What the hell is a strategy and why will I fail without one?

Have you ever launched a Facebook advertising campaign with no idea if it was money wasted or well spent? If I asked you what are the top 2 objectives you want people to achieve on your website and why and how they will grow your business, could you answer that quickly and confidently? You web designer told you that the SEO was covered when they built the website but you don’t seem to rank anywhere on Google. Do you know why? What Im really asking is, do you know if your marketing efforts are working and even if you are using the right ones for your business? Don’t worry, most business owners don’t know and that’s because they didn’t take the time to put a strategy in place. Strategy Goals, strategies, objectives – what do these words mean to you? What kind of business owner are you? There are 2 kinds of business owners. Those that think these are meaningless terms that people throw around to make them look good and justify their salaries. They’d rather just roll their sleeves up and get on with it. Planning can wait until the business grows. Then there are those that will not start any project without taking the time to research and analyse their current position, how they stack up against the competition and setting objectives and goals to make sure everyone is clear on what success means and what the exact steps are to reach it Who do you think are more successful? As a business owner myself I know how hard it is to take the time and sometimes pain to put your business on hold while you take the time to research your customers, your market and your competition. Plus you need to really take a long, hard think about where the opportunities are how your business can make the most of them and put this into a plan I know how easy it is to let the never ending fear of just making enough revenue to stay afloat blur all reason and force you into continual short term planning, always treading water, never growing. Here are the 2 facts based on many, many conversations with business owners across the whole spectrum and my own experiences
  • If you spend all your time IN the business, not ON the business you’ll never grow to the level you considered a success when you started out
  • The number one, drop everything else until it’s done thing you can do to achieve this is take the time to make a well researched plan
Taking the time to understand your market and making a plan you stick to will change the way you work forever. Here are the main reasons why: The big picture Every time you are about to perform an action in your business, ask yourself ‘why am I doing this…is this action the most important thing I can do right now to help grow my business?’. If the answer is either ‘no’, or more likely ‘I don’t know’, then Im sorry to say that you don’t have the big picture and you are yet again risking putting your time and money into something that you have no idea is going to help or hinder your business. Some examples of how not seeing the big picture leads to wasting your time and money as you go in circles:
  • Spending a fortune on advertising to get traffic to your website when your site is completely fails on every level to convert visitors to customers.
  • Writing amazing content with very little incentive for readers to join your mailing list
  • Posting on social media regularly with no idea if it’s driving sales or not
You get the idea…. Marketing affects every part of your business and you have to take the time to take a step back and see how the pieces of the jigsaw fit together. For every action you take, the result has been considered and you keep adapting your behaviour based on those results. You will need to makes sure you have a reporting system in place that can track how all the parts of your marketing are performing. We don’t work with clients who won’t put this in place as we cannot make good on our promises if we have no idea how our efforts are doing. So take the time to make a plan and understand why you are doing things unless you like continually wasting money and feeling out of control. Are you outperforming your competitors? Lets look at your top 3 competitors (if you can’t name your 3 main competitors, that should already set the alarm bells ringing.) How much do you know about them?
  • What channels do they market on?
  • What’s their rough yearly advertising spend?
  • What’s their product range?
  • If you sign up to their email list, how sophisticated is their email marketing?
  • How often do they run promotions and what was the last one?
We’ve lost count of the amount of business owners who have told us ‘We wish we did but we just don’t have the time?’. The simple answer is find the time or pay someone to find out because if you aren’t keeping a regular view on what your competitors are doing You know your competitors that always make you think ‘How are they able to keep raising the bar like that, I wish we had the time’? Trust us, they know exactly what you’re up to. If you want to win you need to be a leader in your market and to do that you need to know exactly where the opportunities are and where they aren’t. In addition you have to make sure it is absolutely crystal clear EXACTLY what your proposition is ie what is the need you are trying to solve and what is the solution? If your proposition is not differentiated from your competitors why should customers choose you over your competitors, especially if they are more established? And if you feel you’re in a David and Goliath situation where you are up against companies much bigger and more established than you, it’s even more important. Not only to find the way to distinguish yourself but there is always a marketing channel they are not exploiting or doing well on. Plus you being the little guy who is putting all their love and passion into what they do is always a great story to add to your uniqueness. You can’t do this without understanding your market and your competitors are a huge part of this Eliminate stress For so many business owners, this is one of those hard to quantify benefits but it’s such an important one. Here is a dirty little secret…did you know you can run a successful business and feel in control without being stressed? We’re certainly not going to lie here…not in the beginning and not all the time. But that’s the nature of running the show and that will never change. But so many business owners think it’s a given that running business = lifetime of relentless stress. What the vast majority of stress comes down to in this case is not feeling in control. Until you take control of your business you will never break this stress cycle. It’s your decision Think of some of the most successful people you know. Do they seem relaxed and in control? The irony is that at the top level of success people start to have a lot more time to focus on the important things and be more relaxed. That’s because they know that behind them is a concrete plan guiding not only their business but if they’re really on top of their game, also their professional and personal lives. There isn’t the continual fear pervading their every waking hour (in and outside the office) that just another hour of work will get them closer to the goal. What is that goal anyway? We won’t deviate on the subject of productivity here, that’s a whole other post. But you know those people that told you working all the time ultimately makes you more unproductive? They were right! With a great strategy in place it’s all planned already. You know the end goal, you know why it helps your business and you know exactly what you need to do to get there. So all you need to do is complete the actions already agreed to reach your goal and boom, you’re in control of your business again. Are spending those extra hours in the office or working from home now going to get you closer to that goal? No? So spend that time with your family, spend it brainstorming awesome ideas to blow the competition away or training up a virtual assistant to free up even more of your time. You’re allowed to run a business and be happy! Grow your business, don’t just exist. It’s a well trotted out statistic but 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs fail in their business within the first 18 months and lack of planning is one of the biggest factors in that http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericwagner/2013/09/12/five-reasons-8-out-of-10-businesses-fail So, sorry to say the odds are against you from the beginning and you need to make sure you hit the ground running. Many businesses tread water, in the eternal cycle of keeping afloat with the distant goal of one day having enough time and money to start growing the business. See the point on stress above – it’s a very common cycle and only you can break it. It’s sad because it’s so avoidable. What if you had considered how you need keep on a steady growth trajectory BEFORE you launched your business. No more trying things out, no more hiring agencies to do tasks you have no idea will grow the business or not. Wouldn’t that be a massive headache and cause of stress taken care of already? One of the key thing you do in a strategy is set objectives, goals and targets. These are the absolutely crucial building blocks to make sure your actions will provide results and keep you accountable at all times. Without them you have no guide to make sure you are on a straight line to growth and you are dooming yourself to staying on the keeping afloat cycle. For example, let’s say when researching your strategy it is clear that Facebook advertising is a key channel to help you grow. The research would then show the kind of investment you need to make and very specific results you should achieve and the kind of ROI (return on investment) you should be expecting. All your reporting would be set up in advance so you know at any point exactly if your campaign is on track and most importantly, how is it driving your sales In addition all the other parts of your marketing have been considered. So if you are asking users to opt-in to your email list from your Facebook advertising then you already know how this will play out. If your visitors drop out and visit your website, then you know your site is optimised to convert them into customers. Everything easily trackable, all the time. So when it comes to launch this campaign you are fully in control, you know what to do and what to expect. If you don’t reach your expected targets you keep adjusting the campaign until it get you the result you should expect. Because this has all been thought through before, you are using the right channel, in the right way and your business will grow Now think if every other part of your marketing has the same framework behind it. Doesn’t this feel like growth is now something that can be achieved realistically in a calm and collected way? Much better than scrabbling around on different channels with no plan behind them and all the stress and heartache this always entails. No-one said it would be easy, as they say- if it was we’d all be rich. You will have to work hard initially and be willing to invest. But there is no shortcut here and if you want to join the ranks of successful businesses then you HAVE to find a way to make marketing strategy a fundamental of the way you run your business.