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.
With 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Fourteen years ago, Charles Benayon embarked on a journey to create a company that would support mental health issues for employers and students. Fast-forward to today and his company, Aspiria Corp., has helped tens of thousands of people and their families.
As the Founder and CEO, Charles and his team provide Employee and Student Assistance Programs to medium- and large-sized businesses and schools. Reflecting on his successes, he credits much of his recent progress to the advice he has received from The Alternative Board ® (TAB).
“Prior to joining TAB, I was doing a ton of things on my own that, perhaps, I shouldn’t have been doing,” he recalls. “I was working too much “in” the business and not working enough “on” the business.”
For Charles, however, it wasn’t an instant decision to seek business advice from an advisor. “I couldn’t see how an advisor who knew nothing about my industry could help me grow my revenue base,” he said.
But it was roughly four years ago that he felt as though he was at a standstill with his business.
“We were at a level in my company where I was making all sorts of decisions and I really didn’t have someone at my level that I could bounce these decisions by. I thought it would be helpful to try to find an advisor who could provide support for me, who could help me with some decision-making, and who could help me develop a strategy for the company.”
It took about a year, but Charles decided to make a phone call to Phil Spensieri that would forever transform his business – for the better.
“Prior to meeting Phil, I didn’t have a strategic plan for the company,” he admits, “but he helped my management team and I develop a five-year strategic plan which has now become our blueprint for everything that we do.”
Providing structure is something in particular that Charles attributes to Phil’s expertise
The strategic plan isn’t the only thing keeping Charles and his team focused. As he mentions, The TAB Advisory Board is quick to keep him on his toes.
“I feel as though this team of advisors, including Phil, hold me accountable for my actions. If I say I’m going to do something and the next month I attend the group meeting and I haven’t done it, they’re going to call me on it.”
There’s much to gain from peer discussions, according to Charles. “The TAB Advisory Board can help any small business leader reach their business goals by providing a supportive, structured environment to help you get there.” Problem solving and like-minded support, as he mentions, are two of the biggest takeaways from a TAB Board meeting.
Joining TAB was pivotal for Charles, who recommends the dual-model approach to business coaching as a recipe for success: “If you don’t have one-on-one and group support to assist in reaching your goals, then your business will not be successful.”
Do you belong to a peer advisory board? How has it helped your business? Do you see how joining one can help you grow your business?
Mid-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.