I’ve talked elsewhere on this blog about what strategy is and why it’s important. But I just realized I hadn’t put together a list of questions to help you figure out if you’ve got one for your business, and if so, how finely tuned or tight it is. Does your small business have a marketing strategy, or are you in danger of running aground?
So here you go…be sure to count the number of “yes” answers you get.
- Do you have a set of 3 – 10 specific actions that you take to build your business? If you haven’t determined a list of the things that are “in” (as in, “my business does this to grow”) and the things that are “out” (likewise, “my business doesn’t do that”), then you don’t have a strategy. Period. As I’ve said in classes and other articles, strategy is selecting the best course and not wasting time on less-effective paths. A random shotgun approach isn’t a strategy.
- Do you take these actions regularly? I want to emphasize the word regularly because often business owners are so busy they aren’t doing their chosen things consistently, and that consistency is an important part of a marketing strategy. However, “regularly” doesn’t have to be daily. Maybe it’s a once-a-month industry networking event, or a blog post every other week. But it has to be something that you will do at appropriate intervals.
- Did you choose those actions because you know they actually build your business? The potential pitfall here is regularly doing actions you’ve heard work for some people, and/or choosing them because they’re “smart strategies.” (Really, in this context, they’re tactics, not strategies.) But effort put into a strategy that doesn’t produce results isn’t smart no matter how you cut it. Can you point to leads, opportunities, or customers that you got because of each of your chosen actions?
- Can you quantify how effective they are? There is certainly an element of serendipity in marketing. You can’t always be sure where the next opportunity is going to come from, but you can certainly keep track of where the ones you get originated. Do you have a way of measuring the effectiveness of each action? Can you pull up a list of the leads you got from the networking event? Or show what percentage of people who read your blog go on to purchase from your store or sign up for your list? If you can’t say “Yes” to at least 80% of your listed actions, you have to take a “No” for this question.
- Have you experimented with other actions, using the measurements in the previous question to update your action list? Here’s the gold standard for marketing strategy. If you are regularly evaluating your list, using the metrics of effectiveness to prioritize what you’re doing (and more importantly, what you’re choosing not to do), then you get a “Yes” here. But if you choose mainly based on what seems easiest, or makes you feel good, or have been doing exactly the same thing for more than a year without checking the numbers, you have to take a “No.”
If you got all five, congratulations! You have a focused, self-correcting business strategy! However, if you got a “No” on any of them, it’s time to spend a little time on whatever the earliest question is where you ran off the road. I put the questions in the order of strategic refinement. Go back to your first “No” on the list and you’re looking at the question that is going to be the biggest bang for your buck.
Questions 1 and 2 can be addressed by most people with a little planning and time management. Once we hit Question 3, knowing that your actions are actually building results for you, it sometimes takes some technical know-how. Yes, with the right tools and setup, you can know if the Facebook ad campaign you ran sent you visitors, or how many blog readers you have.
Question 4 adds a little bit extra to what’s needed in #3, namely having some additional analysis (and sometimes a new data-collecting tool or the like). So instead of just knowing of that ad campaign sent visitors, you can actually find out how many dollars of e-commerce revenue you got because of it, or the number of newsletter registrations came from your blog readers. This level gets answers that are far more granular and specific. (And if the thought of learning all this gives you chills of horror, contact me because I love doing this kind of thing.)
Finally, Question 5 brings us back around to a time-management thing you can probably do on your own, but with a twist: you need to be in a “big picture” mindset, not a “what do I need to get done?” or “what do I like to do?” mindset. You’ll need to mentally step outside your business and look at it dispassionately from the outside. And that’s really difficult for some people. Often it helps to have a mentor (or, dare I say, a business coach) to help get you into that right mental space on occasion to reevaluate using the new information you have.
I hope this was helpful, but either way, please let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Thank you!
Image Source. Modified from the original by Michael J. Coffey