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7 Gauges to Monitor on Your Brand-Expansion Dashboard

At some stage, most brand owners will hit a stall point. They’ll have grown, sometimes very quickly, but as their growth rate flattens out, many become unsure how to keep up the momentum they have worked so hard to build. Here are seven ways to help you take your already successful brand to the next level.

1. What do consumers want more of?

Brand growth is driven by desire — people’s wish to have more, and more of what you have to offer. Figuring out what that desire is may be less straight-forward. Too often brands think the desire is about their product. What’s more likely is that people have satisfied something they want more of in their lives through your product. Know their catalyst.

2. Think big picture, but also think in “pieces.”

Across regions, languages, cultures, channels. Knowing how big your brand needs to be to hit the sweet spot of presence and profit is critical. Too big, and you’ll find yourself over stretched and under resourced. Too small, and you’ll find you don’t have the scale you need to achieve sustainable returns. Too many brands are growing for growth’s sake. Think about the total value you’re striving for long-term. Know your goal.

3. Who will add value?

Look for partners who will deliver your brand access to things it simply couldn’t get on its own, and work hard to quantify the value of those. Every venture capitalist will tell you they have valuable networks. That’s not what you should focus on. The key question for you is — why will those networks be valuable for you, in the light of your plans? Know what you need.

4. Decide your pace.

There are benefits to growing quickly, but sometimes there’s a strong case to be made for taking your time. We often have more time than we believe. Think about where your brand needs to expand over the coming years — and how fast — in order to stay competitive. Cashflow will help you identify when you will most need money — as you are growing or when you slow down. On what basis will you make expansion decisions? Know your timeline.

5. Plan to evolve.

How will your product or service change over time? And why will your customers value that? We all compete in a world where nothing stands still. It’s a given that your brand will need to keep pace. Understanding the resources you will need to make that happen is crucial. Know who you need to be talking to well ahead of time. Keep expanding on what works. Let the consumer guide you. Know your next steps.

6. Understand your storylines.

Look for partners who will take your story in new directions. What are the opportunities in your story that you could explore more deeply, and how will others add to what you are already saying? Having a story is valuable. But knowing where to take that story and why that will fascinate buyers is invaluable. Know your wider narrative.

7. How will consumers know it’s still you?

As they become more successful, brands tend to give away too much of what first made them special. They blend with those around them. They become indecisive. Their brand changes — literally — or they lose the spirit that saw them rise in the first place. How will you stay true and new, both at the same time? What are you doing to maintain simplicity? Know your fundamentals.

Growth can seem straight-forward in the early days, particularly when you’re coming off a low base. But once companies become more mature, sustaining that expansion can be very hard. According to Christopher Zook, 90 percent of companies fall short of their long-term growth objectives because of the barriers that the business raises within itself and because their organizations become too complex, internally and externally.

The answer? Principled expansion. Write yourself a playbook for growth that frames the decisions you make, what keeps you distinctive, under what conditions you will take up opportunities, and when and why you will choose to walk. That way, you will always stay true to who you are without becoming stuck in who you’ve been.