4 strategies for business and marketing success

5th, Aug 2015

Checkmate, Business Strategy ConceptIn the last few months I attended 2 very different events on how to grow and compete as a business. Both addressed the importance of understanding what differentiates your business and building the right internal culture and operations. Neither focused on marketing per se, but marketing was an important component. Every successful business needs to determine what it stands for (its brand) and then strategically communicate that value internally and externally. That lesson and the 4 takeaways below can help any organization find success in managing, operating and marketing its business.

1. Play to win. “Playing to win” means being focused and acting intentionally. In other words, don’t just react to changes; be strategic and have a real plan. Think about where you want to be and how you can get there. What kind of organization or team do you need? What are your obstacles? Where should you invest? Create appropriate goals and benchmarks so you know what you need to accomplish today to move you along the right path. And put it all in writing. Documenting your vision, strategies and goals will help you get focused and stay on track. It also lets everyone within the company know where you’re all going so they can feel engaged. This applies to general business planning as well marketing planning. Certainly marketing without a strategic plan is one of the biggest reasons why marketing fails.

2. Be different. Does your pitch/mission statement sound just like your competitors? Everyone says they offer quality service, care about their clients, and have tons of experience. So how are you really different? When you don’t differentiate, then you’re vulnerable to competing on price and turning your services into a commodity. Take the time to identify your unique value proposition and understand your target audiences and their pain points. The goal is to develop an authentic marketing message that resonates with your clients and prospects. You want to find your sweet spot – the place where you can speak with credibility and authority on topics that truly matter to your audience and your business. So know what makes you special and communicate clearly how that brings value to your clients so you don’t end up cutting your prices to get the business.

3. Pay attention to your work culture. According to a recent study by the National Center for the Middle Market, a well-established employer brand and compelling employee value proposition (EVP) help companies secure talent against their larger competitors and drive significantly higher revenue. (A company’s employer brand is the image and reputation it has as a place to work. Its EVP represents the tangible and intangible benefits people receive in return for working at the company.) In fact, in a study by the CFO Alliance, 95% of CFOs agreed work culture has an effect on the company’s bottom line. What does this mean for businesses? Your work culture is part of your brand. You need to identify, nurture and market it if you want to attract and retain the right talent to grow revenue.

And once you’ve got these great employees, keep them involved and motivated to help promote your brand inside and outside the organization. How can you do that? One way is to ask employees to share their experience and insights in the form of training materials, blog posts, newsletter articles, video or other content. If it’s challenging for them to create the content, give them appropriate resources. At a minimum, encourage them to share news and information that the company is putting out. And remember to publicly acknowledge their efforts. You want to engage your employees and show them they are valued, not dump work on them that they don’t want.

4. Invest the time in doing things right. The number one reason businesses give for not taking the business advice mentioned above is that they don’t have time. However, as succinctly put by Kelly Riggs in one of the events I attended, “leadership is about knowing how to invest your time.” Successful companies take the time to look critically at their business and figure out where they want to get to and how. They make long-term investments and appreciate that ROI is measured in more than just dollars.

Thanks to the speakers from “Aligning Your Employees with the Company’s Business Objectives,” at The CFO Alliance Quarterly Roundtable Series and “Winning Business in Any Economy: 4 mistakes you can’t afford to make,” at HIA-LI’s 27th Annual Business Trade Show & Conference.