Conferences can inspire and motivate us. They can challenge our thinking and send us home ready to take on the world.

Certainly, some presentations stand out more than others and stick with you long after the flight home.

Two weeks ago, the Dental Trade Alliance, an organization of dental distributors and manufacturers, held their annual meeting in Bonita Springs, FL. Competitors came together to network, learn, grow, and play.

The theme was “Growth, No Matter What.” As Vennli’s driving mission is to help businesses grow, this was particularly relevant for me.

The dental market, like so many other industries today, is faced with unprecedented change. External pressures, new advances in technology, and changing customer needs pose many challenges to growth.

The meeting started off with a presentation by Marko Vujicic, Chief Economist and Vice President of the Health Policy Institute at the American Dental Association (ADA). He shared statistics about the state of the dental industry. It wasn’t a happily-ever-after fairy tale. The market continues to be flat except for children’s dentistry and seniors. Dentists’ earnings are down, and the number of emergency dental visits has increased. At the same time, the need for coordinated, team-based care is increasing.

Yet, we are also on the brink of tremendous opportunity. Organizations that are able to act quickly and innovate to meet changing market needs will be the winners.

One of the speakers was Michael Tracey, an MIT professor and best-selling author. He had a timely, relevant message for businesses today regarding how to develop effective growth initiatives.

He reminded us that growth strategy is not difficult; it’s deceptively disguised as challenging. With the right processes in place, an organization can move from making decisions based on estimations or intuition to certainty.

To do this, Tracey suggested focusing on these six areas:

  1. market potential
  2. priority opportunities
  3. critical laneways
  4. high potential concepts
  5. growth initiatives
  6. focused deployment

Starting with the market potential, Tracey suggests mapping out the market penetration and detailing where the most attractive segment lies.

Then analyze those markets and prioritize the opportunities. To be strategic, organizations must fully evaluate and clearly define what segments of the market have the potential to drive growth the fastest. These are “critical laneways.”

Innovation is critical to any growing business. Unfortunately, when determining what concepts or projects have the highest potential, many organizations fall back on what has worked in the past… even though these efforts may be experiencing diminishing returns.

Michael said, “the chance of sustained growth without innovation in near zero.” The question is no longer if we should innovate but instead how to build a repeatable formula for innovation.

Innovative organizations require an agile process for developing, piloting, testing, evaluating, and adapting. This allows them to quickly evaluate these high potential concepts and determine which ones have the most growth potential and should be deployed (Tracey’s 5th and 6th steps).

Focusing on these six areas, Tracey says, will change your growth initiatives, “from a game of chances to a game of skill.”

This framework for thinking about growth strategy resonated with me. It’s similar to how our clients utilize the Vennli platform to make better strategic decisions about the growth of their business by listening to their customers’ voice.

At the very least, customer data tests internal assumptions about where growth opportunities lie. Unfortunately, in many organizations, there are differing opinions about the most critical “laneways” for growth, and often the most vocal or senior person wins. In order to prevent making strategic decisions based on experience and intuition (that is, by definition, subjective and biased), demand data. Customer data reduces risk in your growth strategy by testing assumptions before moving forward.

Furthermore, customer insights reveal unmet needs and opportunities to differentiate from competitors in meaningful ways. Executives can easily identify the “critical laneways” and the “highest potential concepts” and prioritize accordingly.
Then, once a growth initiative is selected, our clients monitor their progress throughout deployment to ensure it is having the desired impact on their market.

In other words, it’s all about reducing the risk in strategic decision-making while utilizing an agile, repeatable process to drive growth. Because in dentistry, like many markets today, those that can provide unique value to customers first, will win!

There were hundreds of dental executives at the Dental Trade Alliance. It will be interesting to watch who took the learnings from these presentations back to their companies. The ones with the most significant growth are likely to be the ones who implemented a repeatable growth initiatives process.