Part I of II - As we near the end of another year, midway through fourth quarter in a calendar fiscal year, how are you feeling about your business as a whole? How are you feeling about your business strategy and where it is leading your company? Is it not reaping the results you had hoped? Do you even have a strategy in place or are you taking it day by day hoping what you throw out there works?
If you think a strategy is merely trying various tactical things, it is time to graduate your thinking to what a well thought through strategy can do for your business, your sanity and your satisfaction. In more than 30 years working with entrepreneurs, to follow are the most overlooked sources of devising game-changing, ingenious strategic initiatives for short-term and long-term advantage, preference and business building.
1. Trend Getting: Paying attention to trends in your industry, market place and in everyday business and living are how products are born, industries can be shifted, and savvy businesses can be built. You don't have to be a trend setter to "get" trends that are already occurring, awaiting to be leveraged in a unique or profound way.
2. Profit Sizing: It is amazing how poorly business owners assess their profitability and potential for increased profits. Instead of digging deeper into the many intangible areas of business that directly impact the tangible bottom line, expense cutting or price increases are the solution to improving profits. In addition to assessing your offerings in both tangible and intangible ways, you should also be assessing your target market segments as well as identifying geographic pockets within your market footprint for greater profitability.
3. Coopetition: What is coopetition? It is cooperating with worthy direct or indirect competition through strategic alliances, joint ventures, referrals, acquisition opportunities or expansion/diversification of your customer base. Sounds counterintuitive to join forces with competitors? Note the key word of "worthy" as your first point of consideration. Not all competitors are "dog-eat-dog" mentalities. Those that believe there is plenty of business to go around for viable, quality providers also likely share many of your other values. And if you are of the mentality that all competitors are to be obliterated, that is likely part of your strategic problem, causing a be-all-things focus that is getting you nowhere.
4. Segmented Targeting: Are you viewing your target market as one big pool of business? Strategically-driven companies segment their ideal markets demographically, geographically and psychographically. The most misunderstood of these aspects is the pscyhographics of your markets. To literally get inside the mindset and mentality of the individual buyer and/or companies you are serving and want to serve is the difference between effortlessly attracting versus continuously pursuing business.
5. Mission & Purpose: If someone asks you, "What is the purpose of your business?" and your answer is to merely state your product or service offerings, then you are stuck in the here and now, and most important of all, not understanding the power of purpose in fast-tracking your business growth. Your mission statement should be more than a glorified capabilities statement and should be driven by an ultimate purpose that speaks to the outcome and resulting benefit to your customers. Add a truly impassioned belief in the difference you are making in some profound way, and your strategy is being built with true wings.
If you are making marketing and operational decisions on a day-to-day basis, then you are not being strategic. You are being reactive instead of proactive, which is why your business may be experiencing extreme ups and downs or has become stagnant in its efforts to grow. In next month's column, I am going to get back to basics with the five key sections every business strategy should possess.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.