Marketing Your Business: You Can’t Rush The Process

Although I am not a marketer, as a business advisor I am often asked what are the most effective ways to market a company. Business owners tend to ask me what tactics they should use to gain the ‘best’ and ‘fastest’ results. My advice is the same for business management: before you execute on a business initiative, you need a plan. Before you implement a marketing tactic, make sure you invest the time and resources in having a professional strategic marketing plan.

As a business owner, you know what you know, and what you don’t. Marketing, as an aspect of a business, is no different. Hiring a strategic marketing agency to develop your strategic plan is just good business sense.

A big part of any strategy is understanding how your customers value what you do for them. Depending on what data you may already have, a strategic marketing agency will conduct in-depth research on your customers and competitors to understand what brought them to you, and also why they stay.

As a result of the research analysis and the agency’s experience, they will be able to create an area of difference for you – something unique that differentiates your business from others in your industry. This brand identity is rooted in what your customers value.

This strategic marketing plan will now act as your roadmap and provide direction for all aspects of your marketing efforts and determine what tactics will be most effective in targeting specific customers. This is similar to how the strategy in a game of chess is needed to determine the moves made on the board.

Once your strategy is complete and you know what tactics are required, you can make an informed decision as to who will implement them. You’ll need to look at your internal resources and skill sets and compare them to external ones. If you choose to take them on in-house, think about who will manage them from a marketing perspective. You may choose to outsource only a portion of your tactics while taking on the rest internally. When it comes to implementation, you have a few options. Taking the time to plan can save your business thousands of dollars in needless tactics.


The Right Plan Needs the Right Combination

network-1989137_1920.jpgWith the New Year now well underway, many business owners are just putting the final touches on their business plans.  That doesn’t mean, however, that adjustments can’t be made to ensure your goals can be reached in 2017.

As a business advisor for many years, when it comes to planning, I tend to come across two types of approaches: the visionary and the executor.  Both approaches have their pros and cons, but as I’ll explain, a combination is what you, as a business owner, should strive for, especially throughout the business planning process.

A visionary knows where they want to go.  They have a “big picture” vision and are often concerned with growing the company by setting goals.  However, they lack tactical deployment and detailed plan as to how to attain this vision.  They tend to not pay much attention to the processes in which their goals are met.

On the other hand, an executor’s primary concern is detail-related.  They set high performance standards but fail to align those tactics to the “big picture” of growing the business because they’re so focused on processes.

As a business owner, do these two approaches sound familiar?  Whether you’re a visionary or executor, I recommend the following steps as a way to bring both visionary and executor together when developing your plan.

  1. Have a Vision

Think “big picture.”  Have a solid idea of your current state of affairs, determine what changes you would like to make, and consider how much you want to grow and in what areas of the business.  Some examples of this might be that you want to increase revenue in your X division by 10% , perhaps you want to acquire a smaller business this year to expand your national reach,  or you want to offer an automated solution to your XX customers.

  1. Dig into the Details

Now that you know what goal you want to achieve, create a plan outlining in detail how you are going to get there. If your goal is to acquire a smaller company this year, then it makes sense that part of your plan will involve searching for available companies.  The devil is in the details as they say, so capture as much detail here so the plan can be easily executed on.

At this point you’ll also need to allocate budgets accordingly and introduce the means or tactics in which the budget will apply to.

  1. Review your progress

As with anything in business, monitor your results.  Regular progress meetings should be conducted to get an accurate picture of how your business is progressing. Most importantly, ensure you are consistently making modifications to ensure success.

A carefully thought-out plan that contains both a big picture vision and accompanying details required for implementation is crucial for success.   Ensure you share the plan with your employees so they are aware of the role they play in its execution.

While your business plan is somewhat of a blueprint, having a vision of where you want to go and how you are going to get there will position your business for success.


Goal Setting – Are You Being Strategic?

Road-Map-290x220Every business owner, regardless of how big or small their business is, needs goals to keep their business moving forward, their employees motivated and to maintain momentum. There are many different approaches to goal setting, and each one can be as successful as the next.

As a business owner you should define short and long term goals, and establish a plan for how to get there. Goals set for your business should align with your personal goals, and be fueled by a big-picture, forward-thinking perspective. Without strategic goals, you may struggle to find the path from where your business currently stands to where you’d like it to be.

I’ve put together some goal-setting tips that should help you achieve even your most ambitious business goals!

Tips for Goal Setting

Determine who you are and where you stand. Determine what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats may be helping or hindering you from reaching success. Ask yourself why you began the company — does that old spark still drive your business as it is now? Revisit your personal vision and reflect on how your company has evolved.

Write your goals down. Putting your goals in writing and sharing them with your team confirms your commitment to achieving them. While brainstorming is a great place to start, without writing down your goals your focus will fade. Force yourself to focus by outlining specific goals you and your company can work toward.

You may even find writing your goals down to be exciting! In my experience, goal setting brings out the optimism and ambition in myself and my colleagues, and acts as a reminder of how much good we all have to look forward to.

Have realistic expectations. Setting unattainable goals won’t lead you to success, and it certainly won’t give you the motivation needed to get there. Goals should be attainable through hard work and effort, and focused around the most important aspects of your business. The goals you set should challenge you and your team.

Establish milestones so you can track and measure success. By failing to plan, you are essentially planning to fail! Think about short and long-term success, and visualize what will help keep you and your team motivated. Have a schedule and set monthly milestones so you can track whether or not you are accomplishing the things you wish to. While tracking your success (or failures… because it happens!) you will be able to see what roadblocks lay ahead, and how you can get over them to come out on top. Once you reach a milestone don’t forget to celebrate!

Think of how your goals affect your whole team. While goal setting, be tactical and set goals for individuals, different departments, and the business as a whole. Have employees contribute their knowledge and ideas when goal setting to help keep goals realistic and attainable. Sharing goals with the whole team can encourage team effort, and a sense of responsibility.

Know your plan of action. Create a plan that supports your specific goals. When reviewing your plan be sure to think about how you will tackle issues as they occur, how issues will affect the team, clients, stakeholders, and whomever else is connected, and whether or not you are clinging to goals that no longer make sense for your business.

Fear of failure should never hold you back from setting goals and reaching for them! Effective and strategic goal setting will allow for individual accountability, and most importantly, will help keep your business aligned with your vision, and on the track to success.

Do you have short and long term goals set for your company? Do you feel like your goals are attainable and motivating? Tell me about your experiences by commenting below.


Strategic Planning Sessions – a Manager’s Perspective

strategic planning imageMid-sized business owners are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their vision, mission and goals are understood and executed throughout the company.  However, what often happens is that some employees, while clear about what these are, do not know how their specific job helps to support them. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that most will remain unaware of the existence of the vision, mission and goals.

Therein lies the problem many mid-sized companies face, which is communication and support for the overall business strategy. The key to conveying these fundamentals is insuring your key management understands these so they are equipped to relay this message to their staff.

In my role as a business advisor, I am often called on to facilitate strategic planning sessions with senior management teams.  I’d like to share with you an interview with one of the marketing managers who participated in a recent strategic planning session.

Q: Before the session, were you clear about what your role was within the organization?

A: No. It made my daily duties innocuous and frustrating because I did not have a clear understanding of what I was supposed to be doing. Being part of a smaller business often requires employees to wear many different hats and sometimes that can blur the lines of responsibility and accountability.

Q: How were you feeling about the company and your role before the meeting?

A: I felt my skills were not being best used in helping to move the company forward. There was no clear goal in sight or a clear idea of who we are. I became increasingly frustrated and unsure about what I should be spending my energy on.

Q: What were you hoping to get out of this meeting?

A: I was hoping to gain a clear sense of the identity of the company, roles of people in company, and vision of where the company will be next year, two years and beyond.

Q: How do you feel this session has helped you in your role?

A: Projects and initiatives are more defined in terms of relating back to the company’s identity. There is now an accountability structure in place so projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Q: Was the session valuable?

A: 150% yes!  Every business needs to understand who it is, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Without this direction, you are floating on the ocean without a compass.  For me, it has brought clarity, defined goals and a structure to help measure success and shortcomings.  It has created cohesiveness and has tied everything together to reach a common goal.

Strategic planning sessions get the whole organization pointed in the same direction and can catapult your results to even higher levels of success!

Do you feel your organization could benefit from a strategic planning session? If so, in what way do you think you could benefit from this? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.