Archive for the ‘business plan’ Category

Why Look in the Rearview Mirror?

October 18, 2016

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What’s the point of looking back? 

As CEO, what can you learn from looking back?  For Marketing Matters (FMM) starts year 10 this week. Given that milestone, I have been reviewing the past 9 years to update the business plan to grow and move forward. Part of that work has been ‘eating my own dog food’: updating and revising FMM’s marketing messaging and positioning.  It is from this place that I have been looking in the rearview mirror.

4 Key Takeaways from Looking in the Rearview Mirror:

  1. What a long, strange trip it’s been:  Revisiting the past 9 years by reading business plans, positioning, and reviewing clients has been fun! The path has taken many turns – some planned and some not. People I have met over the years, distant clients that helped launch FMM, and networking organizations that I was involved with. While time flies by, this is the longest ‘job’ now on my resume – wow!  So while it has not felt long, it has been strange! Some strange people along the way, but that is part of any journey! And with the strange moments being a blur in the rear view mirror it is actually comical to recall…and worthy to recall and learn from.
  2. The Cobbler’s Kids…I am a classic example of the Cobblers Kids not having shoes. So my takeaway is to not be so consumed with work that you don’t MAKE time to work on your own business strategically.  We are our clients’ outsourced marketing department. We develop and revise marketing messaging, design and build websites and keep all marketing materials current. Yet we (FMM) have gone years (yikes!) without updating our own website and our own marketing materials. Key takeaway – make it happen before year-end. I am now on a mission as this is embarrassing.
  3. Go Back. It is not wasted time. It really is enlightening to go back and review the journey. Where have clients come from? What networking efforts are bearing fruit? Make the time to go back and review your journey with an open, inquisitive mind.  There are key nuggets to affirm, to remember and to bring with you as you go forward. And if you are a Kenny Chesney fan like I am, listen to his song I Go Back as you take a stroll down memory lane and take notes.
  4. Celebrate. Celebrate progress. Celebrate accomplishments and how far you have come.  Whatever your milestone, take a step back and acknowledge the progress and the hard work that has taken you this far. It is not easy. However many years you have been doing it, feel good about how far you have come. Reflect on what you have built. As business owners we push ourselves and we work hard. A key takeaway for me is to pause and feel good about where FMM is now and how it started. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking in the rearview mirror has helped create a renewed sense of focus and energy!  Now I look forward to the road ahead and the journey to partner with more savvy CEOs of small and medium-sized growth-focused businesses.  I hope you too find benefit in taking a look in the rearview mirror for insight to help you move forward. And another final takeaway I have come to learn…enjoy the ride.

 

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CEOs of Small to Mid-Sized Businesses – Take a Page out of Belichick’s Playbook

September 22, 2016

Summer is over. Fall is officially here.  While at the end of August and into early September, I yearned for a ‘Little More Summertime” as Jason Aldean sings. But within a short time frame, it feels good to be back full throttle in the ‘regular routine’; the work groove is back!  The Wall Street Journal had a great recent article about how September is the Real New Year. While the article focuses on getting one’s act together personally, the essence of the article applies to us as business owners.  Now is the time to clean out clutter in our businesses, focus, prioritize and plan.  We are in a productive time period and those who act will be better served than those who stay in summer mode too long.

PlaybookSo what does that mean for your business? What resolutions should you be making and committing to?  

Learn from Patriot’s Coach Bill Belichick.  While a man of few words in a post-game press conference (nearly painful to listen to), but his words of wisdom after Game 1’s win with Jimmy G as his starting quarterback were words of wisdom for any CEO/President/Business Owner this time of year:

“That’s the way to come here and get the job done,” Belichick stated. “And I’m telling you, we won the game in the meeting room, on the practice field, and in the walk-throughs. It just didn’t happen today. It happened all through the week. That was a great job.”

Belichick’s Playbook Simply Converts to 3 Key Components:

1) Build a game plan.

2) Implement a game plan.

3) Execute a game plan.

We all know that Bill and his management team have a game plan.  They have a Plan A, B and C. Fortunately for us as Pats fans they do have a plan: when the star quarterback is suspended for 4 games, they have a Plan B. When Jimmy G goes down in the second quarter of last Sunday’s game against Miami, they have a Plan C. Lots of questions this week about a Plan D – do you think they have one? I would bet on it!

So Take The Playbook and Apply it to your business:

  1. Do you have a game plan? If not, you have to kick-off your Fall season right here. We have all heard it: Failing to plan is planning to fail.  Get a plan in place.  Not for the sake of having one, but for the sake of prioritizing, establishing clear alignment and defining resource (human and financial) allocation.  You needed it in place yesterday so make the time NOW to get this done. The plan should include:
    • Goals and priorities for the rest of 2016? You should have a company plan and then each major functional area should have its own plan to support their role in supporting the overall goals. (Think special teams, defense, offense or marketing plan, sales plan, manufacturing plan etc.)
    • Define biggest challenges.
    • Develop a plan to overcome these challenges or workaround them.
    • Define metrics and milestones to measure progress along the way.
  2. How is implementation going? If you already have a plan in place, start here.
    • Is it being effectively implemented? Test yourself – are you sure?
    • Compare your business to the Patriots: pre-season, meeting room preparation. practice fields and walk-throughs. Is your business skipping important steps in the preparation (think sales meetings, think conference/event planning, think product launches, factory shutdowns etc.)  The Patriots leave no stone unturned in their preparation. be thorough. Pay attention to details. Don’t assume the details are covered. Discuss them openly and have contingencies mapped out and practiced – literally.
    • Is your team ready? Are they in shape? Do they know their roles? Do you have talent gaps? Training issues? Injuries (think vacations/sick leave/unfilled positions)
  3. Executing the plan.  If #1 is in place, and #2 is solid, then focus your Fall Resolution on execution.
    • Get your key team together to watch the films (aka review results and performance); what is working? what needs to be tweaked? Where are the weaknesses?
    • Be sure to involve the key people in your organization. Define action plans with clear timeframes to implement and ways to measure the effects of any changes to the plan.
    • Rinse/repeat. Revise and review.

Fall is here.  Personally, many people are back at the gym, committed to losing weight, updating their resume, volunteering for charities, cleaning out closets etc. As a CEO/President/Business Owner, tap into the energy for the benefit of your business to position your company for a productive, focused Fall season (and beyond). There is a certain rejuvenating spirit of cooler temperatures here in New England to leverage. Harness your team and the key business advisors you rely on to grow your business. While a man of few words, Belichick is a master at wisely having a plan along with surrounding himself with experts in their respective areas. This approach can and should be leveraged by business owners to surround themselves with talent to build, implement and execute according to plan (even if sometimes it is Plan C vs. the desired Plan A) It has served the Patriots well and served us well as fans.  Go Pats!  Go Red Sox!  Go Small Business Owners – Fall is here – get your head in the game and plan to prosper!

What can your business learn from Rio?

August 4, 2016

RIO 2016 OlympicsI love the Olympics!  I clearly remember reading all there was to read in Sports Illustrated and in Newsweek when the mail would arrive! Yes, I am dating myself and my kids would be astonished to be reminded we did not have cell phones and internet to get live updates of athletes’ performances.  We sat in the ‘family room’ and watched TV as a family with no disturbances from everyone being on their own device.

With Opening Ceremonies tomorrow night, I can’t help but wonder what all of us can learn from all that is swirling around Rio 2016:  Zika, plumbing issues, contaminated water sources where athletes will be competing, corruption, a very pricey train that stops 8 miles short of Olympic Village…and the stories go on and on.  Perhaps there were such challenges in other Olympics as I was growing up, but this one in particular seems rampant with issues.  So what can we learn?

I would propose that Rio highlights the fundamental need for and importance of planning.  Both planning ahead and contingency planning.  Just like any major project in your company (or even a small project or initiative), one develops a plan. The plan includes critical milestones, dates that have to be met (e.g., opening ceremonies, arrival dates for athletes), resources (financial and human) that need to be available and trained to support the project.  Define the top-level goals of the initiative/project (insert the word Olympics) and then expand the plan by logical work streams (e.g., security, transportation, living quarters for athletes, venues, etc.)  Assign experienced owners to each work stream and develop formalized structures for meeting, coordinating, communicating etc.

Take security as one example.  Can anyone fathom leaving such a vital effort until Live Date minus ~45 days?  I was stunned to read the company hired to handle security (and now replaced) was only hired about a month ago!  They were supposed to hire about 3000 people and get them trained and they had achieved hiring about 500 and apparently the training was basically non-existent.  Yikes. So in addition to planning, once could also learn the importance of allocating the necessary time to properly train people on their roles; ensuring they have the tools and information they need to perform their roles.

When I meet with CEOs to discuss their marketing needs, I ask them if they plan. Do they have a strategic plan? Do they value a plan? Recently a prospective client stopped in his tracks as he paced the boardroom we were meeting in. “Why did you ask me that question?”, he asked me.  I smiled and explained that I ask it to evaluate the fit for us working together.  I value planning.  A key part of our value proposition is planning and accountability to delivering on the plan.  I have worked with clients who value the entrepreneurial spirit and insist that plans are not necessary; they insist they need to be nimble (inferring a plan is confining and restrictive) and they end up valuing activity over progress, ineffectively leading across the organization as there lacks alignment and focus. Plans bring people in an organization together. It provides focus and discipline and sets priorities.  He nodded and said – “Of course we plan. We have a business plan and I would see no other way to run our business”. Great – sounds like a good fit.

I would not go to this Olympics if someone offered me the experience for free. It is a shame that there appear to be so many aspects of the experience that present real risks and that for whatever reason have been poorly planned and/or executed.  As you watch the athletes compete, as you cheer on Team USA, reflect on the strength of your company’s plan.  When was the last time your business plan was reviewed? Do you have a marketing plan that aligns and supports the sales plan? What about training and employee development? For many companies the next quarter is the planning phase for 2017. Let’s hope and pray that all athletes and visitors to Rio 2016 are safe and sound. But for our businesses, remember that hope is not a strategy. Don’t leave your company’s future to chance.

 

 

 

Are you on target?

February 6, 2016

Target-Audience

Know your audience.  Marketing 101 stuff, right?

So, when was the last time you reviewed your documented ideal target audience? If your answer is vague and reminds you of how you answer the dental hygienist when asked about flossing, it’s time to review it.

Why should you bother?

  1. Are you hiring this year? If so, a current ideal target audience will help shorten a new sales person’s learning curve. Time is money.
  2. Are you evaluating events to speak at or attend? Your marketing team will be more effective in evaluating the right events to prioritize where the investment is spent if they can efficiently evaluate the event attendees against your ideal target audience.
  3. Messaging. Basic, I know, but really important to make sure your marketing message is revised and refined to speak to the ideal target audience.
  4. Media. Is PR part of your marketing strategy for awareness and credibility? If so, a documented target audience will help your marketing team or your PR agency fine-tune their media list and prioritize the media to target for coverage.
  5. Social media. Directly linked to messaging, but too many companies waste time with an unfocused social media effort. Groups (e.g., LinkedIn)can be a very effective way to dramatically increase awareness and credibility but you need to know who you want to reach for the social media specialists to develop the right content, hash tags and engage with the right groups to attain ROI.
  6. Alignment. This probably should be #1 on the list as having an ideal target audience in someone’s head does not scale. At a minimum sales and marketing (hopefully not the same group nor the same people!) work together to develop the ideal target audience and then revisit and refine with feedback from sales on a periodic basis.

This week we worked with one client to updated their ideal target audience. It had been a year.  It was great to see the progress in how much more we (marketing and sales) know about our ideal target audience in 12 months! The clarity of the refined target audience is already making an impact as we just today passed on an event given the target audience was not aligned with our priorities (time and money savings).  With new sales folks joining the company, this is a great way to help them prioritize their contacts in their iPhones/Rolodexes to help them get started with a targeted sales plan for their territory.

If you have never documented your ideal customer/client, do that first.  In no particular order, write down everything that makes your ideal client ideal. Then convert that list of characteristics (include key parameters including but not limited to geography (if relevant), industry, company type, size, attitude/outlook, needs, title/role) into your first documented ideal target audience. At least annually, review it. I bet you will be amazed at what you learn and how it helps you and your business.  After all, having an ideal target audience is fundamental to building a business on a solid marketing foundation.

 

Assess these 10 Things to Start 2016 Strong for your Business

January 4, 2016

2016-new-year-ss-1920-800x450The first full business week of 2016.  Time to clear out the holiday cobwebs and kick off 2016!  So what will the year bring for you and your business?

 

 

 

 

10 Things to Assess about Your Business to Start 2016 Strong:

  1. Your Customer/Client Base: are you in an acquisition mode, expansion mode or retention mode?
  2. Value proposition: the corner-stone of your company’s marketing foundation.  Is it solid? The 3 C’s of a solid value proposition:  is it clear, compelling and consistent? Do you need to revise/update/enhance for the new year to address competition or logical evolution of what you offer in terms of value?
  3. Target audience: compare your ideal target audience to your existing customer base. What did you learn in 2015 that affects your ideal target audience? How can you better appeal to your ideal target audience in 2016?
  4. Your dream list: is your dream list in good shape going into the new year? Do you have a workable list of clients, prospects and suspects? Do you have a scalable process to manage and update?
  5. Sales Tool Kit by sales stage: what elements in your sales tool kit need to be updated? What elements are used most effectively?  Where are the gaps that sales needs to more effectively move potential sales through the funnel?
  6. Client stories: what successes in 2015 have not been documented? How valuable could these stories be to support your goals in 2016?
  7. New employees: did you have new hires in 2015? Are you planning new hires in 2016? How are these employees being effectively on-boarded to know, understand and represent your brand? Who owns bringing these people onboard other than on the job training?
  8. What went well in 2015 that you need to ensure continues to go well in 2016?
  9. What did not go well in 2015 that you need to fix?
  10. Offerings/Products: any changes/updates to existing offerings? Any planned new offerings this year? What is the timeframe? What needs to be developed and prepared to effectively launch?

The start of a new year is a fresh start. We are bombarded with messages about making resolutions, planning for the new you. As you launch the first full week of the new year, make the time to take a step back, assess the above components that represent key elements of an effective marketing plan.  Use these 10 items to help you organize and prioritize a plan for 2016. Make this a great year for your business.  Make time for marketing. If it is part of your core expertise, leverage it. If it is not, don’t be a DIYer, secure the marketing talent you need to develop and execute a plan to get you to where you want to be in 2016.

Happy new year.  Go get ’em.

Hey Mother Nature – take this!

March 8, 2015

Mother Nature made her impact.  This is a winter many of us won’t soon forget:  record-breaking cold; record-breaking snow; roof collapses; the MBTA and commuter rail service in Boston struggling to operate. Roads in Southie changed to one-way streets due to the massive snow piles limiting the space for two cars to pass. Let’s face it, Mother Nature has been on a rampage.

Mother Nature making an impactThis winter has had a broad effect on the economy.  Your business may be down because of Mother Nature.  Auto sales were way off in February.  Restaurants have been hit hard due to so many weekend storms and cancelled reservations.  I met with an insurance sales guy last week and he indicated business was down due to so many snow days that made booking and keeping appointments a challenge.

So what do you do as a business owner?

 

How can your business fight back?

Focus.  Plan.  Execute.

The recommendation is not new.  It’s very simple.  Simple to state, but not easy to do.

When we get beat up and business may be down, it may be tempting to get distracted with any new shiny object and get off track.  Don’t!  The key is to get back to basics.  Focus on what’s most important for your business and put together a phased, logical plan and then execute.  This is what any good marketing department or marketing agency should be doing for you.  But, if you are not investing regularly in marketing and instead treating it as a project, that is where you need to make a change.  You are wasting time and money with limited impact.

What should impact look like?

Monthly measurable results.  Just like we measure wind chill and snowfall amounts, measure the impact of your marketing efforts.  If you are not getting detailed, metric-laden marketing reports, you need to evaluate the value you are getting.

Some examples of the impact reported to For Marketing Matters clients in their February Impact reports (return on marketing investment):

Brand:

– New logo with tagline completed for a client; branding standards established; email signatures created for all employees

– New designs and messaging materials developed

Awareness:

– Online reputation management; response to positive and negative postings

– Social media posts, growth, reach

– # blogs written and exposure/reach achieved via these posts

Credibility:

– Customer success stories written and communicated to prospects/clients

– Speaking opportunities secured; award submissions

– # press releases distributed and coverage secured

Leads:

– Total Leads and leads by lead source as compared to target leads needed (client has monthly leads exceeding target so leads are not an issue; converting leads is the issue); # web leads including if prospect has budget approved with majority of leads having urgency of less than 30 days to act. (does your sales team get leads that give you this level of information?)

– New sales tool kit materials completed and available for sales team to use (including this month internal FAQs to help sales consistently and completely respond to questions; two new sets of PowerPoint slides addressing industry standard and opportunity for prospect to earn LEED credits)

– Ideal Target Profiles completed and distributed to sales to enhance targeting and shorten sales cycle

– Detailed website analysis; new web content developed and stats including SEO results and ratings

– Detailed email marketing results with lead reports for sales to act on

 

The above is an overview of the type of impact that we make in a month.  Impact is client-specific, but normally falls into the above categories.    Whatever your priorities, your marketing department or agency should be managing, measuring and reviewing IMPACT with you monthly.  Not activity, but impact. It is important to make that distinction so you as CEO are not wow’d by  activity.  To quote, Joe Friday from Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.”

Marketing is an investment and like any investment you should expect a return. If you are looking to fight back and make an impact, start with assess what marketing is doing for you. If your business priorities involve increasing awareness, gaining credibility and building leads then the marketing function plays a critical role. If you are not seeing the monthly impact from your current marketing investment, take a good hard look at what you are doing and who is doing the work.

Don’t let Mother Nature be the only one making measurable impact.

 

Failing to plan is…

November 25, 2014

You know the quote:  Failing to plan is planning to fail. Benjamin Franklin.

So how is 2015 planning progressing for your business?  And, specifically, how is the marketing plan coming?

Plan Word Shows Guidance Or Business Planning

 

Next Monday is December 1st!

So here are some recommendations to help you get started on documenting the strategy for 2015, defining the business goals and then developing the marketing plan to get you on the right path for a great 2015.

Note this will be tougher if you have NEVER had a marketing plan.  If you had a marketing plan in place for 2014, then leverage that as your starting point.

 

Below are 8 steps to get started on a useful plan:

1. Define and document your strategic objectives.  What are the top 1-3 things you MUST accomplish next year? (Not tactics.  Strategic objectives.)

2. Identify the resources needed to achieve these objectives.  (people, money, processes, partners, new clients).  Keeping at a high level, what is it going to take to get you where you want to be?

3. How will success be measured?  If possible, identify intermediate metrics for success along the way and then ultimate success metrics. (revenue, # new clients, margin, # of new square footage operational in the new facility, etc.)

note:  with key business goals defined, then the marketing plan can start taking shape…

4. Define the fundamental focus of the marketing effort.  In other words, is the focus increasing awareness, generating leads and acquiring new clients?  Perhaps retaining existing clients and acquiring new clients to support your growth strategy?  Are you introducing a new product line that marketing will be critical in announcing and bringing to market?  Clearly define the priority and the marketing strategy  that will support the above business objectives.

5. The marketing plan needs to be developed within a budget.  Any increase from this year?  Know what range you are working with to avoid the frustrations of building a masterpiece only to learn your masterpiece has to be re-done to fit the approved budget.  Document the assumptions and as details are developed, code each.  Suggested coding would be critical (critical strategically), important (fundamental work that needs to happen) and nice to have (not essential, but would be beneficial).  With this coding, if budget money becomes available during the year, you know where the money will be funneled vs. late nights preparing for a board meeting figuring out how to build your compelling story of why marketing should get a slice of the pie!

6. With a defined marketing strategy and a budget, phase the marketing plan.  We start with defining the marketing priorities by quarter – then breaking that down into months.  This keeps you aligned with the overall business objectives and enables you and your team to not lose the forest through the trees.  Stay strategic.

7. Revisit the marketing foundation.  As part of the marketing plan, there are ongoing foundational elements that require ongoing marketing work.  The Dream list is never done.  What capabilities or services lack the support of compelling client solution briefs and testimonials?  Make sure your plan does not lose focus on efforts to strengthen the marketing foundation in the new year.  Weave this work into the marketing plan.

8. Summarize the marketing plan on one page.  If the executive summary is clear and solid, the detailed plan will be that much better.  Just like an elevator pitch can be the most challenging part of messaging work given its brevity, the same is true for a one page summary.  It forces us to clearly and concisely present the plan that is then detailed across many pages.

It’s getting late in November.  If your fiscal year is a calendar year, you need to get going to be set up for success come January 2.  If you are running a business without a business plan and without a marketing plan, maybe it’s time to think about your New Year’s Resolution now.  After all, as Peter Drucker says:  “What gets measured, gets managed.”

A solid plan is a great way to get ready for 2015.  No time like the present to get started.