January 2, 2007

4 Min Read

Entrepreneurship is about optimism and opportunity. Within that mindset, you must market your business correctly. Every industry has its traditional marketing strategies proven to deliver results. But going the safe, well-trodden route begs the question, Do I want to be like my competitors, or should I push the envelope?

Lets say youve taken the risk, saw something that got your attention, and now its time to lasso customers. Where to start? This is actually the easy part.

You begin by creating a business plan in which you create strategies and establish goals, objectives and accountability. List the various advantages you have over your competitors as well as the vision you have for your business.

Let Your Vision Do the Driving

Your vision drives your planning. If you are a storage operator, you might say ABC Storage will provide the most desirable, secure, conveniently located facilities, with easy access and professional management 24/7.

If you are a car wash, your vision might be, This facility will be the customers choice within its market, providing the highest quality value while utilizing the latest in wash technologies and environmentally friendly products. A vision statement is always the brass ringsomething you aspire to but havent attained.

Always ask, Does the plan support our vision? As you move through the planning process, youll undergo an intensive analysis of your business, and establish a number of goals and objectives. Some will be self-evident, such as profitability and sales growth, while others will be revealed through SWOT.

SWOTs Good for You

SWOT is an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Perform it for your own business and your competitors. Youll identify chinks in their armor as well as your own.

Each item on your list has a cost and benefit associated with it. Use a T chart. On one side of the vertical bar, list the item; on the other, note the cost in time, money or other resources.

Complete the SWOT exercise and a number of things will become apparent. Weaknesses always lead to opportunities. Opportunities translate to marketing strategies. As you list all the strategies you will be faced with a number of choices. Choices carry with them a commitment in time, money and execution. The decision to select one over another will boil down to timing and perceived return.

Once youve chosen those strategies, which well call marketing initiatives, you will have created a marketing plan, a subset to your business plan. It should be flexible, creative, and carry with it responsibilities for execution and success.

Creative Juices

On the subject of creativity, forget the rules. Generally, there is no such thing as a silver bullet or a poorly conceived planbut plenty of great initiatives wind up failing due to poor execution.

A number of resources will help get the creative juices flowing while youre developing your plan. Tradeshows are a natural place to network, attend educational presentations, brainstorm and see whats new in the industry. The web is an incredible means to investigate concepts and ideas. Trade publications and vendors have their ear to the ground. Subscribe to all the publications that affect your business. Ask your peers questions and dont be afraid to copysome of the most successful companies are copiers who took a great idea and executed it flawlessly.

If your business is up and running, your existing customers are a powerful tool for ideas. Simply ask them, What can I do for you that Im not currently doing to exceed you expectations? The question gets amazing results. 

Fred Grauer is president of Grauer Associates and executive vice president, investor market and conveyors, for Ryko Manufacturing Co., a car wash equipment manufacturer in Grimes, Iowa. He has made a lifelong career of designing, selling, building and operating car washes. He can be reached at [email protected].

Book-shelf Inspiration

Business books have been extremely useful to me. These are among the great ones I strongly suggest you review. Expect to be stimulated, inspired and armed for success in your journey toward successful marketing and business planning!

  • QBQ: The Question Behind the Question, Personal Accountability, by John G Miller 

  • Growing a Business, by Paul Hawken 

  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Dont, by Jim Collins 

  • The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater and Every Business a Stage, by Joseph H. Pine II and James H. Gilmore 

Also recommended is The Harvard Business Review. Most articles are written for the everyday challenges faced by entrepreneurs, covering topics from marketing to technology.

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