbook on understanding and building flywheels. Stay tuned!

Now that you’ve gotten a look at our wedge and flywheel, it’s time to discover the right wedge for your business.

Finding your wedge

(that kinda sounds dirty)

To discover your wedge, we’ll walk backward from the premium products you’re trying to sell more of today.

For simplicity, I’m using the term ‘products’ to capture both products and services.

Remember, the right wedge will:

  • Be easy for your customer to buy (obvious, quick value)

  • Be easy for you to deliver

  • Naturally boost sales of your premium product(s)

Wedge Discovery Framework

To help you suss out your wedge in a simple, visualized approach, I created the Wedge Discovery Framework.

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