Marketing for Sustainable Growth

by Michelle Hunter

Scaling your business takes courage, consistency, and clear strategy.

Marketing for Sustainable Growth

Marketing is a long game. Playing it well requires dedicated effort, consistent action, and a tough constitution. The people who appear to have created instant success are actually veterans of the online marketing war who have refined their approach and built an audience over time. Quick fixes and simple formulas do not lead to sustainable growth.  

In my work with creative entrepreneurs, I’ve observed a common pattern. Talented individuals build a certain level of success through word of mouth referral. Satisfied clients and customers tell others about great customer service, valuable products and services, and real results. Inquiries start coming in at a fairly predictable rate. Business is good… at least for a while.

But eventually, things quiet down. The flow of inquiries drops to a trickle or pauses for a time. While the break might feel good for a week or two, eventually worry sets in. Thoughts turn to marketing… and the search begins for a simple solution. Have you been in this place? Many of us have.

In an interesting variant, some creatives are able to maintain a steady flow of inquiries without marketing. The problem is with the quality of those leads. Often expectations are high and budgets are low, creating a trap. Too much work for too little money… and an inability to generate higher quality leads.

Struggling to generate high-quality leads?  You have a marketing problem, and unfortunately no easy solution or a simple formula will fix it.  You’re going to have to build skills and challenge yourself in order to create sustainable business growth. To scale your business (and that’s really what we’re talking about here) you need to get serious about marketing.

What does it mean to “scale” your business?

Growth sounds lovely from a distance. We dream for it, plan for it, and talk about our “vision for the future” with a confident smile. “Scale” is set in front of us as a valuable objective, but is often not clearly quantified or defined. It remains intangible and vague.

Recently, I heard a definition of “scale” that truly resonated with me. (Thank you, Michael Hyatt!) Scale is sustainable exponential growth, achieved without disrupting other important areas of life. In other words, sustainable growth without sacrificing personal time, family life, finances, health, or other objectives.

Notice this definition is not the same as growing something bigger for the sake of size. It is focused on balance- business, in the context of a life rich with meaning and relationship. Sustainability is emphasized, indicating that “scale” isn’t a mark to reach but rather a level to maintain over time.

In my business, I don’t speak much about scale. Instead, I focus on sustainable growth as I communicate vision with my team and as I work with my clients. I find that this language shift brings clarity to our discussions and makes “scale” something we can quantify and track.

What does sustainable growth look like? For me, it’s a consistent slow increase in revenue and profitability combined with streamlined, efficient systems and an intentionally selected lean team of experts supporting my operations.

My goals have nothing to do with organizational size or large market reach because, personally, those targets don’t motivate me. My goals are aligned with sustainability, quality of life, and providing high-impact service to my clients.

What does sustainable growth mean to you? Maybe you’re not sure. Perhaps you’ve never taken time to define ideas like this for your organization. I suggest you take a little time to create your own vision and share it with your team… or your close friends and colleagues if you’re a solopreneur. Step back from the common wisdom you see and hear online to craft a future where you are satisfied, engaged, and thriving. Let this be your interpretation of “scale” and use it to motivate you to action.

What action? I’m so glad you asked…

Sustainable growth requires strategic marketing.

Gone are the days when you can simply boost a few posts on Facebook or send out an intermittent email newsletter and effectively generate leads. Marketing haphazardly on whatever social media platform catches your eye this week is not a strategy for sustainable growth. Neither is blind application of some proven system you find inside a book or course. While all of these may be effective for a time or in a limited way, sustainable growth requires thinking more strategically.

Strategic marketing is:

  • Customized to your business rather than formulaic.
  • Aligned to your brand and the needs of your clients.
  • Focused on tracking, in order to tie actions with results.
  • Consistent, to build brand awareness and trust.
  • Proactive and honest, rather than reactive and misleading.

Strategic marketing begins with truly understanding the value your work provides to the customers and clients who engage with it. Confidence in the results you deliver and the quality you provide is the foundation of effective marketing. It’s absolutely essential to your success.

Sustainable growth means intentional engagement.

How do you prefer to engage with potential clients? This is a crucial clarifying question… but also one we can easily take further than is beneficial. Let’s unpack this so you understand my meaning.

Sustainable growth is created when we intentionally engage potential clients in a way that is best aligned with our personality and our brand. This alignment allows us to show up in a way that reflects our best selves– conserving energy and resources while opening avenues to excellence in both the marketing conversation itself and the way it is received.

For example, I choose to engage with potential clients through articles like these. Writing in this way is aligned with my natural ability (I love writing) and my expertise. It leverages my teaching ability and allows me to share ideas openly and freely. Because I can write while alone, this type of engagement is a good fit for the introvert in me and is not draining or anxiety-inducing.

Could you market using articles like these? Sure! Inbound content marketing is a highly effective marketing strategy in a number of situations. But, perhaps writing is a struggle for you. In that case, you might look for another means of engagement.

Clients I work with use social media almost exclusively as a method of engagement for their businesses. They host online groups within Facebook, pin on Pinterest, and spend time daily sharing stories on Instagram. They create social ads and build out funnels to support those ads. They connect through live video chats and respond to audience questions and comments daily. All this engagement is energizing to these clients, but it wouldn’t be for me. I would struggle with anxiety and overwhelm.

Sustainable growth is created when we engage consistently in our selected way regardless of any momentary obstacles. Here’s where that preference question I asked earlier can trip us up. Sustainable growth comes from consistent engagement even when consistency isn’t our preference.

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing an article like this. Some weeks are packed with client work or travel or other distractions. I might be facing a busy season in my personal life or dealing with a lack of energy related to health or fatigue. Doesn’t matter… I need to write anyway, and have systems in place to ensure my articles are published at the usual time and in the usual way, without fail. My preferences aren’t relevant.

Sustainable growth means setting a standard of engagement and following through on that standard intentionally, regardless of circumstances. You might be bored with social media. An article topic might not appeal to me in the moment. Someone else might not want to actually hold the webinar or record the podcast interview on the day it is scheduled. Sustainable growth is a result of pushing through this type of resistance to engage anyway.

Sustainability is created by risk and refinement.

Not sure how to create sustainable growth in your business? You’re not alone. There’s no magic formula or silver bullet solution to sustainability. The journey to sustainable growth includes risk, experimentation, observation, and refinement.

Don’t trust people who promise you quick answers or simple steps to sustainability. I don’t know the solution for your business, but I DO know how it can be discovered.  I’m happy to guide you on the path to growth.

Start by observing and evaluating the offers that sell well for you. Evaluate your top offers in terms of the following factors- profitability, operational ease, and customer satisfaction. You’re looking to build sustainable revenue by growing profitable offers which are easy to deliver and deliver positive results to your customers. Identify which current offer in your business mix is the best candidate for growth.

Consider what you can do to expand or build upon your best offer. Look at this offer with fresh, customer-focused eyes. Try to see it inside the context of customer need so you can identify opportunities to serve the same clients in a richer, fuller way. Can you add a secondary or partner offer to this one to build revenue? Would a tool, information product, or service add value to people either before or after they purchase this offer? Can the offer itself be modified to increase profitability, ease, or customer satisfaction?

Modify your business model slightly to build upon this offer. Take a calculated risk and experiment by refining your best offer or adding a supplemental product or service to your business model. But be careful! Your goal is a slight modification, not a major shift. Limit the changes to something you can easily evaluate and eliminate if something doesn’t work.

While the status quo is comfortable, growth always involves risk and refinement. Remember when you were just starting out in business? You took chances and tried multiple variants before settling in on something that worked for you. Sustainable growth means embracing this level of experimentation as a mindset and exploring change in controlled ways. Shake things up a bit… you’ll be surprised what can happen!

Ready to get serious about marketing and growing your revenue?

Marketing is a long game, my friends… but the rewards are significant for those who decide to improve their skills, take risks, and move in the direction of sustainable growth.  Not sure how to get started? Grab my free guide Creating Profitability as a first step… and then let’s talk. I can help you market effectively so you can achieve sustainable growth in your business.

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