SBW Blog

When you think about how to improve your business, the purpose is to gain and retain customers - not rocket science! To be competitive you have to plan for this, remaining and improving your competitiveness will be very difficult to achieve without a marketing plan, and this does not have to be a long drawn out exercise.

A marketing plan provides you with direction. It tells you how to develop, and how to improve your business processes that will satisfy customer demands, communicate the benefits of your products and services to your potential and existing customers, and guarantee customer satisfaction.

Marketing must shape the future, as well as delivering today. By sensing the emerging opportunities, market, product and service innovation drive future revenue streams, and brands and relationships make them more certain, you will begin to find out how to improve your business. Your plan should be such that it enables you to encourage people to want to do business with you.

Marketing is Every-one's Job

Everyone in your business is involved one way or another in marketing your products and services. They may not be actively involved in the planning process, or be directly responsible in finding customers , but they will all in some way be in a position to contribute to the success of your business in gaining and retaining customers and maintaining your competitiveness. For this reason, you, and your key staff, should have some understanding of what the process of marketing involves as it applies to your business.

Generate Marketable Products or Services

Do you have products, ideas, concepts, or services that you have screened and tested to ensure they will satisfy customer need and that are potentially profitable? Have you analyzed your products life cycle in order to predict it's sales pattern over a period of time? Do you continue to search for new products and services? If you don't have a durable marketing product, you will not build up and more importantly retain a customer base.

Profile your Competition

How well do you know the other businesses that compete for your customers? Who exactly are the competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? You should gather as much information as you can on their marketing and communication strategies, types of advertising, their products and services, prices, markets and how they take advantage of changes in the industry. Identify any areas in the market that are not filled by your competitor's products and services, and that could be exploited by yours. Remember your competitors will be watching you also!

Analyze Market Opportunities

Market research is essential. Assemble information about your business's current and potential markets, about the users (consumers) of your products and services, and about those areas where your business has the competitive advantage when it comes to introducing and improving and new products and services or entering new markets. This market profile should include your current and future market's size, growth potential, barriers to entry, key players and the existence of particular niches.

If your business is a small to medium business enterprise (SME), research tell us that almost 75 per cent of your customers will come from within a five kilometre radius of your business.

Target your Market

Based on the information you have gathered, and on the skills and resources of your business, you should now be able to select specific target markets. If you are not in the mass-marketing business (i.e. you don't offer your products to everyone out there), then you are in a position to pinpoint those segments of the market at which your products and services should be targeted.

Develop an Appropriate Marketing Mix

Your preliminary research will now enable you to consider the 4P's of marketing. This is the set of controllable variables that all businesses attempt to blend into the right combination to achieve the dominant position in the market place.

The four key factors are:

1. Price

2. Product

3. Promotion

4. Place

In the long run the success you have in addressing these four components will determine your ultimate success in the marketplace. Only objective research will give realistic feedback on customer needs and values.

Develop a Strategy for Publicizing your Product

If you have the products and services people want, and are prepared to pay for,then your next step is to bring these to people's attention. You will need to develop a strategy to address advertising and promotion of the products and services, new product launches, sales campaigns, ans distribution policies.

How can you get value for your advertising dollar? Are there more cost-effective ways to promote your product? Should you be using more that one method? With the exception of new products, look to promote and advertise over the 'lean' periods of the year to supplement otherwise low sales periods.

Review your Performance Regularly

Unless you monitor the progress of your marketing plan, you will run the risk of not finding out until it's too late that the plan is not working. Analyze and review sales results constantly to ensure targets are being achieved along with expectations.

Amend your plan accordingly in the light of your findings and analysis and you will find out how to improve your business!

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A plan gives you a track to run on, your route is well laid out and you can concentrate on your progress and you can map out your future goals and direction.

A plan sets priorities, this can be very important for small business with limited resources and modest budgets. A plan is can be viewed as your stepping stones to cross the river from the present to the future, the path to your vision of what your business will look like in 2, 3 or even 5-years ahead.

With plans for small business, we simply can not afford to do everything, some things have to be postponed, however some other projects are essential and even among these preferred projects not everything can be done at once. One of these essential projects is to develop a business plan! This will be a guide to know what to do first and what's coming next in the grand order of things!

That is why it is so important to have a plan, and to continually check you are on track and to monitor your financial and operational progress! See also Financial Ratios for a great FREE eBook to help you understand the financial management of your business!

Check out the Small Business World Mailing List, great tips information, and FREE downloads to help start and grow your business!

How many times have you been stuck when trying to come up with a budget or forecast for the next period (or next year). Well here is a quick budget template that you might find helpful in developing a quick snap-shot budget.

Below is an example profit and loss report for your business last year:

Budget Template Tool
So let's assume that is how your business finished up last year. Now you need an indication of what to expect from a profit and loss perspective for the next period/year. This is easy to do, all you need to know is what is your target sales or revenue number, once you have this you simply apply the same % to sales to each of the elements of the the new profit and loss.

See the example below on how to apply these percentages and make a quick budget:

Budget Template

 The result of applying these percentages can now be seen below in the snap-shot profit and loss.

Budget Template

So now you have a very quick way to achieve a snap-shot profit and loss for the upcoming business period using this budget template method.

Enjoy!

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Every business needs a 'pulse check' once in a while to ensure the financial ratios are healthy and the business finance and balance sheet are all in order. You need to schedule time weekly or monthly to examine the financial ratios of your business, and to check that you have the necessary financial management controls over your business.

To help you with this Small Business World is giving away a great new e-book called 'Relationships that Show the Health of Your Business'. This book shows you all the financial ratios you should monitor for your business and will provide you with the financial management skills you need to manage your business effectively.

This e-book is updated and completely FREE, Click on the image-link below and grab your copy of "Relationships that Show the Health of Your Business'.

Small Business Financials

Enjoy!

Check out the Small Business World Mailing List, great tips, information, and FREE downloads to help start and grow your business!

Small Business World

 

Where are you now and what is your vision of the future? Planning is the art of visualization. It is the bridge to the future!

It is the ability to take something in your minds eye, and transform it into reality. This process is also a safety net, as it allows you to explore possibilities and adopt or describe them dependent on your ultimate goal, before you commit resources to actualize them. The business plan starts with defining the business vision, mission and value statements.

Vision Statements

People often looked puzzled when they hear they should write a vision and mission statement. What are these and what relevance have they to their business? Vision is big picture activity, broad in scope and short on detail, a statement about where you want your business to be at some point in the future. Often referred to as a desirable state at some future point. The vision is what you are creating and moving towards, it will remain constant, in focus, and so will your values.

Mission Statements

The mission statement should answer the following questions:

1) What business are we in?

2) What will the business do?

3) Who for, and why?

4) What sets this business apart from others?

The mission statement defines your business. It does this in terms of market, product line, geographical areas and distribution channels. It provides the foundation to gather and analyze and formulate strategies. The mission statement is a declaration of how your business purpose, customers, products, services, markets, and philosophy all contribute to the achievement of your vision.

Whereas the vision statement is a succinct statement, the mission statement is necessarily longer to convey the business principles. A business's objectives, strategies, and performance measures should then flow from the vision and mission.

The statement of mission, and the resultant strategies and objectives, look to identify where you want to be, and, in the process help you to determine where you are. The statement gives you important information on how to get there, and tells you when you have arrived. It unifies your efforts and energy, and gives meaning and purpose to all that you do.

It begins with the basic question’ what business are we in?’ It will require some thought. Defining your market too narrowly will preclude you from considering other possibilities. Too broader a definition will mean you lose focus on your core business and objectives, and in the process use precious resources for a small result.

Value Statements

This is a list of the values that you hold in conducting your business. This could be described as a set of non-negotiable minimum standards to which all of your work and dealings must apply.

The values of the business can be demonstrated by statements that:

1) Include a customer focus.

2) Underline the importance of people.

3) Acknowledge the business's responsibility is to the greater community.

Mission and vision statements should be statements that energize employees, customers and suppliers. Some people find the ‘warm and fuzzy’ approach too difficult, because there are no hard and fast rules. Often such values are those of the owner, or they are statements dreamed up to satisfy people’s expectations. However when value statements are incorporated, they can be a strong motivating force.

Values may relate to levels of technical competence or how dealings with clients are conducted, both on a business basis and a personal basis.

By always having an awareness of your values can prevent many of the dilemmas that can arise in business situations.

Values are what keep you on track to achieve your vision, you may need to re-visit them from time to time as a pulse check in order for you to say yes, this is the right thing to do!

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One of the important and challenging areas of managing any business is to ensure what needs to get done ... 'gets done'! ... Easier said than done yes?

Having a task list for the day is a great start. This task list should be usually drawn from the major goals and objectives that you need to achieve. These may be the goals for the business, or simply something urgent that needs to be done today.Time Management Tips

Here are some great time management tips for you to use to increase your productivity!

Keeping Things in Perspective:

It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day day issues or business-as-usual (BAU) as I call it. You come into work with grand plans for achievement of the bigger goals and you start to sift through the papers on your desk or in-tray, or what's on your PC.

All of a sudden you are engrossed in getting things done! But guess what? These BAU items will not drive you towards your own professional (business) or personal goals. After maybe an hour or so of completing these items, you feel like you are getting things done, so you keep going.

Before you know it, its lunchtime or close of business time and all you've done all day is push papers around or surfed the Internet (and handled the odd interruption) looking at websites that have nothing to do with the goals that you wish to achieve.

Not a good example of effective time management!  Sound familiar? STOP ... and think about this!

Remember we all have 86,400 seconds per day (think of this as money) and you should spend this wisely. Calculate what your time is actually worth in terms of dollars (or whatever your currency is) per hour. Then on those days when you know you should have got more done to achieve/move closer to your goals, calculate the value of that unproductive time. This will put things in perspective for you! Using the time management tips on this page can help you achieve more, and move you towards a process of focusing on your priorities.

Here's What You Should Be Doing!

You MUST take the time to plan your day!
Now think about what is best time to plan your day?

For some people they plan the next day at the end of the previous day, for others its the morning of the work day. This is a great start, have a brain dump and write down all the things you need to do that day. You may end up with 10-15 items to do, any more than that some re-scheduling may be required.

The key is not to keep it all in your head, some people say "I don't need a to do list because I carry it around in my head". These are the people that wake up at 3:00am and cannot sleep because they forgot to do something very important that day! Having a to do list therefore creates peace of mind!

A Simple Process to Follow:

When you plan your day, go back over (yesterday or beyond) to check that you do not have any incomplete or missed tasks that need to be done. If so add these to your to do list, do not worry about the order of the to do list at this stage.

Next look at your professional goals, these are the goals (business and career) that are THE most important goals you have!

Remember we are only concentrating on these (and not personal goals) to demonstrate this process. Looking at these goals, are any of them time-framed with a deadline or due date? If so then this gives you some relevance as to in which order they should be completed. By the way all of of your goals should be time-framed, a goal without a due date is just a dream or a wish!

Now your list should be building, again don't worry to much about the size right now as we can we do some clipping here later.

How much of the day should you plan? Some people over-plan, or even plan every hour of the day! This can only end in frustration particularly if you do this a lot. This all depends on your role, if you are a business owner/manage then most of your time should be spent on the bigger picture.

Your staff should know what their roles and responsibilities are as a result of the position description that you gave them when they first started. This should also be re-visited at performance review time (quarterly/yearly) to make sure the objectives set by you for each of your staff are being achieved (or are in the process of being achieved), and of course are still relevant to what they are doing now.

Regular checks and reviews in these areas should also be a task for you to include periodically in your to do list.

Next you must leave time for business as usual (BAU). This involves handling all the day to day stuff, replies to memos, letters, emails, impromptu meetings, touching base with staff (this is called management by wandering around or MBWA).

Finally add you appointments and slot the time frame required for each. These might be scheduled meetings, customer appointments and some personal appointments (dentist etc).

Now look at your list, and do the following;

  • Insert the appointments by time as these are must do's
  • Add any A category tasks that must be done today (monthly report, critical project work etc)
  • Add the tasks from yesterday and beyond that were not completed -  a tip here, if an item (or task) is continually spilling over to the next day, you should question the importance of this item and why it continues to be on the list.
  • Deal with it or ditch it!

Allocate time now to work on the tasks that will move you closer to achievement of the business goals and objectives that you set at the beginning of the year. This may be 2/3 hours per day or longer. These are also A category tasks.

Once you have completed you daily to do this you can then transfer this to whatever diary system you use, paper-based or PC-based (Outlook etc), if you prefer, or you can work directly from your prioritized to do list. Some people prefer to work from a list and have it someplace visible so they can cross-off each completed task.

You will always need to check your diary system so that you can see what is planned and in place already in the future. You will see that some of the time (for tasks and appointments) is already allocated on certain days, so you will need to take this into consideration with your time planning.

When is the best time to plan? As said earlier either and the end of the day for the previous day, or at the start of each day (as in do before your scheduled start time in the morning). And do this in peace and quiet as much as possible, and with all the resources to hand, diary, software open, notes etc.

How much time should it take for you to plan your day? It is up to you, but usually I would think 10-15 minutes is about right, depending on the complexity of the upcoming tasks.

Time Management Strategies

I would suggest that your day is planned/allocated no more than 80%. This then leaves time for BAU or any unexpected crisis. If these do not take too long and you find yourself with more time in the day, then use it wisely and spend more time working on the A category business goals.

Yes there will be days when all this is shot to hell, these things happen, particularly if you are in the service industry! When this happens, roll with the punches, do what is required to fix the problem at hand and apply these principles at the next available opportunity.

Even if you only apply these principles for 50% of the time in your week, at least you will be inching towards achieving what you want to achieve. You will also have a continual focus on what is important, and less important, in the grand scheme of time management. Just get back in the saddle and re-write the steps I have outlined here. Yes it is a discipline, however if you are committed to achieve then this should be your mission!

Also try Time Management Strategies to remember when you are at your best, are you a morning or an afternoon person? Plan your important tasks to be done when you perform best during the day for effective time management!

Now get hold of your time and your life, and spend those 86,400 seconds wisely!

Check out the Small Business World Mailing List, great tips information, and FREE downloads to help start and grow your business!