Eons ago when I was learning to drive, my father was the brave soul who first took me on the Interstate highway. I remember anxiously accelerating up the on ramp and joining the traffic flow. So far, so good.
Then dad suggested I move over to the center lane.
I quickly complied, spinning the wheel sharply to the left as if I were turning. “Not like that!” Dad shouted in a panic, “ease over smoothly,” he explained, “or you could cause an accident.”
I learned that day that there is a difference between a left turn and a lane change.
Discovering that small adjustments can drive big business growth is a lot like learning to change lanes gracefully: smooth and easy beats sharp and sudden.
Heroic stories of entrepreneurs pivoting their way to success make for good business news, but sometimes – most of the time – you don’t need a big shift to get where you’re going.
Whipping a company from left to right and back again frustrates employees and customers alike. Too much dramatic change undermines your focus. It devalues your brand, costs enormous amounts of money, and wastes precious time.
Fortunately, you don’t need that chaos.
The most profitable business growth comes when you iterate in small increments.
Take product innovation, for example. You can work years on a transformative new product that beats the pants of its predecessors or even completely breaks the mold. This kind of innovation requires a significant investment of time, money and resources in both development and marketing, and it can often be a make or break challenge for a business.
You could also look at your incumbent product and find little ways to make it better, more efficient or easier to use. It’s relatively easy to roll these improvements out quickly with much less effort and expense.
Consistent improvements make a product more valuable, protecting against price erosion and keeping customers engaged. Make small changes to incorporate customer feedback and other findings that enhance form and function, improve durability and squeeze out costs.
Of course, every product will eventually need to be replaced by a newer version. While you’re working on that behind the scenes, iteration is the discipline that sustains growth.
Constant observation and testing shows where the most profitable tweaks are hiding in every aspect of your business. That’s why smart marketers constantly test email subject lines to see which perform better. It’s why usability experts track behaviors on websites, and conversion experts test blue buttons vs, red ones.
Little differences can yield dramatic results.
Imagine the bottom line impact of a 43% higher click rate just from changing the size or color of a button. What if you could improve your time to hire by 20% with a shift in your approach, or reduce your shipping costs as much as 30% with different box sizes or packaging?
Those kinds of improvements are out there, waiting to be discovered. They can quickly become competitive advantages, improving profitability and allowing you to reinvest for further business growth.
Develop a keen eye for observation in your own business, ask questions like “Why…” and you’ll start seeing these opportunities for growth-generating iteration all around you. Seize them.