Growing Your Business One Secret at a Time
On the very first page, the words “Grow or die!” pop out, letting the reader know that Robert Bloom sees business growth in black and white terms. For him, there is no gray area, no room for a company to “play it safe.” So, with the help of David Conti, Bloom provides his own strategy for growth in his latest book, The Inside Advantage: The Strategy that Unlocks the Hidden Growth in Your Business.
More Than an Equation
Bloom is credited with resuscitating a number of respected brands such as Southwest Airlines, Nestlé, Zales and T-Mobile. Almost immediately, he sets up the equation of Who + What + How + Own It = Inside Advantage, which is the basis of his Growth Discovery Process. This process is a systematic exploration that business owners use to define their core customers, the products they sell and their ultimate growth strategy. But Bloom’s book goes far beyond mathematics and statistics, pushing the entrepreneur to know the four components and realize that growth is more than mere profit.
The author’s authoritative voice advocates no less than a boot camp approach for creating a marketing blueprint. It’s not for the timid or for those entrepreneurs who like to cut to the chase without fully considering who or what they are chasing. This is evident from Bloom’s recounting of a consulting session, when he sequestered key contacts in a room so that they could come to a consensus on defining their core customers. They had to do this in 10 words or less. How they got to that point is not only a fascinating study in group dynamics, but it’s also a compelling example of how investing a lot of effort at the onset gives businesses a strategic advantage over their competitors.
Bloom also offers some contrarian perspectives that might at first appear to be designed for shock value. For example, his statement that there is no such thing as a commodity, per se. He says that commoditization only happens if a firm allows it to happen. The antidote Bloom suggests is designing “persuasive strategies” that rely on a deep understanding of a client’s needs and customizing products to meet those needs.
Uncommon Versus Unique
The Inside Advantage has the look and feel of a transcript rather than a book. For all Bloom’s emphasis on being concise and persuasive, his text would benefit from another round of editing and a more engaging visual design. Often, Bloom shares nuggets worth revisiting, but it can be difficult remembering exactly where some bits of wisdom are located for later retrieval –– this is without completely re-reading sections. And the nuggets are well worth remembering, such as his explanation why uncommon offerings will always triumph over unique ones. Bloom says that the latter are vulnerable to lower-priced knock-offs, the ravages of evolving technology or the fickle reactions of consumers that may perceive a unique product as unreliable or unaffordable. Instead, an uncommon offering, Bloom explains, has traction because it offers meaningful benefits and emotional experiences that customer’s desire. This is a subtle distinction that is overlooked in the conventional mantras that promote “unique” products.
However, Bloom is at his best when he gives us “fly-on-the-wall” privileges at his consulting sessions. This is where readers get a view of how other companies struggle with developing their concepts and identity. Readers also get that privileged “insider” feeling when he shares tidbits about the branding campaigns for Southwest, Perrier and L’Oreal.
Surprisingly, given the dizzying rate that new Web-based advertising models are introduced on the Net, it’s odd that he provides no commentary about the growing phenomenon of creating and marketing tangible products for virtual environments. Bloom gives a quick nod to the power of Internet-based marketing. But he doesn’t discuss the growing trend for well-established brands to set up shop in such cyber environments as Second Life.
This leaves Bloom’s readers room to ponder whether the same rules that he advocates still apply: Is his Growth Discovery Process a one-size-fits-all proposition, just as well suited for this “brick and click” medium as it is for its brick and mortar counterpart? Perhaps that will be covered in his next book.