In my previous two posts, I’ve discussed the expanding role of marketing in driving business growth. Recent research shows that many marketing leaders now believe they are primarily responsible for leading growth efforts in their organization, and that CEOs and other senior executives share this belief.

The recent research also shows, however that leading growth is more of an aspirational goal than a current reality for most marketers. Overall, the studies suggest that most marketing leaders are still relying primarily on conventional marketing communication tactics and tools to drive growth.

Against this backdrop, a book published last fall by the American Marketing Association describes an interesting and arguably novel approach to identifying and exploiting growth opportunities. The Organic Growth Playbook by Bernard J. Jaworski and Robert S. Lurie is the first in a series of seven books to be published by the AMA that will address complex, challenging, and difficult-to-solve marketing problems.

The basic premise of The Organic Growth Playbook is that the conventional approach to marketing – which is based largely on attempting to differentiate a product or service in the minds of potential buyers – isn’t a reliable way to drive consistent organic revenue growth for most companies. The authors contend that in addition to product positioning and differentiation, marketers should focus on identifying the specific behaviors of potential buyers that have a disproportionate impact on the ultimate purchase decision, and then work to persuade prospects to engage in those behaviors.

The first step in the process described in The Organic Growth Playbook is to map the buying process waterfall. This step provides the essential foundation for the rest of the process, and in addition, the insights produced by mapping the buying process waterfall constitute one of the main components of the market expertise that I discussed in my last post.

Mapping the buying process waterfall is a two-step process. The first step is to identify all of the activities that are performed by any of the potential buyers in a given market from the time they become aware of a need they may need to address until a solution is purchased (or not purchased). These activities are arranged sequentially, with the earliest activities at the top of the map, and later activities – including the ultimate purchase decision – at the bottom. Activities that potential buyers use for a similar purpose, and that happen at about the same time – are grouped by their position or stage in the buying process.

The second step is to identify the frequency with which each activity in the buying process occurs. This step is critical because it enables the marketing team to measure the flow of potential buyers through the buying process and identify what paths different types of buyers tend to take.

The book’s authors argue that in most buying processes across most industries, there are one or two critical buyer behaviors that have a decisive impact on the final purchase decision. The authors call these activities “high-yield behaviors,” and they become the focal point of marketing and sales efforts.

The following diagram presents a greatly oversimplified version of a buying process waterfall map:

In this diagram a high-yield behavior (Target Behavior X) is shown at the top, and the ultimate purchase decisions are shown at the bottom. The diagram also shows the percentages of buyers who made each purchase decision segmented by whether or not they engaged in Target Behavior X. As the diagram shows:

  • Potential buyers who engage in Target Behavior X are twice as likely to purchase the company’s product (60% vs. 30%); and
  • Potential buyers who engage in Target Behavior X are only half as likely to exit the buying process without making a purchase (20% vs. 40%).
In this example, Target Behavior X has a significant impact on the company’s ability to earn more sales and generate revenue growth. Therefore, a focal point of the company’s marketing and sales efforts should be to persuade more potential buyers to engage in the desired behavior. And because this type of analysis considers all of the potential buyers in a given market, it can enable marketing and sales leaders to uncover growth opportunities they had not previously considered.
Top illustration courtesy of Bernard Goldbach via Flickr CC.

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