For this story, I spoke with veterans of high-growth brands to learn about their successes in scaling business.
Maybe it sounds intuitive, but scaling customer service with your growth is much easier said than done. Leeyen Rogers, Vice President of Marketing at JotForm, an online form building company headquartered in San Francisco, noted that, “When your company experiences rapid growth, it is challenging to maintain an excellent standard for customer service. If financially feasible, companies should offer a 24/7 line of customer support, with a short wait time.”
Oftentimes, your brand will grow quickly because of its small initial size—intimate access to high-level personnel, attentive and available customer service, and a directly accessible and relatable brand story all contribute to an enterprise that customers want to be a part of. As the good news gets out, though, it’s essential to grow with your reputation. Once there becomes a lag time between customer service personnel and customers, you’re outgrowing what once made you great. The same is true for all facets of brand story and user experience.
Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches success story. Some startups have narratives that begin with cash-strapped operations in someone’s uncle’s basement and end in a swanky downtown penthouse. Taking part in that meteoric growth can feel good, but only if it positions customers as the real champions and invites them along for the ride. If you find your company climbing into an ivory tower, it’s time to evaluate priorities.
Sanjib Kalita, Chief Marketing Officer of the fast-growing Money20/20 Conference (the largest global event focused on payments and financial services innovation), explains that keeping your company relatable and human is essential to stay appealing instead of unapproachable. “When we confirmed speakers, rather than airbrushed glamor shots, we created caricatures that were different and presented our speakers in a more human and approachable light. From a company interaction perspective, we made sure to respond to people as quickly as possible. Every communication was from a human being, not a faceless company. All of these came together and helped us grow.”
The number of attendees at Money20/20 has doubled every year since its inception in 2012 (to over 10,000), so they must be on to something. Kalita’s avatar photo on Gmail is still an endearing caricature, and it was one of the first things I noticed. The difference is in the details, and details conspire to tell great stories.
Keeping brand story consistent during business transformation is essential to scalable company growth. Customer loyalty is achieved through great storytelling, and great customer loyalty leads to more business than virtually anything else. If the story you’re telling is backed up by what you’re doing (and vice versa), there’s no limit to how much you can grow or how authentic you can stay. Telling a clear story with an unwavering commitment to the values that you set from the start will keep your brand in high favor with loyal and new customers alike.
Scaling a brand from startup to major industry player isn’t an easy feat. Most startups never make it to the big time, and more still lose their essence somewhere along the journey from small and scrappy to big and boring.
Dave Scarola, Chief Marketing Technologist at The Alternative Board, believes that’s because brands’ stories get muddled along the way. “To retain the same brand identity as a business grows, my recommendation is to make sure the owner/CEO always goes back to his or her WHY. The WHY for a business is the core story for a business and explains why the founder started the business in the first place.”
Businesses almost always start as passion projects, and the story of a passionate founder who got fed up with the status quo or saw an underserved need is a common one that all consumers can get behind (and have gotten behind countless times). As enterprises grow, there may be nothing more important than keeping that brand story clear and at the forefront of your client-facing and internal operations.
Scarola concluded by saying, “If the owner keeps the WHY in the forefront and continues to tell those stories about why they do what they do, they will have a much better chance of retaining their brand identity as the business scales.”
Want to read more expert insight on effectively and authentically scaling during business transformation? Subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter.