CIRAS Service Highlight: Growth

Written by Mike O'Donnell
Written by Mike O’Donnell CIRAS Program Director

Lofty goals and savior customers may be nice things to think about, but they’re not growth strategies. Neither is cost reduction, which actually can be a great way to accelerate decline. Yet, when we ask Iowa manufacturing leaders how they want to grow, the answers too frequently are the same: increase market penetration and reduce costs. (In fact, those were two of the top three growth strategies Iowa manufacturing leaders identified last year.)

So, what’s the best path to real growth?  It depends. But the bottom line for me is that you need something about your business that is different, and you need a real plan for communicating that difference to potential customers.

There are lots of ways to do that, but today I want to highlight three ways CIRAS can help you:

1.       Exporting 

exportech-logo-1Only about 15 percent of mid-sized manufacturers in Iowa include exporting as one of their top growth strategies over the next five years. Yet, Iowa exports more than $11 million worth of manufactured goods each year. Opportunities are considerable, and there’s plenty of help available to seize them.  At CIRAS, we use a program called ExporTech to help manufacturers rapidly plan and execute an export growth strategy.

ExporTech brings together a “village” of experts from throughout Iowa and the nation to teach you the basics of exporting, connect you with the right resources, develop a plan, and get expert feedback – all in three months. Our outstanding partners from the U.S. Commercial Service, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Small Business Administration, the Iowa Farm Bureau and others come together for three intense days to create an individualized approach.

Does it work? In just two years of the program, 12 companies have created a total of $30 million in new export sales.

 2.       Government Contracting 

CIRAS government contracting specialists
CIRAS government contracting specialists

Federal, state and local governments are an often overlooked sales channel. In some fashion, government agencies buy just about everything. But understanding the complexity and finding the right starting point are sometimes big enough challenges that they prevent a lot of companies from trying.

CIRAS has a team of government contracting experts to help you navigate this process. We start by helping you decide if your company is a good fit for government sales. If you are, we help you refine your marketing to align with potential customer needs. We help you  identify specific opportunities to pursue, then coach you through the bidding/response process.

 3.       Internet Marketing 

Doing business over the web is a given. Regardless of where the transaction happens, your customers are influenced by your website, social media, and more. Most companies have even added some search engine optimization (SEO) tools through their website provider.

internet-marketingBut are you really getting what you want from the web? A great web presence creates coordinated, prioritized leads that help you grow. To do this, you need an Internet marketing strategy, and it needs to be aligned with your overall marketing strategy. CIRAS has created a twice-yearly Internet Marketing Strategy Boot Camp to help you get your web presence in sync with your strategy.

These boot camps are an intense three-day experience. Your leadership team learns what needs to be done and gets one-on-one coaching from a variety of experts to make real change.

If you are ready to take real steps to grow, contact your local account manager, and we’ll help you decide the best place to start.

CIRAS Program Director Mike O’Donnell can be reached at or 515-509-4379.