Tis the Season… for Strategy and Success
Checklists are where it’s at, especially at this time of year. In many cases, it’s ‘the busiest time’, as we scramble to fill a bounty of orders. For smaller businesses, that means all hands on deck to make the most of it. Exhausting, but necessary, to make the books balance. But how many times have you heard people say ‘next time, I’ll start earlier’… ‘I’ll be more organised’…or even ‘next year I’ll start in the summer’?
Sorry to be bah-humbug, but if you’re so busy now, getting business out the door, what’s happening to the business you need to get back in the door once the seasonal boom has slowed?
Why not have it all – a thriving order book throughout the year, and the Christmas rush as a business bonus to round off a good year? There’s nothing like the satisfaction of that exhaustion at the end of the big push, when you know that your prospects are warm, and the orders are ready and waiting for you after your holiday break. That’s a luxury for some, for whom the reality is more like a roller coaster – roll with the business while it’s there, and lie low when trying to drum up more business for the next rush.
So instead of waiting for the next big money spinner, how about you make a few small tweaks to your approach, to make it easier to tell people about your fantastic offering, and easier for your future customers to buy from you?
Let’s call them the Marketing 5 ‘S’s. They are easy to follow and even easier to action. If you find yourself with more questions than answers, then read on to get started on small business success:
Before you start something new, it’s worthwhile reviewing what’s gone before. After any project, or busy run, then take time out for a review session. Preferably with more than just yourself. If you’re self employed, ask a trusted friend to be your board member for the afternoon. Explain what you did and why, and note the key learnings. Measure your performance against the targets you had set (and if you hadn’t set targets, put them firmly on your new Action list). What customer feedback did you receive (and if you didn’t then now’s the time to ask), and what can be learned from it?
And once you’re in the groove for these review sessions, continue with them. Schedule weekly roundups, monthly reviews and annual lookbacks. Make small changes regularly, rather than huge changes that take forever to fulfil.
Then, when it comes to a new project or proposal, you can hit the ground running.
When you don’t know where to start with your marketing, go back to basics – the simpler the better. What did you start all this for and why? Then put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and think about the questions they want answered. If you can’t think of any, then go out and ask them directly – what is it they’re looking for? What need does your product or service meet? What price are they prepared to pay? How often will they consume? How do they like to be reminded? How long will it take to deliver? What do they think of you and your brand anyway? What do they think you do well or could do better?
This isn’t the preserve of big corporations. Everyone needs to think strategically, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Think of strategy as your compass – or your overhead view of your business, where it’s come from and where it’s going – and also where you fit in on that overall map. Also, remember objectives and circumstances can easily change, so you need to zoom in on the map to find alternative routes. wrong, and what do you need to do to fix them?
- Step by step
The temptation is to conquer everything in one fell swoop, but the reality is that if such a project is too big, it will get pushed to one side as everyday business issues jostle for priority. Better to keep it small and simple and at least it will get done. To begin with, a little like the Stocktake above, think of what you do well – that is you personally, your team, and the organisation as a whole. And what difference does that and can that make to your customer’s experience? Then tell them about it! Likewise, think about the things that maybe don’t go so well – what’s going to have to happen to change the negatives into positives? Those are your actions. And think about who will do all this? You alone, or do you have a team you can rely on? This can be an internal staff group, or it may be a trusted external team of associates, who have your success at heart. Be honest with yourself – delegating costs… but so do delays.
So now it’s time to make a plan. In its simplest form, it’s a list of actions necessary to achieve your objectives, within a certain period of time, and with a particular cost allocation. And if you follow the S’s above, it’ll almost self-generate, so it shouldn’t take you that much extra time. But it will pay dividends. Think about the last time you organised something, whether a business-related project, or a private party. When you followed a well thought out list, how much more smoothly did it go, than when you had it all in your head but found yourself running round in circles and ten times more exhausted and frustrated at the end. There’ll be times when it’s busier than normal, so build that consideration into your plan as well – think about what help you can afford to hire in to get you over the extreme busy times so you can keep your operation smooth and success sweet.
All you need to do now is a 6thS – Start!
Happy New Year!