For want of a nail: Why I’m writing my business plan

Do you hear the beep-beep-beep of a truck backing up? That’s me.

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Image by klepas via Flickr

I’ve been writing for years but never had an official business plan. (Gasp). It’s not like I wake up every day and think “what the hell will I do today?”. I DO have plans. But they are mostly back-of-the-envelope plans, back-of-the-napkin plans, palm-of-my-hand plans (a la Sarah Palin), and seat-of-my-pants plans. And most of my business’ success is a direct result of world’s greatest sales funnel plan — a four-step checklist I do every day that has generated enough of an annual wage to keep me from becoming a hobo.

Things have gone very well in my business with this scattered situational plan approach and the advantage is that I can tweak and modify and adjust and rearrange at will.

But in the fall I was thinking about 2010 and I had a number of projects I was thinking about taking on. Some fit my brand. Others did not. No big deal. But it made me think about my brand. Was it doing what I wanted it to do? Was it going where I wanted it to go? Were there opportunities I was missing? etc.

And that’s when the truck started to back up. Beep-beep-beep-beep…

If I was going to think about these projects, I needed to think about my brand. If I was going to think about my brand, I needed to think about my target market. If I was going to think about my target market, I needed to think about my deliverables.

… and on it went until I was lost in a forest of question marks.

Those question marks multiplied as 2010 arrived and marched on by. I was exploring some joint ventures, I’ve been doing some in-depth studying on different aspects of my business, and I was approached by clients who were outside of the kind of clientele I would normally take on.

I needed to nail down aspects of my business that weren’t nailed down. Not so that I stick with them to the detriment of all else but rather so that I have a framework from which to make better decisions and on which I can build the next phase of my business.

Finally, in a frenzy of tears and swearing (just kidding) I decided to write my damn business plan already. After all, I’d been helping other businesses create their business plans for years. The business plan writing process is certainly not new to me and I have plenty of the legwork done already (like my “cash-machine sales funnel” and Sarah-Palin-inspired palm-written notes).

So it has begun. I’ve set aside time to write one step each week for six weeks (hey, I’ve got to work, too). I’m really looking forward to the process. And shortly you’ll start noticing some of the changes yourself. Don’t worry, nothing ridiculous. I’m not going to change become a network marketer or anything. I think this is more of a refining process; something to create a solid foundation so I can build from here. And once I get into a bit of a groove, I’m going to start sharing some of the business plan best practices that I’m finding helpful as I go.

Oh, and in case you’re curious about the title, it references the following poem:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Marketing strategy tips: 13 tips to develop a powerful marketing strategy

Flavor of the week marketing strategy tips
Image via Wikipedia

Lots of businesses use the flavor-of-the-week approach to marketing. They read about great success that a business has had with articles so they have a bunch of articles written one week. Then they read about press releases another week and they have some press releases written. Then they learn about successful marketers using Twitter so they tweet like mad for a week.

At the end of the three weeks, what do they have? Very little.

A strategic approach is needed to market a business. Before your business blasts out marketing, make sure these market strategy tips are informing your marketing efforts:

MARKETING STRATEGY TIPS

  1. Know what you sell and why people buy it. You’ve probably heard the classic reference about businesses selling drills but people buying the ability to make holes. What you are selling might be your product or service but people never buy your product or service. They buy the benefit your product or service provides. If you’re not making sales, it’s often because your product or service doesn’t provide any benefits.
  2. Identify your position in the marketplace. What makes you unique? Create a USP that can only be applied to you. (If you can apply your USP to anyone else, it’s not a “U”SP). Get unique. Kim and Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy is a great tool for this.
  3. Focus on a niche market. If you’re too broad, your message won’t get through. Narrow by industry or by demographic. Sell to fewer people to make more sales. Yeah, it blows your mind.
  4. Market your business with a specific number of content types (i.e., 2 articles/week; 5 proposals/week; 1 press releases/week; etc.). Try it for a quarter. Measure the results and adjust. If you want more business, ratchet it up.
  5. Develop your message and stick with it. It’s okay to test and modify your message but once you’ve found it, stick to it like a fat kid on fudge.
  6. Create short-term and long-term tactics. Stop looking for immediate payback because it doesn’t happen.
  7. Just add friggin’ value already. Everything else falls into place after that.
  8. Make it really easy for people to understand what you do and to connect with you. Offer a pile of contact methods, intuitive buying processes, and fast response times.
  9. Do all of the above at the business level but do it all at the offering level, too, for each product or service you sell.
  10. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Find your own groove.
  11. Create a simple marketing system – just 3-5 steps – and hammer it out every single day. Every. Single. Day.
  12. Measure your success by the actions you take compared with the sales you make. Stop worrying about the number of followers or subscribers.
  13. Once you have a foundation of successful marketing methods underway, test those flavors of the month as you hear about them. Test them consistently for a month and see what the impact is.

Accelerate business performance with more transactions

In a previous blog post, I introduced you to Brad Sugar’s simple formula for accelerating business performance:

Leads x Conversion Rate = Customers
Customers x Average Dollar Sale x Number of Transactions = Revenue
Revenue x Profit Margins = Profit

Sugars says that if you improve all five areas that you can influence (leads, conversion rate, average dollar sale, number of transactions, and profit margin), you’ll dramatically improve your business.

In this post, I’m going to give you some ideas for increasing the number of transactions you make:

  • Sales is a numbers game. Double your leads and you should, on average, double your prospects, which should double your sales.
  • Add products or services to your sales funnel to broaden the possibility of a sale. They may be smaller sales but you’ll have helped your contact make the leap from “prospect” to “customer”. From there, you can pursue further opportunities.
  • When writing proposals, offer 2-4 tiers of service and include a page of “you might also be interested in…” services.
  • Pull out your “previous customers” list and create special packages and new services to offer to them.
  • Increasing the speed in which you present to your prospects can increase your transactions.
  • Offer discounts to those who will refer you to someone else who also buys.
  • Schedule time to make specific recommendations to every current customer. These should be recommendations for new products or services.
  • If you use multiple methods of generating leads, pay attention to which method generates the highest percentage of buyers. Increase the leads generated by that method.
  • Test a pop-up store, if applicable. In fact, explore other ways of transacting business. After all, increasing transactions might just be a matter of increasing the ways that people can buy from you.
  • Put prospects who say “no” into a holding pattern of unique, value-added content that can keep you at the top of their minds until they are ready to buy from you.
  • There will be some leads who do not qualify to be your customers and you can either find new ways to serve them (or, you should create an affiliate agreement with a provider who can help them so that you still earn money from them). Look carefully at this group to see if you are sending off a group of people who you can sell to (but in a different way than you have been).