Your company’s marketing efforts should determine what customers want, lead to the creation of services or products that meet their needs, and ultimately result in a rewarding relationship for both you and the client.
That’s not as hard as it sounds. As is often the case, just having the answers to the right questions can have you well on the way to success or, at the very least, give you the best chance to succeed.
To make sure your marketing efforts can make a difference, make sure your team can answer these questions.
Question 1: What Drives Your Business?
In other words, what really brings customers – and sales – to your company? What keeps them coming back?
Some of these “business drivers” are internal to your company, and can take the form of certain employees or departments. A particularly skilled salesperson or talented product developer can drive business for your firm – but so can a highly-efficient delivery system, or top-notch service department.
Other business drivers are external, and might include seasonal factors, changing demographics, or the state of the economy. Changes in customer demands or expectations are also an external business driver.
You can influence or change internal business drivers and, ideally, you should be able to react and respond to external business drivers. In any case, once you truly understand what it is that brings customers to the door or makes your phone ring, you can start developing company objectives and formulating marketing plans for meeting them.
Question 2: Where are the Growth Opportunities?
Where are the growth opportunities in your industry, and what would it take to be part of it?
You can grow your company by either selling more of what sell, or by adding to what you currently offer your customers. (Acquiring a competitor and adding those revenue streams is a third method, but that’s not normally part of a marketing plan or function.)
To sell more of the same, you can intensify your marketing efforts in your current customer reach, but it’s usually more productive to start pitching to a new audience, which can be based on different demographics (example: cardio fitness classes for senior citizens), geography (a new sales office in a remote location), or some other factor.
Adding a new product or service, after determining that there are customers who legitimately need or want it, is an exciting route to revenue growth.The new offering should create “synergies” for your company, which allow you to leverage the strengths already demonstrated by your business. (Example: Janitorial service companies can expand into window washing, plant watering, touch-up painting, and other maintenance–type services needed in professional office settings.)
Understanding where the best growth opportunities are can let you put the wheels in motion to tap that growth…as long as you have a satisfactory answer to question 3.
Tip: Continually ask, “How are my customers’ needs changing?” This will help you exploit new opportunities in the marketplace.
Question 3: Are Your Marketing Resources Strong Enough to Capitalize on Identified Opportunities?
This gets tricky.
It’s one thing to understand your business drivers, and it’s another to recognize paths to growth. But determining if your current marketing resources are good enough to get you a “seat at the table” is another matter altogether.
Exactly what your marketing resources are will vary depending on your company and the industry in which you compete. Typically, they include skills like direct selling, brand management, customer service, market research, your web site, and database management.
Your team needs to:
a.) Determine which skills are critical to chasing the growth opportunities, and
b.) Decide how strong or weak your company is relative to the important skills.
Example: Perhaps you rate your sales force as very good, but your web presence as only average. If a strong website is necessary for growth, you need to decide how to fix it (hire new talent, outsource as a project, etc.).
After the Questions are Answered
When the three questions are answered to your – and your team’s – satisfaction, you can start setting objectives and goals (relative to the opportunities uncovered by question #2) and putting a marketing plan in place to support them. For a guide to creating a marketing plan, click here.
To stay ahead of your competition, make sure you revisit all three questions at least once a year.
Image courtesy Ceyhan Molla
Are cash flow problems impacting your company’s ability to grow? Stop waiting 45 or 60 days for payments! MP Star Financial can help you get a better handle on your company’s cash flow management. Call for more information. (800) 833-3765, extension 150.