It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a business, but this can result in opportunities being missed and common mistakes being repeated over and over again. 66% of businesses surveyed earlier this year, revealed that they either don’t have a business plan or they had not followed it in months*. By failing to create a coherent plan, you can find yourself being overwhelmed and often attempting too much too quickly, which ultimately leads to mixed messages and poor decision making.
A plan will help you to:
- Create a strong brand
- Clarify offerings
- Know your USP
- Get messaging right
- Specify appropriate marketing activities
- Know company and market
I can’t emphasis enough the importance of a plan. It is always a worthwhile exercise as you bring to the fore information that you may have already been aware of but have not actioned/developed/ reacted to – it’s all about taking a closer look!
You know your business better than anybody else so the question of ‘Where are my sales coming from?’ should be easy, but it is worth revisiting from time to time. Things change and you don’t want to be left focusing your efforts in the wrong place.
As part of this you should also identify ‘Who is my ideal customer?’. This isn’t just zeroing on who spends most now, but instead identifying those who you will be able to grow and develop in future, and those who present new opportunities and markets. For example, if you are in the plumbing supplies business, a tradesman who buys pipes and taps from you on a job by job basis, if presented with your full range of product offerings and incentivised may then in future buy all of their tools and supplies from you directly. The next step is to the plan how to reach them.
What have you tried before and what was the outcome?
This is a great way of evaluating your current activities and potentially identifying additional opportunities. But the only way you can realistically answer this is if you are tracking the responses generated by your activities. If you haven’t been doing this then all is not lost but make sure you build it in as part of any future activities. Alongside this is reviewing what has not worked or other elements that are in need of improvement. Just because something seems to be working, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be further improved. There is the opportunity to make activities more targeted and therefore more customer specific. An improvement maybe something as simple as providing customers with more regular product/service updates via social media rather than relying on scheduled newsletters. Improvement need not be costly but they do need to serve a purpose.
As part of your plan you need to include clear direction on how to deliver it, be it using existing resources or by hiring external service, so ask yourself: ‘What help or resources do I need?’
Hand-in-hand with this is reviewing whether some of these activities are a good use of your own time, or could you delegate tasks therefore leaving you free to focus on what you are best at.
Then there is the most important question of: ‘What are my business goals?’
Goals should be SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time bound) and therefore clearly defined. Everybody in the business will have clear direction and purpose; it also has the benefit of making it measurable and accurately assessing success.
Don’t just hope for the best in 2017, start planning and safeguard the success of your business.
* Source: Evolution Complete Business Sales Ltd. research Jan 2016