Small Business Marketing – Opportunities

In the third of this four-part series, we will consider another of the most important considerations for analysis of the marketing efforts of a small business. A small business’ opportunities are the third part of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, and reveal where the business has future growth and development chances. Opportunities can take many different forms, and should be examined and periodically reviewed to notice any changes, as they may happen suddenly, then disappear again just as quickly. Business opportunities can include some or all of the following:

  • Emerging trends which require your products and services
  • New technologies which increase demand for your product or service
  • Favorable changes to customer characteristics (demographics, psychographics, etc.)
  • Changes in customer tastes, preferences, or values
  • Poor competitor performance leading to dissatisfied customers ready for a change
  • Newly unsatisfied customer needs
  • Problems or gaps in existing offerings (creating opportunities for follow-up sales, cross sales, and up sales)
  • Completely new desires on the part of customers
  • Discovering new uses for old products and services which satisfy other market segments
  • New or expanded product and service offerings for your firm
  • New or expanded product and service offerings for other firms which complement your offerings
  • Changes which make substitute goods or services less desirable
  • Additional applications of recent research and development activities
  • Changes to current laws, regulations, or rules which allow opportunities which had been restricted
  • Beneficial changes to a supplier’s terms and conditions, or new suppliers becoming available
  • Beneficial tax changes or incentives for business development
  • Favorable side effects which are realized from using your product or service
  • Access to a greater supply of human capital with industry experience, fresh perspectives, or both
  • Less competition, as some competitors leave the market or go out of business
  • Decreased cost of raw materials used in making your product or providing your service

Put simply, the more of the above patterns that are present, the greater the amount of opportunity that exists in the market which can be utilized to start a new venture, or continue an existing operation. Even when there are fewer opportunities to make use of, highly successful businesses can still be established, but the amount of skill required to do so is significantly greater. Generally, the businesses which make the best use of their opportunities in a rapid, efficient, and effective manner are best positioned for success in the future.

Copyright 2010, by Marc Mays

Business Development Strategy – Next Years Planning

I’m amazed at how each year slips by just a little more quickly.

Only a few weeks ago I was running the San Juan River in Utah – blazing sunshine and ninety degrees in the shade. Now it’s Fall already. And hey, I live in Southern California – in some places it’s almost winter. Friends of mine back East are talking about 30 degree temperatures – or colder. Even snow flurries.

Blink – and it will be November, then Thanksgiving, and right its heels – New Year’s. All of which is great if you love to ski, or snowshoe…

Which brings me to every businessperson’s favorite indoor sport – planning.

Each year around this time I urge clients to dust off last year’s business plan and compare it to what is really going on. Because many people – believe it or not – forget what they committed to for the year. Oh – they know their sales and profit projections – but most people don’t pay close enough attention to the other issues. Things like market development, new customer growth, distributor relationships, customer services improvements, even new products: all the things that make it possible for a businesses to grow and prosper year after year.

If you haven’t done so recently, now is a great time to review this year’s results, and plan for the coming year. Take a look at how you are doing compared to how you hoped you would do. It doesn’t matter what month you are in – just compare your results to date to this month last year. And if you’ve already built next year’s plan, you may want to consider it in a new light.

The typical approach to planning goes like this:

Start by setting a goal for next year’s sales growth.

This figure is often arrived at by multiplying last year’s results by some acceptable factor. In business school they taught us to use 10% if we didn’t have a better idea. This ten percent shows up again and again – I think it has something to do with having ten fingers. Standards vary from industry to industry – ranging from 5% to 25%. But in today’s economy, many people will consider it a win if they just remain even with where they were last year.

Next, add solutions to a few key problems you’ve been meaning to address. Follow this by some enhancements to your product line – and there you have it – instant plan!

Those of you who’ve read my book know that I encourage people to think differently.

Here’s a process I’ve used with all kinds of clients; it has led to some truly inspiring – and profitable – results:

Step 1

What do you – in your heart of hearts – want to accomplish this coming year? The key words here are “want to do.” Not what do you think will happen, not what will the market let you do, but what do you want to do.

When you answer this question, it does help to think about things like money – revenue, profits, cash-flow (as if anyone wouldn’t) – but also consider other non-monetary details as well.

Think about what new products or services you’d like to introduce, what markets you’d like to branch into, how you’d like to improve your relations with customers, how many new distributors you’d like to add, how you will make thing better for your employees, partners, even your community, and of course, what lifestyle and “work- style” changes you’d like for yourself.

For each of the targets and goals you are about to set – why do you want to set these targets. Make sure your reasons strongly support you.

Step 2

Learn what you can from whatever has happened over this past year. This is something many of us simply don’t do.

For example, make this year the year you act on the knowledge that it takes three months to train a new distributor, not the four weeks you generally plan for. You’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs repeat variations on the same mistakes over and over again.

Deliberately capturing the lessons of the past year, and thinking about how to use that new knowledge can provide major opportunities to boost profits.

Step 3

Set targets which will inspire you and your team and get out of bed every morning (even when it’s snowing.)

Instead of using that 10% multiplier – or 25% or whatever – come up with growth numbers that you believe in and which will make it all worthwhile. Say you are committed to 35% growth. But you’ve never had more than 15%. Well how are you going to do that? What would it take? Is it possible? If you believe it is, but you don’t know how yet, don’t worry. You’ll tackle that in a minute.

Step 4

Now is the time to review changes in your market.

Are there new factors – changes in customer buying behavior, shifts in the demographics, new issues in your industry and fresh competitor activity? Consider how these changes will make it easier or harder to achieve your bold targets.

Do any of these changes cause you to rethink the targets you’ve set? If so, go back and make adjustments you feel are necessary.

If you’d like a list of the kinds of questions I ask businesses, send an email to [email protected].

Step 5

Figure out how to reach the targets in Step 3.

How can you achieve the targets you just set? Do you know how? Will that plan work? You may have to work backwards using the Merlin Method. (For those of you who don’t know, Merlin was a wizard who was born old and lived his life getting younger. What he called seeing the future was really just looking into his own past.) So use this idea to create action plans.

This is the method I use successfully with my consulting clients to transform their businesses. I’ll give you a quick overview:

Visualize those bold targets as already met. Looking back from the future to the present, ask what was the final step or milestone you achieved before completing the goal? And what was the step before that? And before that? All the way to the present day. Check for reasonableness.

That’s your action plan.

Believe me, this works! Do this for each of your targets and goals, then execute that plan, and you can almost guarantee a breakthrough year.

In a future article, I’ll write more about the critical success factors you need to review.

Best regards,

Small and Medium Sized Businesses – Developing Your Market Intelligence

Nearly every industry is signifcantly more competitive today that it was only a few years ago. Many companies focus on doing their thing a little bit faster or better than they did last year. But in today’s hyper-competitive environment that may not always be enough. We believe that there are three pillars of Business Intelligence that are given short shrift by many companies, and by ignoring these options, they put their company’s future in peril. The three pillars of Market Intelligence are Competitive Intelligence, Secondary Market Intelligence (syndicated or research that can be found or purchased on an given industry) and Primary Market Research – which is conducting research that is specifically designed to answer the questions that your business is grappling with – and that your competitors should never see (because it’s proprietary information).

COMPETITOR ASSESSMENT

It’s important to do a basic SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) on each of your key competitors to understand their positions in the market relative to that of your own company (financial position, apparent growth directions, likely profit margins and the threats that their business is facing). There are companies that specialize in gathering competitive information, and it’s pretty common to spend a couple of months and several thousand dollars to get a report on a number of key competitors. However, because the number of competitors is often very small, it’s often possible to do some gumshoeing on your own. When does your competitor open for business, when do they close, how many customers do they get in the morning, afternoon an evening, and how much does it look like they’re buying? Go in and ask them about their best selling product, buy one and see what they’ve got. You can also do a lot of this research via the web, or by the phone. Look at the city records to see who owns the land, have a realtor friend estimate what the rent would be like on that size building in that part of town. Look at the equipment they have, and the stock that that they carry, count the number of employees. You can probably do a pretty good job of estimating their revenue and even projecting their profit. It’s a good businessperson who has an idea of how their business stacks up.

SECONDARY MARKET RESEARCH

These are the companies that make their money by keeping tabs on the industry overall and try to understand which major competitors are doing well and which are in bad shape. Many can approximate market shares by talking to companies that provide raw goods or by talking to the channels that these companies sell through. Some of these analysts will estimate whether the overall business is growing or shrinking and are brave enough to project these numbers out for several years. The types of companies that track these industries include International Data Corporation, Dataquest, and don’t forget industry groups. Many of these reports are combined at one wonderful website that can help you quickly find reports on every industry under the sun – Market Research. This is probably the fastest place to find quality information on your industry overall, although it’s not free, unfortunately.

PRIMARY MARKET RESARCH

Once you know about your industry, you may decide that you’d like to know more about the specific products or services that you’re developing. Or maybe you just want to find out what kinds of customers are purchasing your products, how happy they are with them, or what their likelihood is of buying another product from you in the future. That’s where Primary Market Research comes in. Primary research entails a couple of dozen different methods of getting customers feedback, depending on what access they have to technology, where they are located in the world, the sensitivity of the topic and whether you think that group synergy would get you a better answer than you would by speaking to a customer one at a time. There are also a few unique methods to probe on other areas, for example there is “lost customer” research, which finds customers that purchased another company’s products and then probing on why they didn’t go with your products.

Anyway there are a number of ways to get at most any type of business issue that you have. Together these techniques can help a savvy business manager to ensure that they keep a finger on the puse of the market in which they operate – and thereby keeping their positiion in that market safer!

How to Maximize Growth and Monetary Profits For a Home Based Business

Proactive measures and concentrated efforts are necessary to achieve business growth. Efficient marketing campaigns can help profitability of a home based business. Management of available resources and regular customer studies can boost viability of a business model.

Constant Evaluation and Accountability

Analysis and review of sales figures must be undertaken to gauge the health of the business model. Expense details have to be tabulated and aligned with set cost limits.

Four areas of a business model can be worked upon to push up growth. Expenses must be limited so that they do not eat up into the anticipated profits.

The value of a product and service must be accurately determined to work on marketing plans and price issues. Resources that can be utilized at lower prices without compromise on quality can be employed to cut costs. Futile expenses must be avoided to push up profit margins.

Sales review can determine customer base and mode of expansion plans. Factors like product demand, target customer group and brand management have to be thoroughly considered.

Creative Solutions for Sustained Growth

Innovative marketing strategies can be initiated online and at local spots in order to reach a wider audience. Community events and festivities have high advertising potential for home based business ideas. This can increase profit margins from greater sales through word of mouth promotions.

Regular advertisement and marketing campaigns are necessary to reach out to the customers. Customer surveys and sale studies can help modulation of advertising methods to achieve personal connection with users of the product.

Creative product solutions can enable business ideas to thrive even in the difficult conditions. Discount packages and free service periods are some of them. Constant personal review of quality can work towards the long term growth. Free sample of products and service experience offers can bring in slow and constant revenues.

Personality Traits and Leadership Qualities

Failure and learning experiences help develop business strategies that maximize growth. Constructive criticism and customer feedback go a long way to propel business opportunities.

Business development occurs even in the uncomfortable situations and difficult market conditions. Areas of trouble must be seen as the windows of opportunity. Leadership qualities like willingness to take responsibility and a never say die spirit can help to tide over poor economic scenarios.

Hard work coupled with ability to finish the projects on time enriches client and customer relationships. Smart decisions must be made with price quotes for business viability.

The bond of trust which is created through the product or service with clients and dealers must be upheld. The ability to foresee and plan for the future with sustained efforts improves the business model practiced.

Organizational skills like making plans, committing resources to a project and supervisory actions are necessary for the development of a home based business.

Darrell Lischka