Revisit Your Business Plan
January will be here before you know it, and many businesses have their fiscal year on the same schedule as their calendar year. Get a jumpstart on your planning by evaluating your business for the upcoming year.
It doesn’t matter if you work at a large corporation or if you are a one-man show; everyone needs to revisit their business plan occasionally.
In corporate settings, there is usually an annual strategic plan presented to senior management for approval of the next year’s budgets. But if you’re in a small, privately-owned company, there may not be such rigors put in place. Small businesses need to force themselves into the same rigor, although the manner in which the review happens can be quite different.
There’s no need to make the process complicated; stick with the basics for a simple, clear-cut planning process. There are two exercises that I have found most helpful. They are inter-related, but they both have merit: the SWOT analysis and the 3 C’s and 4 P’s analysis.
SWOT analysis: this stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Threat and Opportunities and it will help you identify areas in the upcoming year that you could leverage to your advantage. Most people can quickly identify strengths and weaknesses, but they have more of a struggle with opportunities and threats.
Opportunities are forces that have the potential for positive impact on your brand, things that you know are coming up that could have a very positive influence on your brand. There may be new technology coming out that is going to allow you to make product improvements. There may be market trends that you can take advantage of. For example, if you market to retirees, then the fact that all the Baby Boomers are retiring would be an opportunity that you can take advantage of.
Conversely, threats are forces that have the potential for a negative impact on your brand. If you are in the travel industry, rising gas prices might be a negative. Another threat might be increased competition, someone who has entered the market that may have the potential to steal some of your customers.
4 P’s and 3 C’s: For marketers, this is a standard review. As far back as the 1950’s, marketing managers were to evaluate the four P’s (Price, Product, Promotion and Placement) against a backdrop of the three C’s (Customers, Competition, and Company).
Take a look at your business specifically analyzing these areas. Ask yourself the following questions:
Who is my customer and what do they want? If you can understand your customer so well that you know their feelings about your category, your products and your competitor’s products, you will be able to make very clear choices about what products/services you offer, what price you charge, where you sell that product/service, and how best to promote that product.
Who is my competition? If they didn’t buy my product/service, what else would they buy? What options do they offer that would compete in my category? What’s the difference between product/service offerings?
This is a really valuable exercise, as it helps you decide where you “live” in a customer’s mind. Are you the inexpensive, highly accessible brand (like Brand X Copy Paper) or are you the very professional, very distinctive brand (like Southworth)? By evaluating the competition, you will find yourself making decisions about your own offerings. Often it is helpful to think from inside your customer’s mind. Sometimes, your competitors aren’t even in your own category. Who do you indirectly compete with?
What are my company strengths? What is different about what we offer from what others have? What do I want my company/brand to stand for? What opportunities are coming this year that I can leverage because of my strengths and because of what I have to offer?
Once you have done this analysis, you will be ready to re-evaluate your business plan to see what opportunities you want to take advantage of in the coming year, what changes/enhancements you’d like to make in your offerings, and how much it will cost to make those changes. Understanding your customers will inspire new ways to speak to them, which will revitalize your marketing efforts. Your pricing evaluation would give you good insights into your profitability and then you can see what your financial picture will be in the next 12 months.
Once done, you will be prepared to present this plan to Senior Management (or to potential investors!). You will be more confident in making smart business decisions and will be seen as someone who is on top of their business, focused on those high-impact opportunities that will really move the business forward!
Rahna Barthelmess is a branding strategist and author of the soon-to-be released personal branding bible Turbo-Charge Your Career. You can find out more about branding and personal branding at http://www.turbochargeyourcareer.com/