no-march-madness

No March Madness: Keeping Your 2015 Goals on Track

Experts agree—if you start doing something new, it takes at least 21 days for it to become a real habit. So by now, your 2015 business plans are showing you that they either they work or they don’t—whether they should become a habit or be tossed aside.

Whether it’s taking more time to network or figuring out how to gain market share with new or existing customers—every business owner should take the time to reflect, react and reaffirm what your business goals are each and every year. By March of that each new year, you have almost finished the first quarter. Are you incorporating workable changes into your business life? Or is trying to make change making you feel a bit of the “March Madness”?

Where to Look First

A recent article in Forbes posed three great questions to help you start to make new resolutions and refine your business goals:

  • Where do you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years?
  • With these goals in mind, what will be different for your company? What’s the end-goal?
  • What type of investment can you make in your goals, in regards to time, effort, energy, money? The key question: Is each goal doable?

The same article cited activities such as enhancing your business networking opportunities, recruiting, presenting as a thought leader in your industry, and others.

No March Madness

For me, if I spread myself too thin and try to make too many changes at once, I start feeling a little crazy. There is, after all, work to be done to make sure my current clients are well and happy (and getting their work accomplished in time!).

2015-business-goalsThis year will be about enhancing my entrepreneurial efforts through target market identification and changing my company’s sales model to include new, high-value customers I have not had the time to address. I have scheduled my time to include behaving as a “new business officer” in these environments—and written it all down using the classic goal-setting template—SMART= Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive. I’ve also committed to using The Center for Business Modeling SWOT template to ensure that my activities are aligned with my company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The other things I like to focus on are the three items in the above graphic:    Customers, Investors and Employees. I like to run a SWOT on these three areas, as well. Using the CBM template, I examine where my Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are in each of these areas.

Challenging Churn

I find many business owners worry a lot about customer churn—but not enough about employee churn. The people who work with me on my client accounts are probably the single most important resource I have—they “fill in the blanks” when a client wants to work with me (they love me!!) but I might not have the skills for a particular project. Recently, I had to hire a business analyst to ensure my client and I had a solid ROI on our focus groups projects.

If you want to make sure that by the end of this quarter, you’re experiencing solid results, let me suggest that you spend some time looking at ways to keep your employees (or contractors) happy. You’ll protect a lot more than your employees—you’ll ensure brand value for your company for years to come.

short-term-business-planning-failure

Why Short-Term Business Planning Failure Leads to Long-Term Success

Using iterative business planning to make sure you have the ability to fail, then succeed.

When I put the term, “business planning” into my Google news search this morning, I was surprised at what I got. Several chambers of commerce were offering tens of thousands of dollars in prizes for new business plans in regional competitions. Others offered workshops. There also were a few choices along the lines of, “Why do you need a business plan? Here’s why!” and several books advertised by Entrepreneur magazine’s publishing group and others.

I think we all agree: You need something in the way of a business plan – but I’m wondering if all of these search results will really help a new entrepreneur decide what.

Expert advice

I have written business plans for my own businesses, for clients and during an executive MBA course. The hours of research I put in left me more confused than ever—and of course, there are always “flavor of the month” directives issuing out of one world-famous management school or the other.

However, one of the most helpful things I learned was just last week. I had a conversation with a man I greatly respect. He teaches in business school, volunteers at SCORE to help small business owners succeed, and possesses just a really insightful business mind. He’s also an “angel investor” so those of you who are looking for financing should perk up your ears. Here are two of the most impactful things he told me that I will incorporate into my next business plan:

It’s in the pudding: Show proof that you’ve actually worked in the marketplace  –Your business plan should show that you’ve come up hard against some real-life business problems when starting your business—and that you have learned how to correct, adjust, and correct some more until you see solid results.

The art of the canvas: Make sure that your plan is flexible—The word my expert used more often than any other is “iterative.” Just last week, I read a blog by Hannah Burmeister that discusses the Business Model Canvas that was originally developed by Alexander Osterwalder in 2008. This template, says Burmeister, is “visually designed to help you develop an actionable business model, focusing on nine different segments. This document gives you the opportunity to determine your:

  • Key partners
  • Key activities
  • Key resources
  • Value propositions
  • Customer relationships
  • Customer segments
  • Channels
  • Cost structure
  • Revenue streams

Keep failing to succeed

Burmeister talks about “actionable” but I would like to add that taking just one action in each of these segments won’t cut it. Any business plan you build must allow you to change course midstream. My angel investor/advisor says that you must, “test-fail-test-succeed” using the steps plotted out by the original plan, but to never stop there. An iterative business plan using the nine different segments of Osterwalder’s canvas is great—but if it’s engraved in stone, he says, it’s not for you.

business planning frameworkYou can take the best of Osterwalder’s philosophy—his emphasis on simplification and visualization—and go even farther using the CBM Business Planning Framework. You can ensure your business plan can move with you to match the speed of your marketplace. It will help you cover all of the Canvas’s main subjects, but will also allow you the flexibility you need to revisit each and adjust to new challenges. I want to thank my expert (and Hannah) for clearing up what started as a confusing Google search today: When I rewrite my business plan, it will be iterative and action-oriented.

The Must-Know Marketing Metrics for Every Salesperson

Sales and marketing each have distinct metrics that apply to their respective departments. While sales does not necessarily need to know the ins and outs of every marketing metric, there are a few that are particularly beneficial. Understanding four key metrics will help bridge the gap between marketing and sales and keep the two departments aligned.

Keeping sales apprised of the following four marketing metrics will ensure both departments are on the same page with their team goals.

Conversion rate represents the rate at which prospects become customers. Conversion rates reveal the health of your leads coming in at the top of the funnel and the success of your marketing strategies. They can also indicate how smooth the lead handoff is from marketing to sales. Any conversion rates from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) to Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) to Meeting to Opportunity are critical metrics for sales because they ultimately drive their pipeline. These statistics are important for both sales and marketing teams to follow since marketing is a key driver of the outcome. With both teams monitoring the results, they can work together to find new approaches and tinker with their current methods until they reach their goals.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the cost associated with convincing a customer to buy your product or service. CAC is important for sales teams to consider because if the cost to acquire a customer is too high, it could erode any sales margin and ROI in the end of the sales cycle. For a sustainable business model, your CAC should be much lower than your customer lifetime value. Though it can be difficult to track end-to-end and do proper attribution of costs from campaigns and sales efforts, CAC can be used as an indicator of how efficient and effective your marketing and sales efforts are overall.

Reach represents the number of prospects you can reach at the top and middle of your funnel through content or marketing messages. Reach is an important metric to sales because it essentially measures the width at the top of the sales and marketing funnel. This can include prospects from your database, social media following, blog subscribers, and website visitors. Keeping track of these areas are significant because they are the prospects that will ultimately convert into marketing qualified and sales accepted leads.

Velocity represents how quickly qualified opportunities turn into closed deals, which allows sales and marketing to forecast pipeline. It represents how fast or slow a lead travels through the funnel to status Opportunity to status Closed-Won. Pipeline velocity helps sales and marketing teams determine at what time revenue will come in, which leads to more accurate predictions of monthly and quarterly targets. This information gives sales a greater understanding of what exactly they need to do to hit their goals.

Transparency between departments surrounding conversion rates, customer acquisition cost, reach, and velocity metrics will help align your sales and marketing efforts. If each salesperson understands the impact these marketing metrics have on their sales strategy, the company as a whole will benefit from the common thread.

Reprinted by permission. View the original post here.