Managing a Startup Business

If you can’t find a way, then make a way!

Starting a business, any business is a brave step. But how do you manage a start-up business as well as find customers or put in place a customer acquisition strategy on tight or even zero budgets. Working with early stage and start-up companies I know first-hand how limited resources can be. The tendency for many small businesses is to focus on the product. They add in more and more features or take comfort in a well designed website or just even they talk about strategy rather than putting in place a plan to find and sell to customers so the business can getting on track to achieving  business success AKA revenue generation. The below list is some actionable business tactics to get your small business sales pipeline moving and put you on the track to success.

business-startup

Know your Target market – don’t try to sell to everyone

Product to marketing fit is critical to any business success however a business start-up should never try to be a great product to satisfy all buyers’ needs, this will simply not work as no one product will be for everyone. So step 1 is to try to focus in on one customer target group. It will make the business look more focused, knowledgeable, and professional plus it allows the business to channel its efforts into making one target group happy. The key now is to do a customer targeting exercise (figuring out who your customers are and what they want). I am not saying this is easy, especially if your business is new or you only have 1 or 2 beta customers. Brainstorm on what set of buyers or people who might need your product now by matching it back to what problem your product solves, this is sometimes called your USP- unique selling point or Value Wedge. Also check if it is a fluid market (low hanging fruit to be gathered) by doing some Google searches on related keywords. Balance the fact that you don’t want to define your target market so small or so tightly that it’s something people won’t search for. Think in terms of keywords, search terms or existing topics being discussed on forums or industry buzz.

One Swallow does not make a summer

The lesson here is stay focused on executing the business model and don’t get distracted. A good example of this is a company in the SaaS space I work with, received  a phone call from a big company about doing a demo of their product at their offices which would include a customization element. Even though the meeting went ahead, it came to nothing because my client company was not big enough nor could afford to serve companies in the non-SaaS way. They simply were not big enough to fulfil all the product amendments for this one customer or have a dedicated team to work on the project at the stage where they were trying to find the best product to market fit. This distracted the team for over 6 weeks when they could have been doing more productive lead nurturing work.

business-planning

Make a plan

A business plan will at the very least serve as a guide or a roadmap along the way. Too many small businesses talk about being agile or nimble. That is a process or a culture; it is not a business model. What this can often mean is that their limited resources are waiting to respond to the next challenge thrown before them. I am not suggesting that this is wrong as sometimes it is necessary but not all the time so try to build a business plan. The goal is to develop a sound business strategy that provides a reference framework to keep the business on track to grow by building its awareness, developing brand consideration, attracting new customers and closing sales deals.

Tip: Use this Free Business Tools to focus on your business plan to success, time is precious, do not waste it.

Develop a clear brand for your business

A branding is not just for large corporations; from tiny acorns big trees grow! This does not mean spending vast sums on branding but rather it reflects your mission, values and what your product stands for. The major action here is to determine the core attributes of your brand and promote this .Always strive to present your company in the same way, carve out an awareness level on what your brand represents (product innovation, cost leadership, service leadership ) so that it contributes to the overall business in a cost effective way.

Publish great articles

The old adage about content is king is true. Along with being a product or service company also think of your business as a content publishing house. Articles get search traffic via targeted keywords (SEO) but just as important it positions your brand and business as thought leaders. But you have to stand out from the crowd to get attention. Articles need keyword optimised titles PLUS great content, make them factual or research based to further boost readership. No point in publishing articles as a box ticking exercise, make sure the articles you publish are the best so people want to read or download them or don’t bother. Blunt but true.

A few tips on great content angles:

  • Be highly creative or controversial
  • Be the most knowledgeable
  • Have the most research
  • Write strange articles on your industry

Be Social Media Aware.

As a start-up you probably will read loads on inbound marketing, social media or social selling. Being social media aware is more than a few twitter posts or Facebook likes. Every business needs to have a presence and visibility on a variety of Social Media platforms. Create a social media plan (based on article sharing) and then schedule your social media activities so that you build relationships with social influencers, potential prospects, customers and the public. Learn the art of social selling – share to receive.

Keep it lean and mean – know which plates to spin

Like most start-ups you have a lean team so make sure you know what everyone is doing. Who is driving customer acquisition, marketing and sales? Revert back to your plan and prioritise the key initiatives (revenue and product) including major tasks such as content creation, social media interaction and social selling. Time management and knowing which plates to spin can sometimes be complicated for a small business as they dash around from pillar to post. Find and use the right tools, free business tools like Zoho or Trello should save you time or tears. Finally from me to you, a message of sincere best wishes in your business venture. Happy hunting!

Sales Strategy

To have an effective sales strategy a business needs to consider its products, its market and how the sales effort will be directed to ensure it captures profitable growth selling to customers. Sales strategy is a business decision on (1) who the sales teams are going to sell to (2) what are they going to sell them  and (3) how are they going to sell to them?

business-game

Sales strategies ensures market and customer coverage with plans that give the best possible opportunity to win business. In more detail, a sales strategy defines  the customer segments it wants to target(verticals, industries, geographical), the business value propositions for each segment (product, pricing, distribution), how the sales force will be structured (inbound, field, deal value) and the selling processes.

Today’s business is more about “Smarketing” than sales and marketing. Effective business strategy brings marketing and sales together to drive traffic, generate leads, build awareness and improve consideration levels so more customers buy. In a nutshell a good sales strategy will help a business identify and take advantage of the best opportunities available.

Sales strategy Tips.

Business planning

The sales strategy must be based on the business and marketing plans. Outline in as much detail as possible – how will the sales team deliver marketing objectives, plan to target market segments and how will they support marketing activities, such as content marketing or promotional events. Next identify the key aims of the strategy – sell more to the same? Is it about market penetration or market development? Also which target markets you are aiming for and the time, money and resources needed.

Understand the market and find out more about your existing customers or target customer profile. What are their needs, what problems need solving, what products they consider and what they expect from a product or supplier?  Research when, where, how and why the existing customer base buys.  In a B2B sales environment identify who Influences buying decisions both inside the company and on social networks or industry forums. Monitor key trends in the market and social media, trends like market changes and the activities of competitors.  Identify what will be the key drivers for the business that the market will buy.

Pay attention to the cost of customer acquisition and selling costs. List existing customers in order of profitability then create a list of existing, potential and major customers. Always include the total cost of selling to each one by sales channel. Identify the metrics or sales KPI’s that will enable the business to understand what a profitable customer looks like. Now use these profiles to target similar companies. So the sales strategy plan should now be in line with the marketing strategy and the planning should have costs associated to the sales efforts.

Target customers

Business growth depends on acquiring new, profitable business with different customers. Plan how you will approach every new customer. Maybe to win the business of a key customer, you may offer acquisition pricing, creating a loss-leader or maybe giving the product on a trial basis. Make sure you have a plan to move prices and margins back up to a profitable level, or else live with reduced margins from these customers.

For existing businesses develop more business with existing customers. Plan out what you will do to get existing customers buy more and buy different products (‘up-’ and ‘cross-selling’). Plan how to keep retain customers and build relationships. A sales strategy should include a mix of customers, to help safeguard sales revenue. Do not rely too much on one customer, and be aware of potential customer finance problems.

Sales plans should include a balance between time spent developing new business and that spent on existing customers. Forecast and manage seasonal sales or sales cycles.

Reaching the customer

Now that customer target selection has been set, you need to decide which sales channels will be most effective in selling to which customers. Do you sell direct or through channels? Map out the costs of each channel against the benefits it would bring.

Most businesses have a direct sales strategy. Direct sales methods include web, e-commerce, selling face-to-face, direct mail, social selling and telesales. Selling face-to-face is the most expensive sales method, and works well for enterprise high-value sales with a longer sales cycle.

Also, never rule out joining forces with other businesses to boost your sales effort.  For example, related, but non-competing, companies might share customer information. In reaching target customers marketing needs to support the sales channels by communicating with the audience to create awareness and build up the consideration level within buyers for your product. Marketing strategy is about influencing how customers would prefer to hear about, and buy, your products or services

Sales plans

Together with your sales managers and team(s), prepare the sales forecast. Sales forecasting is a detailed breakdown of the sales to be achieved each month, by customer and by product .Base forecasts on previous sales levels or if a new business base on the business plan. Take into account information about customers’ buying habits, sales cycle and other factors such as pricing and marketing activities. Plot the likelihood of achieving sales, using a percentage figure, and set out timescales when you expect to close them. Agree how much traffic, enquiries and leads are needed to achieve the forecasted sales growth. Divide out how many leads should come from new and existing customers.

Sales planning should identify customers by name where possible but always the number you expect to sell to. Define the number of sales you expect from sales KPI’s such as meetings, calls or other contacts (your sales ‘conversion’ rate). Determine the frequency and levels of sales activity needed to achieve targets. For example, allocate the amount of time to be spent on each account. Remember to include the whole range of activities needed to complete a sale. Decide how many sales people you need to achieve your sales targets, and allocate territories or accounts. Plan sales costs in proportion to the sales or profits you expect to make.

sales-and-business

Prepare the annual sales budget. This is a summary of the yearly sales forecast and acts as a benchmark to compare updated forecasts during the year. Prepare worst case, likely case and best case versions of the budget, and plan what you will do in each case. Revise your sales forecasts monthly, quarterly or annually, using past performance as the guide. Compare sales closed and the sales pipeline with the sales budget. If there is a significant difference between the two figures, find out why. Sales leadership is about adjusting to new challenges, planning new sales initiatives and knowing when to adjust sales expenditure.

Don’t underestimate the sales cycles. The total amount of time taken to complete a sale or acquire a new customer can have a critical impact on a business’s cash flow. If you have a market development strategy, new product or service, it will take longer to make sales. Work with customers’ decision-making habits. Plan out sales drives and product launches in detail. Align sales to the other business activities. An example is not to forecast sales that the software development team cannot deliver. Plan the sales campaigns and social selling to support the marketing strategy (new product launches or new whitepaper). When the sales strategy has been defined, a business may need to adjust the marketing plan as the sales team could have identified a new customer group to target.

Selling resources

There is now a range of sales tools available to a business of any size that will increase efficiency. A CRM or sales forecasting tool is essential to manage information on customers. Consider what resources could make your sales people more productive (example: premium LinkedIn account, Pipedrive, Trello, Zoho, and Salesforce). Also plan to provide appropriate admin support to allow sales people more time to focus on selling. Ensure sales people have access to documents like content marketing pieces, research papers, white papers, industry stats and market research. Use an on-line sales report tool (like Pipedrive) to record relevant information for each customer contact.

Inform and support the sales team. Have regular sessions to make sure sales people understand the business mission, what sets the product or service apart and train them to communicate this to customers. Understand just what value your product or service will bring to the customer’s business; this is the value proposition. Give sales people key information about pricing, profit margins, negotiable areas and product roadmaps. Demand that sales people record their sales activities and produce weekly reports. The sales pipeline by sales person should be scored for each customer deal, reflecting the potential value of sales and the percentage likelihood of conversion. Train the sales people regularly to improve their product and market knowledge as well as selling skills. Monitor and drive progress in supportive, weekly one-to-one meetings to review progress.

Measuring performance

Cost of sale analysis. Review and quantify the time and money spent on different customers. Focus on profitability, margin or deal size before volume of sales. Dig into the win/loss ratio, cost per lead, lead to conversion and cost per customer sale. Analyse which customer segments, sales people and channels are most productive, and the reason why. Monitor the returns on sales costs. Separate out sales force and sales support costs. Analyse conversion rates monthly, using the sales team’s pipeline, forecast and weekly activity reports. Work out how many sales have been made, the cost of customer acquisition and calculate the average value. Measure the data between leads, visits, proposals and deals closed.  This goes for both new and existing customers. Examine each stage in the selling process to find out where customers are falling out of the sales funnel.

Identify problems in the sales process or funnel and find out what has caused them. Do you have low sales into new accounts because of long lead times or the value proposition needs tuning. Identify dead deals or dormant accounts and follow them up. Always remember that selling to an existing customer is far easier and cheaper than winning new ones.

strategy-plan

At the end of the sales and business strategy planning process, a business will have when combined with deep customer insights and needs plus the buying processes will have identified growth channels. Tailor the sales strategy to the market opportunity will ensure sales leadership make winning decisions about where to allocate sales and marketing resources, how to structure the sales force, and how to choose the best sales process that will drive results on a constant basis for the business.

Business Strategy in a Digital Marketing World

The future of business is digital, so when business leaders start to formulate a business strategy they need to understand that customers, products, business operations and competitors are now digital. Is business strategy being replaced with digital strategy? And do companies have the sales and marketing skills to compete in a digital marketing world?

A business strategy of viewing digital channels or methods as tactics is no longer valid. Instead businesses should see their company as an online ecosystem that connects digital resources both internally and externally to customers in order to compete. To stay competitive a business must harness digital technologies and channels, not just to deliver sales or superior customer experience but to drive operational efficiencies across all aspects of the business.

digital-world

One big question facing business leaders today is “Is our business constructed to thrive in the digital marketplace?

Digital disruption may be the only possibility for future business success as the barriers to market entry are being blown wide open. Competitors both large and small are rushing in grab a share of the market, so every business has to have a strategy in the digital marketing landscape. Bye now, most businesses know that digital is changing the way we do business. Every business must evolve and have a digital strategy that can take advantage of new sales and marketing platforms, data tools, and digital technologies that can get a business closer to customers.

The adoption of digital channels by the markets means a business must change and ensure that agile adaptation can be delivered in all levels of the company, both strategic and tactical. A business strategy for a digital marketing world may be the only option for some companies to survive and move towards a profitable future.

The market is pulling these business changes as the markets or countries with knowledgeable populations, high standards of living and education are demanding companies face up to the challenges in the digital landscape for communication and commerce. The reality is that digital advancement and the associated challenges will accelerate rapidly in the few years. Business leaders must grasp the straw and realise that innovation, flexibility, and speed of execution will be core to thriving in a digital marketing powered world.

Regardless of B2B or B2C, buyers are now highly knowledgeable, tech savvy, and the Internet and social media is their go to source for information. Today, people communicate differently, buy through different channels and expect a different flavour of products and customer support. The result is digital is not an add-on but is a mind-set, a lifestyle, a way of doing business.

Here are some suggested digital strategy priorities.

Integrated digital strategy across the business

While business leaders see that digital is having a strong impact in the area of sales and marketing they should also review customer service, finance, supply chain and human resources. While most companies start the digital journey by adding-on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) they do not integrate these social tools into an integrated business strategy. While the focus on near term activities such as lead generation are positive, to fully maximise the customer experience and operational efficiencies that can contribute to a competitive advantage companies need to expand out the digital strategy to all departments.

Business model evolution

The digital channels have changed customer interactions and expectations, impacted on channels of communication and delivery has resulted in business reviewing their business models. Forward thinking companies see digital transformation as integral to their evolution. Business model evolution is used to innovate and respond to changing consumer preferences including introducing new business models, services and product offerings to drive profits

Develop partnerships

IP, technology lead and more traditional companies can benefit from developing partnerships with outsourced sales, channel partners etc.in order to compete with companies that have grown up in the digital landscape. For the companies that do not have the skill-sets in sales, marketing or social selling, nor the capacity to adopt a digital strategy, it could be more efficient and cost-effective to partner with a digital enabler in their market space or outsource it internationally.  Outsourcing a requirement such as sales via partnerships could speed up the digital strategy while a business is able to harness a partner’s strength while addressing the market challenges.

Focus on the customer experience

The digital channels have seen the rise of faster communication, social news and user generated feedback content. The ability of one to many communication platforms has meant the customer experience is now a critical element for a company to gain a competitive advantage. Relevant in both B2B and B2C companies, the focus in the marketing strategy to a customer approach for content marketing, information dispersal and updates is critical. Companies should strive to deliver excellence across all its customer touch points. A digital marketing strategy should consider what new and innovative services would enhance the customer experience.

Social media engagement

Social media or social selling driven customer engagement can be the disruption agent to drive a business forward. Digital marketing is not just a series of social media tools. While social media tools are a great vehicle to drive brand engagement, companies need to accept “business as usual” is over. The future buyers for products and services live in the digital space, and so will their suppliers. Social media engagement is part of the digital marketing strategy involving content, access channels, audience interaction and ability to influence remotely.

Digital distribution channel

Digital distribution channels need to be explored, defined and redefined as the “4P’s” of marketing are being rewritten. Can a business’s product be delivered or accessed in another way or format?  Digital distribution and ease of customer use may be directly related back to the digital acceptance of the company’s senior team and the company’s ability to execute the digital landscape as a strategic business priority to give it some competitive advantage. Across all regions and market segments of the world, digital disruption to distribution channels is here now. The growing influence of the “Internet Always” population and the impact of digital technologies on the way we conduct business requires business to rethink strategy.

Every business whether start-up or large corporate needs to have a business strategy for a digital marketing world which means to start with acknowledging the changes and then respond accordingly. Remember this phrase “When technology and society change faster than businesses are able to adapt, then the result is extinction” – Karl-Heinz Land.

Business Strategy Template

Download this business strategy template guide to assist in business planning for a start-up business or implementing a business strategy.  A business strategy is a template for business success.

Download here: Business Strategy for Growth

business planning

The success of a business strategy depends on the resources (financial, people, time) available to the business.

5 Step Planning Process

  • Imagine – what products or services
  • Dissect – data and customer feedback
  • Expand – market research and tasks
  • Analyse – results, information, investment
  • Sell – customer acquisition, marketing, sales

Business Plan Template

Download these free business plan templates to help you formulate a business plan for your business.

business-planning

image with business planning options

Business Plan Template

Business Plan for a Startup Business

 

Sales Strategy Plan

A sales strategy is the process of matching the business purpose or mission with a sales plan, then putting in place goals, metrics and sales tactics. The sales strategy will also map out courses of action and allocating resources to achieve the selected goals and tactics.

sales-strategy

A sales strategy is really about answering the one critical question “What is the best most viable method for the business reach paying customers for the product or service? Is it sell to or sell through, direct or indirect?

Before a sales strategy addresses how the sales team will sell or, it must first address how customers are buying. Today customers are seizing the balance of power in the buyer-supplier relationship, more and more aspects of the sales process is being played out online, so companies need to structure the sales plans and resources for this new reality.

  • “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.” (CEB)
  • “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” (SiriusDecisions)

Today’s selling reality.

Potential customers or prospects will have researched a supplier based on digital reach and industry influence before a sales rep ever gets to talk to them

Sales and marketing are now one team, an integrated “Smarketing” team that functions to target and acquire customers.

Understanding customers buying behaviour define the product offerings.

To sell more and win market share a business needs to offer more seamless customer service touch points through lower cost channels

Vanilla flavoured selling will disappear, sales teams need to be specialised, social enabled and multi-channel savvy.

Sales reps have to work at adding value in the sales process rather than just quote features and benefits.

Sales complexity and the sales process needs to be minimised to ensure selling costs are controlled in a tighter margin environment.

The key Sales Strategy Questions.

Asking and answering a series of sales strategy questions will help a business identify and take advantage of the best opportunities to sell better and more often. Also Sales leaders who acknowledge the new selling reality need to know how to answer questions like:

  • Does the business have a market development lead strategy (selling more of same product to same/new customers) or a product development strategy (selling new products to same/new customers)?
  • Who is the business selling to? Does it know which market segments have the best growth rates?
  • What is the most effective means of reaching target customers and what is the cost in taking this route?
  • How does marketing and sales share the workload and collaborate?
  • How does the business equip the sellers (direct, indirect, partners) with the right content, expertise and skills to navigate the customers’ buying journey and then differentiate the business value proposition?
  • Does the business collect and analyse data to forecast which products customers are likely to buy or trends developing?
  • What is the most effective sales and distribution model?

“To compete in today’s customer educated world, companies got to have something different. The product must higher quality, easier to use, more convenient to buy, or a better fit than the competition.”

Sales Strategy Selection.

The sales strategy selection should cover what is the customer sweet spot, what are you offering them, sales deployment for customer coverage based on customer sweet spot, sales and marketing activities, what sales and marketing enables/tools will the business use, how you will manage and track performance against the goals.

  1. The target market. This is the customer selection, customer sweet spots where the sales and marketing focus will be.

Give it some detail. Once the target market has been defined, give it some detail. How big is it, profile of customers, buying preferences then create a hit list. The hit list should be number and data driven, do you have 100 or 1000 or 10,000 prospects on the list.

  1. Reaching the target market. What is the primary reach method or put another way “what is your customer acquisition plan”, is it on-line, social media, cold calling, partners, channel or networking?

Regardless of the method to reach paying customers, reaching the target audience takes “Smarketing”, sales and marketing working together on tactics like content marketing, social selling, industry influence, thought leadership, blogs, and whitepapers, audience reach on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn etc.  Effective sales strategy using Smarketing means a business drives marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales-qualified leads (SQL) into one sales funnel, then measures, monitors and ensures follow up on the leads generated for the business.

A business needs to map out the sales cycle and sales process. This is all about getting the sales team selling. The “Smarketing” effort should have a target of generating leads via inbound marketing, landing pages, request for information, social selling on LinkedIn and other social media sites, cold calling or field visits.

  1. Customer Nurturing. The sales process should be void of any unnecessary complexity or obstacles in customer interaction. The sales process has to include social selling, where the sales team gets engaged with social selling to the prospects. This stage is where prospective buyers are sourcing, digesting and reviewing information and content. A recent report by Act-On showed that 85% of Business-to-Business buyers said it takes three or more pieces of relevant content to help make a decision on progressing with a supplier. So, a business can lead nurture by influencing the buyer to take action by feeding them with relevant content on their terms or personalised preference.

Make sure the sales teams are delivering on what the marketing message promoted. Vanilla feature and benefit selling is gone, train the sales team to be industry experts, build the customer relationship. Don’t expect them to stay with you or use you for other needs if you are not taking the time to build a relationship with them. The sales process does not end with the sale.

  1. Collect and Analyse Data. This is one of the most critical aspects of a successful sales strategy. As a business moves forward with the sales plan it must collect, track and analyse how well the sales tactics, product offerings or pricing is working. Every sales rep to sales leader should be asking these questions:
  • How did it go?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • Did we hit the numbers?

Collecting the data gives the insights as to what works and what does not so a business can tweak the sales process.

So to recap, the Sales Strategy should cover:

Target Customer Profile – Customer Segmentation – Sales /Distribution Model – Sales Process Definition (i.e. Sales Cycle) – Sales Funnel Calculation – Pricing Strategy – Upselling and Cross selling Strategy

The actual Sales Plan Components should include:

Sales Materials – Content Materials – Sales Team – Smarketing, Sales Pipeline – Customer Nurturing and Channelling – Sales Cycle – Closing Techniques – Sales Forecast – Timeline – Budget

The challenge for sales leaders today is to better execute on their sales strategy. Buyers and business even consumers are going through changes in what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it. As buyers change how they buy, vendors need to change how they sell. The way a business sold its products or services is not going to cut it in the future. Sales strategies need to be nimble, social driven and customer lead. Now is the time to revisit and revise the sales strategy.

Business Plan for Growth

Devising a Business Plan and Strategy for Growth

Business plan and implementing a business strategy is more than simply achieving business goals. It inspires people to work hard, makes the team feel part of a purpose; it incites actions and ensures that activities happen. Simply constructed, effectively executed, a business strategy is a template for business success.

  1. Take Time to Think

A business needs strategic thinking before any strategic planning. Maybe the biggest strategic obstacle to any business is if they can out think their competitors.

“If today was the last day of your life, would you do what you are about to do today” Steve Jobs

  1. Ask and Answer Key Business Questions
  • The purpose of the business
  • Strength of the team
  • Current effectiveness
  • Financial resources of the company
  • Target market trends
  • Current market position
  1. Know the Business Why
  • Real planning and growth strategies are founded on “Business Purpose”
  • Vision: where the business is going in the long-term
  • Mission: the business purpose and reason WHY for existing
  • Values: Who and what the business stands for
  1. Business Mission
  • Think about the Business Mission
  • The business mission concentrates on the here and now. A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of any business. It identifies who the company is, what it does, and who it serves.
  1. Why do Business Planning?

A business plan gives a business options, it can Die Quickly, Die slowly, survive or thrive. Doing nothing is not an option; a no business plan is the weakest plan of all.

 business-planning

  1. A business strategy to Thrive
  1. Start with goals – what do I want out of this business?
  2. Create a vision of what the business needs to look like in order to accomplish your goals.
  3. Create a business mission to guide you along the way.
  4. Develop strategies to get you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. Strategies require investments – which mean budgets, resources and timelines.
  1. What is strategic business planning?

Strategic planning is the process of determining the primary business purpose (the “WHY”), putting in place goals and tactics, then adopting courses of action and allocating resources to achieve the selected goals and tactics.

What causes business success?

  • Has history shown us that the No.1 business killer is lack of market?
  • When a great business team meets a stagnant market, market wins. When an average business team meets a great market, market wins. But when a great business team meets a great market, then something really special happens.
  1. Ideal Growth Plan
  • Desirable products or Services
  • Big enough market
  • An economical way to target and serve it.
  • Note: Product quality will not create market size; Steve Jobs learned that lesson with his NeXT business.

business strategy options

  • Market Penetration – selling more of the same things to more of the same customers
  • Market Development – selling more of the same things to different customers
  • Product Development – selling new products or services to the same customers
  • Diversification – selling new products or services to different customers

Market penetration

Market penetration is the name given to a growth strategy where the business focuses on selling existing products into existing markets.

Market penetration seeks to achieve four main objectives:

  • Maintain or increase the market share of current products – this can be achieved by a combination of competitive pricing strategies, advertising, sales promotion and perhaps more resources dedicated to personal selling
  • Secure dominance of growth markets
  • Restructure a mature market by driving out competitors; this would require a much more aggressive promotional campaign, supported by a pricing strategy designed to make the market unattractive for competitors
  • Increase usage by existing customers – for example by introducing loyalty schemes

A market penetration marketing strategy is very much about “business as usual”. The business is focusing on markets and products it knows well. It is likely to have good information on competitors and on customer needs. It is unlikely, therefore, that this strategy will require much investment in new market research.

Market development

Market development is the name given to a growth strategy where the business seeks to sell its existing products into new markets.

There are many possible ways of approaching this strategy, including:

  • New geographical markets; for example exporting the product to a new country
  • New product dimensions or packaging: for example
  • New distribution channels (e.g. moving from selling via retail to selling using e-commerce and mail order)
  • Different pricing policies to attract different customers or create new market segments

Market development is a more risky strategy than market penetration because of the targeting of new markets.

Product development

Product development is the name given to a growth strategy where a business aims to introduce new products into existing markets. This strategy may require the development of new competencies and requires the business to develop modified products which can appeal to existing markets.

A strategy of product development is particularly suitable for a business where the product needs to be differentiated in order to remain competitive.  A successful product development strategy places the marketing emphasis on:

  • Research & development and innovation
  • Detailed insights into customer needs (and how they change)
  • Being first to market

Diversification

Diversification is the name given to the growth strategy where a business markets new products in new markets.

This is an inherently more risk strategy because the business is moving into markets in which it has little or no experience.

For a business to adopt a diversification strategy, therefore, it must have a clear idea about what it expects to gain from the strategy and an honest assessment of the risks.  However, for the right balance between risk and reward, a marketing strategy of diversification can be highly rewarding.

  1. All Business Plans need Resources

Money – to fund cash flow, product, materials and resources

Information – Market and product research, market trends, market size, customer profiling, customer acquisition

People – The team needed to facilitate the growth plan, to execute the plan, to manage the costs

The success of a business strategy depends on the resources available to thee business. A good tip is to follow this 5 Step Planning Process

  • Imagine – what products or services
  • Dissect – data and customer feedback
  • Expand – market research and tasks
  • Analyse – results, information, investment
  • Sell – customer acquisition, marketing, sales

Every business should develop a “strategic hypothesis” and test it out making very small bets. Try to sell the idea to a customer before it’s built, look for a supplier, and ask a mentor or advisor who has some expertise in the new area.

10. People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan

A business plan for growth should be grounded in your Business Purpose, Mission and Core Values, a solid business strategy will help you develop a plan of action and maximise your likelihood of success in achieving your vision.

 

Business Mission- Know why you exist

Why does a business exist? Every business needs a mission and a purpose. We know the overarching purpose of any business is to acquire, develop and maintain customers at a profit however any business must fundamentally know why they exist so the effort, work and emotional investment has a real meaning to all stakeholders.

Is there too little “know why” in business? Businesses with a purpose are usually led by a person with a purpose.

vision-mission

Business vision and business mission should not be confused, business vision is about imagining the future shape of the enterprise, the business mission is about the here and now, it defines the reason the business exists and its purpose. A business mission is about personalising who the company is, what it does, and who it serves.

Writing a business mission statement should be done in consideration with the business vision and values.

  • Vision: where the business is going in the long-term
  • Mission: the business purpose and reason WHY for existing
  • Values: Who and what the business stands for

“The business person who knows How will always have a job, the business person who knows Why will always be boss”

Business mission statements means there is a primary purpose behind the business or organisation. This primary purpose is the why the business exists and about putting the business on the right course for success. The business mission must be in the DNA of the business, in everything the business does, every action the business takes, every product it manufactures, every service it provides, every communication it issues, every transaction it conducts, and how the business conducts itself.

Without a business mission, the business is a ship adrift on a dark ocean, so when the going gets tough, the business has no compass, no reference points, no why does it exists, no purpose. The lack of a business mission will impact business growth, sales and customer focus.

In the business book Purpose, by Nikos Mourkogiannis, It describes four kinds of business purpose, “starting points” that govern what great companies do and how they do it. Each of these purposes represents a kind of “holy grail” as opposed to business goals (usually more financial based), missions or visions, or even a set of values. As Mourkogiannis puts it, “Let others play with ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ and ‘management.’ Purpose is the game of champions.”

According to this theory, true business purpose can be found in: (1)discovery, the challenge of adventure and innovation characterized by dot-com entrepreneurs willing to work 24/7 in search of the new or unknown, (2) excellence, in which high standards are not compromised for short-term performance (as with Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett), (3) altruism, where the primary purpose is to serve (customers, employees, etc.) first and assume that profit will follow (as at Nordstrom), and (4) heroism, typically involving grand plans to change entire industries or even the way we live (Bill Gates and Microsoft).

vision-mission-values

The argument is that only one of these business purposes, if pursued rigorously and successfully, is required for success.

Every business mission is unique and individual to that business and listed below is a typical list it should cover:

  • The purpose and aim of the business (i.e., a definition of what the  company is and does)
  • The products and/or services the business offers
  • What the company aspires to be
  • What features/characteristics distinguish this business from its competitors
  • The businesses values, purpose and visionary goals

Creating a personalised mission statement for a business is not some exercise done in isolation, the mission statement must reflect the business’s core principles, connected to what the business stands for, it must be seen in the profile of the people the business hires and defines the culture the business is working to create. A mission statement binds the people in the company to make an impact on success of the business because everyone in the business understands and lives by the mission.

The primary purpose of why the business exists can be built around why and how the business serves everyone who interacts with it, in whatever way, and for whatever reason, at the very highest level of attention and quality the business can deliver.

A true, living business mission is about the business attributes that will draw customers centred on VALUE and RESULT. The values and results the business will deliver to the market or industry, and through, or as a result of the product or service being offered.

A good starting point on why a business exists is to look at its Values, Vision and Mission.

Values
Business or Organisation values identify the principles and ethics by which the entity on and its people conduct themselves and their activities.

Vision
Business vision is about the future, an aspirational description of the desired achievements of a business. A business vision asks – ‘Where is the business going?’ or ‘What will the business look like when we get there?’

Mission
As stated earlier, vision focuses on the future; the business mission concentrates on the here and now. A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of any business. It identifies who the organisation is, what it does, and who it serves.
Where a business vision statement is aspirational, a mission statement is more practical. The mission statement should communicate, in an easily understandable manner, what the organisation does and possibly for whom.

Know Your Business “Why”

“Why does my company exist?”

In Peter Drucker’s book, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask about Your Organization, Mr. Drucker writes “A mission cannot be impersonal; it has to have deep meaning, be something you believe in — something you know is right. A fundamental responsibility of leadership is to make sure that everybody knows the mission, understands it and lives it.”

Here are some examples of business mission statements:

Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Apple: Bringing the best personal computing experience to consumers around the world.

Facebook: Give the people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Netflix: To revolutionize the way people watch movies.

The business purpose is the most powerful tool a business can have when it comes to attracting and inspiring the best people or talent, focuses the businesses activities and guiding strategic plans.

A Strategy for Business Success

The strategy for business success are built around three pillars: The Product, The Market and The Team. Each pillar or a combination will most likely determine the success or failure of a business. The core pillar or strategy to focus on is “the product to market fit”. In business schools they say that a business fails for two reasons, lack of funding or lack of strategy execution. Strategy execution should centre on getting the product and market fit right. If the product to market strategy execution by the leadership team is not right, the cost to fund the business for customer acquisition, sales, marketing and product development increase to the point where value cannot be captured.

What causes business success?

In business which strategy pillars contributes the most to success of the enterprise, the team, the product or the market? Or put another way “what is the biggest cause of success”? Also which is the weakest link: a bad team, a weak product, or a bad market?

Let us briefly dig a little deeper into these three pillars. Investors and venture capitalists often say they don’t invest in businesses they invest in people, so the team can be defined as the potential effectiveness of the CEO, co-founders and senior staff relative to the market opportunity. Can the team execute against the market opportunity they have identified, will their effectiveness overcome any lack of experience, and has the team the ability to deal with the “never seen it before” obstacles.

The product can be defined as to what problem is it solving and how impressive is the product to any customer or user who actually uses it: How easy is the product to install/set up and use? How feature rich is it? How fast can the benefits be seen? How transformational is it? How well-crafted is it? How has it been tested and what were the results?

The market is the size, number, predictions and growth rate, of those addressable customers or users for the product.

One other pillar that has to be planned for is “the Cost of Customer Acquisition”; meaning that the cost of acquiring a customer is lower than the revenue or profit that customer will contribute. The rate of customer acquisition has to do with execution and the ability of the team to move enough prospects through the sales funnel. Remember also that product quality will not create market size; Steve Jobs learned that lesson with his NeXT business. What a business needs is a desirable product, a big enough market and an economical way to target it.

business-strategy

So which pillar is the Number.1 building block for business success?

If anyone conducted a survey amongst business people on the question of which is the most important factor in business success, they probably would get three different answers.  Some will say team, some on the product, while others will choose the size of the market.

As written about earlier in this article, if you ask entrepreneurs or VCs which of team, product, or market is most important, many will say team. This is an obvious answer because most of their knowledge and reference points in the beginning is the team as the product may not be built or ready to market plus the market will not have been fully evaluated yet.

Marketing and techies will say the product is the most important factor. The business is product driven, creates great products, then markets buy and use the products. The most valuable companies today are brands such as Apple and Google because they build the best products and without the product there is no company. Right? Try building a great team and having no product, or a great big market and having no product.

This leaves “The market”, where researchers, students of business success and business leaders will tell us that the market is the most important factor in a business success or failure. The argument is that in a big market (fragmented market or badly served by existing solutions), a market with lots of real identifiable customers, then the market needs will pull products out of the business. The market is ripe for change, has an appetite that needs feeding and the market will consume, viable products that will feed it. Maybe the product doesn’t need to be the greatest; it just needs to work. And, the market doesn’t care how good a team the business has, as long as the team can produce those viable products.

Has history shown us that the No.1 business killer is lack of market?

To expand on this a little further, maybe the business killer is not just lack of market, but more importantly a lack of product to market fit. Could the building blocks for a successful business be about being in a sizeable market with a product that can satisfy enough of that market to make profits?  Is being in business about “making things that people want and will pay for”

Take the example of search engines, smartphones, online marketplaces even cars, when there is a growing, sizeable market with an appetite for change. Is this the story of telephone directories morphing to the web as search engines, the evolution of the telephone into people’s pockets, the buying and selling of goods being streamlined online or the transportation of people becoming about journeys.

The flip-side is in a market with little appetite for change, a business can have the best product in the world and super leadership team, and it may not matter, the business is going to fail. A business can spend a heap of money digging for years trying to find customers willing to pay for a product, little reward for a lot of effort and the team eventually will disintegrate, and the business folds.

Has history shown us that the No.1 business success factor is market?

When a great business team meets a stagnant market, market wins. When an average business team meets a great market, market wins. But when a great business team meets a great market, then something really special happens. Now this is not to say a business can’t screw up a great market, it has been done many times, but assuming the team is effective and the product is accepted in the market, a great market will tend to return success for the business and a poor market will tend to return failure to the business. So does Market matter most?

A few things worth remembering

Great products are really, really hard to build. So surround yourself with a great team, as a great team will always beat a mediocre team, given the same market space and product appeal.”

Great products can sometimes create new markets. Product that are so transformative to business or consumers it creates a whole new big market and the business becomes a gorilla. Think Microsoft.

The team needs to know how and on what battle ground it will take on and beat the competition to gain market share.

As a business leader or start-up, what should you do next? Focus on the thing that matters; get the product to market fit right. Product to market fit means getting into a good sizeable market with a product that can satisfy that market and capture value for your business. Do whatever is required to get to product to market fit. Seek out people who can help build your vision, change the product, change the sales model, move to a different market, tell customers you need some customer validation for the product, whatever is required.

Lastly, build a team that can make the product to market fit happen.  A team that can go out and get customers buying the product. Next get product usage growing across a wide range of paying customers.  Customer acquisition and market acceptance of the product means the team has got the product to market fit right which means the business can grow by hiring marketing,product, sales and customer support staff. The strategy for business success will always be the product,the market and the team.  So the business plan and go to market strategy needs to address all three.

Customer Acquisition Strategy

This is a guide to a customer acquisition strategy. For many start-ups and new companies the customer acquisition strategy and financial cost of customer acquisition is a critical factor in business survival and often underestimated in a growing business. The cost of getting customers can be the difference between success and failure no matter how good a business believes its product to be.  I once read that the goal of any business is to acquire, develop and maintain customers at a profit. The develop and maintain aspects are more clear forward but let’s focus on the cost associated with acquiring new customers regardless of the channel.  

business-success

Every business needs to acquire new customers to make products and businesses work. Whether the product is aimed at enterprises paying big money or getting thousands of visitors to a website, how a business gets and the cost of getting customers are the important part.

The Definition of Customer Acquisition Strategy could be defined as “The process of persuading someone to purchase a company’s goods or services”. The cost associated with the customer acquisition process is a critical measure for a business to evaluate in tandem with how much value having each customer brings to the business.

 

Is The Business Ready for Customer Acquisition?

Paper never refuses ink and this saying has been true in many a business or sales plan when it comes to putting a cost on customer acquisition. The cost is not just the marketing or sales cost but the time and resource cost to getting new customers. Has the business planned for the sales cycle, the demos, the travel, product trials or has a website planned for the cost from free signups to paid, customer or product support prior to a customer making a purchase. In other words, can a business survive while potential customers go through the acquisition cycle? While a quote like “move fast and break things” is exciting in a company start-up situation, it may not be the best advice when it comes to customer acquisition. The decision to start spending investor or shareholder money taking a product to market and begin acquiring new customers should be given the weight it deserves. Entrepreneurs or a business might have spent months or years developing the product, so the execution of the customer acquisition strategy has to be thought out very carefully.

Even before you spend a cent on customer acquisition ask the questions “is the product ready for some/many customers”? Are there still bugs that will make the customer interaction with the product flawed? While the saying “done is better than perfect” to avoid feature creep is practical; it would be a mistake to launch a broken product and fall at the first hurdle.

To take a step back into the business plan around customer acquisition strategy, can a business tick the box on questions like; how many sales calls per day do you expect the salesperson to make, do they have a target list of suspects and prospects, how much activity on the website can the servers handle? Do you have the customer support with the knowledge required to respond to the questions from new customers? Does the product value proposition the salesperson has to sell make sense to people outside the company? In other words, have you done customer validation? These are the type of questions that you need to answer before committing money to a launch.

customer-acquisition-strategy

Being Prepared Always Matters

Any customer acquisition process is not straight forward or predictable but especially so for new companies, but that doesn’t mean a plan is not useful or necessary. The customer acquisition process is far from an exact science. There are many things that can (and do) go wrong, however there are some things that any business can do to mitigate risk and improve the chances of successfully acquiring new customers. Be clear with your team what “Cost to Acquire Customers” (CAC) means, is it paying customers, trial customers, engaged prospects or even website registrations.  In the long run it should only mean the cost to acquire a paying customer.

Estimate the Cost of Customer Acquisition

Money for new product or new business launches is hard won. The budget and time for a start-up may be tight, so the business needs to estimate “worst case scenario” the cost to acquire customers (CAC) before beginning the marketing or sales process. A businesses CAC is loosely defined as the cost of ALL the sales and marketing expenses over a given period of time, divided by the number of customers the business plans to acquire in that time frame. While no business can have a firm sense of the CAC until they begin acquiring customers, having an estimate will help the business leaders prepare to act accordingly.

Logic rules, no matter how excited a business is about getting it out there, do not underestimate the impact of starting the customer acquisitions spend before the product is ready. The greatest risk apart from alienating potential customers by launching a flawed product is the money a business can burn through before it realises it got something in the product wrong.  Every business should ask, what is the baseline product I am willing to “show” potential customers and in what target markets?

Thread carefully in the world of social media and PR, spending time and money on journalists to line up business or product coverage of your launch, only to find out that the product is delayed or has issues, can put the business credibility in jeopardy . Journalists lose interest pretty quickly and are never your friends.

Do Realistic CAC calculations

While a business waits for SEO efforts to kick in, a business may utilise Google Ad Words to drive traffic for (a) for lead generation or (b) sales. Take a look at this example. The cost per click works out at 50 cents, the resulting 1000 website visitors converting to a trial rate of 5% (50) at a cost of €500. These 50 trials are then converting to paid customers at the rate of 10% which is 5. So each customer is costing €100 in just lead generation expense excluding sales/product/support costs. For many companies in the B2C space or in the B2B space with software using the web as their main acquisition channel, it can be hard to get the consumer to pay more than €100 for the product or service

Many business underestimate or do not budget for a realistic CAC, if we take the above example the cost of customer acquisition can climb rapidly if leads require a sales person to convert them. This human interaction can be as simple as email follow ups right up to inside sales people doing multiple sales calls and demos. Depending on the trial/registration rate along with sales conversation rates the cost can vary from €400 to over €5,000 per new customer acquired, depending on the level of interaction needed.

Another CAC calculation is to look at the cost of a field sales force. The fully loaded cost of a field sales executive with travel, car, expenses and salary can push the CAC into over €10,000 in enterprise sales.

In trying to address the single most important early-stage question – customer acquisition – it is easy to waste a lot of money in the wrong channels and on the wrong customer acquisition tactics (lots of companies in the graveyard from just this one failure), especially the new companies that went  toe-to-toe with the big guys and can got blown away.

Every business has to execute in a different way

A business will only thrive by marketing and selling smart; acquiring customers in an economic way and in a way that differentiates the business from the crowd. To goal is to build a customer acquisition strategy for paying customers the business does not have to keep paying for every month.

go-to-market-strategy

Create Demand

In larger companies with deeper pockets while the customer acquisition isn’t exactly simple, they do have more resources. The process of customer acquisition is more challenging for newer companies. Established business’s will utilise bigger budgets, have greater brand awareness, and an ever growing community of influencers. Most new businesses will not launch with a partnership with an established brand like Microsoft, Apple or Google where the demand for the product already exists. Instead a new business has to allocate sales resources and money wisely to fight (and a fight it is) to let potential customers or audiences know that you exist, explain to them why they should show interest, and initially even offering to go the extra mile by holding their hand through the sales process.

The focus of everyone in a new business is not only to create the brand but also the demand. Sales and marketing are not two different departments,  the person leading the marketing drive needs control spend on brand marketing and really understand how to execute lead nurturing, content marketing, web demand generation programs and work hard at marketing efforts that require time but not money. Marketing and sales need to work at the hip to generate a steady, growing stream of leads each and every month.”

Acquiring new customers means understanding what makes your customers tick and investing in inbound marketing strategies such as content and quality articles, got onto the forums, become a subject matter expert and invest in search engine optimization (SEO) as a longer term tactic.

The Business Model

Business model viability, in the majority of new companies, will come down to balancing two things:

Cost to Acquire Customers (CAC)

The ability to extract value from customers, or LTV (Lifetime Value of a Customer)

Web based companies have long understood these metrics as they have a much easier easy way to measure them. However there are huge benefits for all businesses to look at these same metrics.

To repeat the message from a few paragraphs back, to calculate the cost to acquire a customer, CAC, a business needs to take the entire cost of sales and marketing over a given period, including salaries and other headcount related expenses, and divide it by the number of customers that a business has acquired in that period.  (In pure web plays where the headcount does not need to scale as customer acquisition scales, it is also very useful to look customer acquisition costs with/without the headcount costs.)

To compute the Lifetime Value of a Customer(LTV), you would look at the margin that you would expect to make from that customer over the lifetime of your relationship. Margin should take into consideration any support, installation, and servicing costs.

Manage Optimism with Reality

To be in business requires huge optimism, and in a belief in how much customers will want to buy your product. Unfortunately this can lead businesses to believe that customers will be kicking down the doors to purchase the product. This has the effect of grossly underestimating the cost it will take to acquire customers. In too many companies there is little or no focus on how much it will cost to acquire customers. Vague strategies along the lines of web marketing, and/or viral growth with no numbers is not what you call business!

 

To finish, a well thought out CAC plan outlines the need to acquire customers through a series of steps like SEO, SEM, PR, Social Media Marketing, direct sales, channel sales, etc. with the cost of each step worked out. This planning brings honesty to the real cost of customer acquisition.

 

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.