Business Failure

Five Reasons for Businesse Failure or Underperformance

Business acquisition expert, Mike Warren, says that business failure is most often based on deficiency in four areas: Marketing, People, Systems and Money. And Eric T. Wagner gave these five reasons for failure in a Forbes article titled, Five Reasons 8 Out Of 10 Businesses Fail.

  1. Not really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.
  2. No real differentiation in the market (read: lack of unique value propositions)
  3. Failure to communicate value propositions in clear, concise and compelling fashion.
  4. Leadership breakdown at the top (yes — founder dysfunction).
  5. Inability to nail a profitable business model with proven revenue streams.

Warren and Wagner make some great points. And now for my list of why  companies fail or underperform, followed by a few tips on how to make sure your business is one of the successful ones.

  1. Flawed Concept. In my day job as a marketing and revenue growth consultant – as well as my own experience as an entrepreneur and investor; I am exposed to a lot of unusual business ideas. This is doubly true when I teach or mentor would-be entrepreneurs as a SCORE volunteer. Sometimes the concept for the business is so outside the realm of viability, chances for success are slim. No doubt there are so-called flawed concepts that return millions to brave founders, but these are exceptions that are usually not worth risking time and capital on.

Antidote: Vet your idea with experienced entrepreneurs who have your best interests at heart. There is an old expression: If three people tell you that you are drunk, go lie down. Likewise, if three experts tell you that your idea has no merit, either disprove their objections or drop the idea. But don’t fret if your first idea doesn’t pan out. Heed the words of Richard Branson: “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”

  1. Money Woes. Money problems can impact business owners in many ways. The obvious issue is when there is not enough cash flow to fund current operations and/or expansion. Nothing can keep an entrepreneur awake at night like the knowledge that expenses are running ahead of cash flow. On the other side of the coin, entrepreneurs who accept funds from outside entities (friends and family, angel investors, venture capitalists) face enormous pressure to perform and can even be ousted from their own companies. Jessica Bruder talks about the high price business owners pay, especially regarding financial issues, in her Inc.5000 article, titled The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship.

Antidote: Cash flow is lifeblood to every business. Build your venture with the concept of minimum viable product (MVP) or service (MVS). Hold cash tightly and scale only after you have proven your business/revenue model at low cost. Above all, do not take investment capital until you have to. If you have a proven scalable model, your valuation and control over the future of your company, will be greatly enhanced.

  1. Founder Weakness. Eric Wagner referred to this issue as “leadership breakdown” and “founder dysfunction”. Whatever terms you use, if the founder(s) has shortcomings they are unwilling to address, the company may be doomed to mediocrity or worse. A founder who has great product development skills will have a hard time succeeding without experts in marketing, sales, finance, etc. I wrote about this in a post titled, How to “Engineer” a Marketing Fiasco.

Antidote: Decide whether it is more important for you to be right, or to be successful. If, as I hope, you decide the latter, you need to do a thorough and frank appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the rest of your management team. Ignoring your weaknesses will not work. You need to fill in the gaps with internal or external resources but gaps must be filled!

  1. Failure to Differentiate. It’s a highly competitive world and unless you can clearly articulate why your product or service is different and preferable to the many other options businesses have to spend their money – you will be considered a commodity. Generally, commodities have to compete on pricing, and this is not usually a position you want to occupy.

Antidote: The brand promise is what you assure people they will receive when they do business with you. To be effective, your brand promise should be differentiated (preferably unique), compelling and specific. Make sure you complete work on your brand promise before you take your products or services to market.

  1. Lack of Systems. This is a factor mentioned by Mike Warren and a big hindrance to the ability to scale or sell your business. Common areas where systems can help include marketing, sales, finance, product development and customer service.

Antidote: Read (devour) two books on business systems: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber; and Work the System by Sam Carpenter. The strategies and tactics in these two books can change your business and your life. And when it comes to building your marketing and sales systems to prevent business failure, read my own The Expert’s B2B Revenue Growth Playbook. To be effective, you need to document your systems and follow them consistently.

Changing your business and its culture

Probably the hardest thing to do at a business is to change its culture.

How did Genghis Khan and other medieval rulers change the culture of their acquisitions? Eliminate every male over a certain age or they rounded-up all the nobility and professionals then eliminated them. Another step communist rulers like Mao Tse-tung of China used to change culture, in addition to eliminating critics and sending people to work camps; he eliminated historical and cultural icons, books… Harsh, and unnecessary, with time and good leadership culture can change, especially if it’s for the better.

I have led the change at a few organizations; with change came cultural change. The U.S. military was pulling out of Iraq in late 2011 and I leading the replacement organization for the Department of State (DOS). DOS was taking over the airport operations in Baghdad from the US Air Force (USAF). I was also an USAF reserve officer so the transition started out fine; I was working with peers to change from a USAF operation to DOS. My DOS operation had less than 10% of the USAF workforce so we were taking a different approach to how we were going to run things. The USAF began to resist our new operation, they made it hard for us to train, limited our access to facilities, they wrote letters to HQ to complain that our operation would not be able to do the USAF mission… They were correct; we were going to run a new DOS operation with different procedures and a different culture. It was sad to see; we were all on the same team, we all had the same goals but some of the USAF leaders could not accept the change. The date for the US military withdrawal from Iraq was set in stone, so the day came and out went the USAF, the new DOS operation stood up and worked smoothly. The new culture was less hierarchy and more collaborative; we trained workers in multiple tasks and made a much flatter organization.

In another organization, I helped lead the transition to save a failing manufacturer. We established a plan before we showed up at the manufacturer; we planned to fire the President and his closest advisors. The culture wasn’t team oriented, power resided in a few and little information on the business flowed to the owner, the President was secretive. When we arrived, we implemented our new processes and reorganized the staff. We improved morale by making the organization more inclusive, giving everyone a voice in the success of the business. The management team led by being very open to the workers and we established open door policies to get everyone’s input. However, despite recommendations from the management team, the new President did not eliminate the next level of leadership. She allowed the Chief of Operations to stay. My consulting team completed our reorg and left. 6 months later, I got a call from the owner of the company, he had to fire the new President because the manufacturer still wasn’t profitable, it turned out they had reverted to the old processes and they had the same problems with completing projects on time. Lack of leadership allowed the company to fall back to its small circle of power; it did not provide progress updates and failed.

If you lucky enough to start a new business you set the standards, you set the culture. Take the time to think about the culture that will work best for your type a business. A collaborative culture is great for a creative organization; a more authoritarian culture may be better for inflexible manufacturing processes with lower skilled workers.

I’ve found that changing an organization is difficult but doable. Changing the culture is also difficult and often goes together with organizational change. Ensure you have a culture that is positive and works for your business.

Sometimes during a reorganization or planned cultural change, you must make difficult decisions. There may be a time you must let some people go to make room for the change. You may need to let someone go after the change if they are resisting it or reverting to old practices.

Establishing a new culture takes LEADERSHIP. It also takes deliberate planning and action. State your values, vision and mission; post positive information on your work place culture. Talk about what you expect within your organization, what is expected of your team. Bring in trainers if required. You may need to change the layout of your office to improve communications or the work floor to improve workflow. Then most importantly, live the new culture! Be the example!

Yes, that is all you need to do to change the culture but it is harder than you think because you cannot take a day off, you must hold everyone accountable. Most important, you as the leader must live the culture, be the example and hammer if necessary.

Business Gtowth

Mastering the Three Engines of Growth

When it comes to growing your business, there are three essential engines of growth:

1. Paid Engine of Growth: Most entrepreneurs consider this the only engine of growth. Often this takes the form of paid ads on websites or advertising on T.V. to attract lots of eyeballs to your product or service. The more targeted the service is to your market segment, the higher the cost of the ad. The paid engine of growth could also include paying others to get customers. Paying for outside sales functions or commissioned sales are examples of paying others to get customers. Other times, the paid engine of growth is paying higher rent for locations with larger and more targeted traffic.

2. Viral Engine of Growth: The viral engine of growth is based on increasing awareness of your product or service by using your existing customers. The viral engine includes engaging customers as affiliates to help sell to their friends and associates. Pampered Chef is an example of a company that encourages its customers to host a party to help sell their products to their friends in exchange for free or discounted products.

Another version of the viral engine comes in the form of apps that are pointless without others in your network adopting them. Venmo, Voxer, and Facebook are examples where the more friends you get to use the app, the better it is for you.

When it comes to viral engines of growth you need to make their adoption free of worry or friction. Demonstrating a product to make it clear how to use it properly or making an app free and easy to download aid in the adoption process. See my previous post ”The Secret to Viral Product and Services” for more information.

3. Sticky Engine of Growth: Since it is cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one, this engine is focused on maintaining low customer attrition so you only need to acquire a few new customers to continue to grow. Once you have a customer, it is necessary to keep them by making your product or service sticky based on its high switching cost.

Remember the days when your cell phone provider owned your phone number? Changing carriers made switching costs painful since you would have to contact everyone in your contact list to provide them with your new number.

Another example is chip manufacturers. Chip manufacturers help their customers design their chip’s functionality into their customer’s product, making it very difficult to simply go with another supplier. Employing the sticky engine of growth often means you can ask for higher margins since switching costs are paid for by the customer.

Which engine of growth do you employ and are there opportunities to employ one of the others more effectively?

Note: this article originally appeared at

Business Networking Graphic

Four Places to Start Your Business Networking

Business Networking GraphicYou might have shrugged when someone first told you, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” But as you start developing your business you realize quickly that saying isn’t a hoax, it’s a reality.

Business networking is a must for any company, whether you sell to other businesses or to consumers at large, who you know can mean the difference between success and failure.

So, how do you get plugged in with other business owners and managers in your area? The answer is far from simple. Walking door to door is not an economical solution. What you need is guidance and a helping hand to get you pushed into the right circles.

Those guardian angels are out there, but they need you to step up and make the first move. So to help you get out there and start building those relationships, here are four great networking organizations that you can connect with in your local area.

1 Million Cups

1 Million Cups is a weekly get-together that allows two start-ups or innovative companies to present their business model and receive feedback that helps better their business. Each presentation is six minutes long and is followed by a 20 minute Q&A session for the attendees to learn more about your business and give you recommendations. However, you don’t have to present to get value out of attending. It is still a room filled with potential partners or mentors always willing to lend a hand.

There are over 73 different chapters across the United States, spanning from Portland to Orlando and many cities in between. They meet in the morning on Wednesdays every week and require no registration to attend.

To learn more about this group, visit the 1 Million Cups website or check out this quick 30 second promo video.

Small Business Association

The Small Business Association does more than provide loans and grants. They also offer a wealth of knowledge both online and locally. They have offices, called Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), across the U.S. to help get your business on the right track.

They offer free consulting in areas like human resources, marketing, and finance, as well as low-cost training to help you learn valuable skills. Most SBDCs are also well connected with established businesses in the area and will be happy to connect you with other business owners.

To find a SBDC in your local area, visit the SBA Local Assistance page.


SCORE is another small business organization, but differs from the SBA in a very unique way. Instead of training you in specific areas, SCORE provides long-term assistance. As a SCORE “client” you have access to one or more mentors that have extensive real-world business experience. These mentors stick with you throughout the entirety of your business and give you coaching every step of the way.

From building a business plan to selling your company, SCORE mentors will guide you through the pitfalls that entrepreneurs face every day and help you achieve success faster. They also offer classes taught by professionals in different fields and have a wealth of knowledge on the national website ready to be accessed at any time.

Head over to the SCORE website to learn more about finding a mentor near you.


Meetup is an online platform that can be accessed for free anywhere and directs you to groups that meet in your local area. By searching for industry keywords, or under the Career and Business section, you should be able to find a number of different business networking groups easily. Meetup also allows those groups to send you email reminders of upcoming meetings and gives you recommendations on other groups you may want to join.

Check out and start searching for groups that fit your business.

The Power of Networking

Networking is about more than just finding potential clients. It can open the door to lucrative partnerships, sponsorship opportunities, and incredible mentoring relationships. Whether you think of yourself as a social butterfly or a homebody, there is too much to be gained from making connections in your community to pass on it.

These organizations will put you on the right course to gain all of these benefits and more. All you have to do is reach out.

Business Scaling Photo

How Scaling Your Business Grows Creativity

Business Scaling PhotoMost business ideas start small and grow as demand occurs. However, you can also unlock the potential of your idea by scaling it. When an idea is enlarged, it often exposes part of the idea that may affect you in ways unimaginable under traditional planning.

As an example, imagine if you were baking two peach pies for a family reunion, but your recipe only provides the instructions for baking just one pie. There’s an easy solution; You simply double the recipe ingredients and go to the grocery store to pick them up, just as you would for only one pie. However, if you were to make enough pies to serve fifty thousand people at a convention, it is not simply a matter of multiplying the recipe. The larger-scale process might involve buying the peaches on the commodity market, hiring a trucking firm to deliver them, and renting huge ovens, chairs, and tents for the guests. You get the message.

When you scale your idea to enormous proportions, issues come up that were never part of the original idea. These issues may very well make the difference between you and your other competitors on the market.

How can you scale your business idea to unlock your creativity?


This article was originally published as Unlock Creativity by Scaling Ideas at Steve Imke’s Business Blog. To see more articles by Steve visit Steve’s Business Blog.

Three Tips to Build Your Buyer Personas

Reaching out to your targeted audience has never been so easy—after all, research shows that much of the buyer’s journey these days starts online with quality content. In fact, a recent Gartner survey says that digital marketing spend will increase by eight percent in 2015. What’s more, “the survey found that of the 51 percent of companies who plan to increase their digital marketing budget in 2015, the average increase will be 17 percent.”

Finding out where your potential customers are “hanging out” in the digital space and getting heard in that space can be difficult, thanks to all of the “noise” online and the time-crunch most of us (buyers included) are struggling with. If you begin populating your web pages and social media plans without first identifying your buyer personas, you won’t get in front of the people who are ready to buy.

In a recent blog, Jomer Gregorio states: “While many marketers focus on several demographics to get better traction in their digital marketing efforts, marketers who focus on key buyer persona insights will require half the number to get the same results.”

Pretty powerful stuff, hmm? Here are three quick tips based on Gergorio’s insights that will help you accurately identify your buyer personas and getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

    1. Where Does it Hurt?

Gregorio writes that “buyer personas are developed by carefully understanding the key demographic information as well as behavioral information that would define their consumption trends.” You might have enough demographics to sink the Titanic, but how can you drill down to the level of behaviors? I would start with common customer pain points. Once you realize that your customer has a problem to solve and that they are in some level of discomfort about these ongoing issues, figure out what features and benefits your product or service has to put an end to their suffering.

    1. Massage Your Message

Use the Center for Business Modeling’s free SWOT analysis to run a quality control check on your messaging. Most companies should have a list of fewer than five messages about their products and services to ensure that their brand story is clean and cogent. Get your executives together and decide, in light of your buyer personas, what is resonating and what is not. Make sure you use the insights of your first-line customer service leaders and sales executives. The messages you started with might not be the messages you need to meet them where they live today.

    1. Testing, 1, 2, 3

These days, analytic tools for your content are easier to use than ever—more intuitive and substantially more functional than what we’ve had to use in the past. I know that it feels like finding a quality lead sometimes feels like searching for a needle in a haystack—but if you keep up with your marketing messages, constantly reworking them to improve your reach, testing them and testing them again, you can get better at reaching your buyers. I would add that it’s often useful to test “personable” messages for all of the various buyer personas. That’s because according to buyer persona expert Brian Eisenberg, no matter which persona, “people are easily affected by their emotions and decisions are usually affected by their emotional state that will sometimes make them decide on things based on emotions and gut feel – and not on facts or analysis.” For me, remembering you’re reaching a human being behind that phone or laptop screen remains paramount in crafting messages that really resonate.

Definitely check out the B2C blog when you’re identifying your buyer personas—it’s a good place to start. In the meantime, run that SWOT on your messages so that when you get a chance to “talk” to your buyer, you’re clear on not only what you are saying but also why you are saying it.

Can You Really Use Marketing to Shrink the B2B Sales Cycle?

It seems at least once a week that I talk to a B2B company about how to shrink their sales cycle. Sales executives and CEOs get especially frustrated because their quarterly sales forecasts become much harder to predict when the sales cycle timing is all over the map. For example, we have one technology client where it seems half their deals close in days or weeks, while the other half can take six months or more. So what is going on and what can us B2B marketing types do about it?

The first thing we need to do is accept certain realities, regardless of the pain involved. And the first reality is that buyers have more control over the sales cycle than sellers. They have come to understand that the offer you claimed was for today only can easily be had tomorrow or next month – especially if they wait to buy until the end of the quarter. And even more significantly, our prospects know they can use Google to find out a great deal of information about your company, your competitors, the product or service category, and what past buyers think about you and everyone else in your space.

Here is the relevant point about the new realities: the important thing is not the actual sales cycle (how long it takes the prospect from the time they start their research to the time they buy). Rather, the key metric is what we refer to as the “effective sales cycle” – how long the prospect is actually in touch with your company.

If you organize your business around the new type of selling model as shown below, the “effective sales model” will shrink and your close rate will go up. This is true because the potential purchaser completes all or most of the first three parts of the process without engaging with your sales staff. In this example, if you start interacting with prospects at the fourth stage, close rates can skyrocket – from a typical 1-3 percent of raw inquiries to as much as 10 percent of those who are educated and self-qualified.

So how do you create the environment to support everyone from early-stage information gatherers to hot prospects who are ready to engage or buy today? Here are a few tips:

New Sales Model

  1. Provide content relevant to the needs of the audience. This will be very different for someone who is doing some general category research (what’s out there) as opposed to someone who is in the final buying stage (pricing, terms and delivery options).
  2. Layer the content. At Fusion Marketing Partners, we recommend the layered content approach. Of course this varies by type of product and offer, but we typically recommend fairly short and generalized text on the landing page (e.g. 300-500 words). On pages that link from the landing page, text can be much longer, running into hundreds or even thousands of words for some technical products and services.
  3. Offer options. Don’t treat all visitors to your website like they’re the same. Some are at early stages: give them a place to browse content and self-educate without a sales person breathing down their necks. Others are at later stages: give these people a way to self-qualify and engage in different ways – phone, chat, email, form submission.
  4. Enable self-service. Sales resources are expensive and whatever parts of the processes you can offload to the website will cut your costs, and assuming you execute this correctly, boost your effectiveness. As reported in a recent Forbes article titled Death of a B2B Salesman, a Forrester Research study showed that “Nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative. Further, 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson when they’ve decided what to buy. B2B companies that wait too long to create self-serve eCommerce websites risk losing share to pure plays and omnichannel competitors.”
  5. As you can see, marketing can help shrink the effective B2B sales cycle, but it may require a new way of thinking – as well as some concrete actions to align your selling model with your prospects’ buying behavior.

Keeping Promises to Your Customer: Marketing Strategies that Work

How to tell your company’s story to inspire trust, remain agile to customer needs

In Seth Godin’s recent blog, he says: “My take for the last 15 years is that marketing is merely storytelling and promise making/keeping, and in fact, everything the organization does is at some level, marketing.”

I couldn’t agree more. But how can a new company or an existing company ensure that they’re telling the right stories and making promises they can keep? Using The Center for Business Modeling Business Planning Framework will help. And the best thing about it is that it is an iterative process: If your story doesn’t gel or your promises start to feel flimsy, using the framework will help you adjust.

Agility is Critical

A post by Margaret Rouse writing on provides an excellent definition of business agility. She outlines the ways that a company can keep changing by “assessing priorities and progress frequently”—not just at the end of a project. Her post mostly discusses agility in the context of project management, however, isn’t your business plan the most important and impactful project you undertake?

Using the Framework has helped me crystallize my stories and ensure my promises are kept to my clients in three major ways:

I Can Do Anything Better Than You

1) Brand integrity- I used to tell the story: “I can do anything you need in PR and marketing” and it’s just not true. I don’t have certain skills but then again, one of my strongest attributes is being clear-eyed about that. If one of my clients gives me a project that’s not in my wheel house and hiring a contractor to fill in the gaps is cost-effective for both the client and my company—it’s full steam ahead. However, I need to be very careful when doing so—most of the skills I need help with come with a pretty hefty price tag. Working with my client to find a more effective partner brings them more value in the long run—and makes me more of a business consultant in their eyes. That’s the new story for me—“I will do what I’m best at and if it’s not my strength, I will make sure I hook you up with quality people.” My product and services roadmap (based on the CBM Framework) was adjusted accordingly.

What No One Wants to Hear About Business Ownership

2) Keep your promises to yourself- As a marketing and PR professional for many years, I spent a lot of late-night hours catching up on work because I made sure to make the evening football and soccer games when my kids were in school. When I opened my own company, I tried to opt out of business trips (when possible) that included a lot of travel, paid awesomely — but would upset my work/life balance.

Sometimes, I just had to leave and do my job—and that involved breaking promises to my loved ones rather than to my employer or client. Today, I walk a fine line with keeping client promises and promises to myself about how present I will be for my grown daughter and my youngest son. I believe that any business plan that ignores an entrepreneur’s personal life will fail in the long run—so when using the Framework, I make sure to adjust my plan to the impact on my personal life. I might lose some revenue, but I gain energy and commitment for the projects I choose to take on—because I know that they are congruent to my values. No one asks for their checkbook balance on their death bed.

What’s the Story?

3) Telling a valuable story- The CBM Framework shows you how to tell your company’s story and also to remain agile enough to change your story when the customer is not responding. This is where content marketing metrics come in—how are you reaching your customers and what are you telling them to ultimately turn them into “paying customers”? Your marketing strategies are always evolving based on their needs and your business goals.

Keeping promises. Telling compelling stories. These are the two core activities of any business, anywhere. I love feeling confident that I’m doing them well. Let CBM’s Framework make you confident, as well.


Use SWOT to Unlock Your Why Before Your Customer Will Buy

Run a SWOT to unlock your brand promise and build better customer relationships

When you are planning how to reach out to the marketplace, there are some newer marketing theories that can be the key to building meaningful relationships with your customers. Yes, I said marketing theories. These are the rare theories that can be tested and put into practice immediately. For me, the most impactful of these was shared by Simon Sinek during a Ted Talk. He said: “Your consumers don’t buy what you do –they buy why you do it.”

This amazing quote came to my attention through a really cool blog by Michael Brenner. In it, he offers several insights about how to plan to reach your customers—to deliver your company’s core belief to them rather than just your product or service. He tells us brands are three times more successful when they promote their raison d’etre – and how to personalize your marketing efforts to potentials using your “brand purpose.”

How would I do it? I would use CBM’s SWOT analysis tool to identify my company’s Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats. After delineating these, I’d look for ways to deliver them to my audiences. Start a conversation. Build a relationship. Let me break it down:

  • Worth it to My Reader My core belief for my communications company is—everyone needs to hear my story (content) because I don’t waste their time with stuff they don’t want to hear. Whether it’s a technological white paper on manufacturing IT or a media pitch for a pair of cool headphones, I have done my research. I know who I am talking to. My strength, then, is making sure my content is targeted and meaty enough for the people I get it in front of- so that it won’t waste their time. That’s the S in my SWOT.
  • Too Cute By Far My weakness is my ability to write fun, fearless copy. Yup—I often refuse to make it dull or clog it up with business speak to please a review board at a client company. In all fairness and in their defense, they are in the serious business of selling their products or services through the content I write. The problem with that is this: Sometimes, their audience expects the material to be cut-and-dry, with dry being the operative word. I learned that not everyone has to be amused while swallowing good, important information. I got myself a good editor at an hourly rate and told her about this issue of mine—we even have a code-edit for when she spots me being too “cute” for certain clients. That tells me to tone down a phrase and make it more business-like for my serious clients. I can usually edit myself with these kinds of clients because I am an excellent writer—and I still don’t bore people because I use juicy verbs and shun the passive voice. Weakness transformed!
  • Opportunity, Don’t Knock It The opportunities in the way I present my core belief—you need this, you should read this, you’ll be happy you did — have given me an edge in certain kinds of content—blogging is one and social media is another. My colorful use of language shows my clients that I can excel in these arenas—even business-to-business blogs and social networks are people-to-people, aren’t they? If I continue to sell my blogging and network posts and broaden my reach to new prospects, I can realize a great jump in profits—people need lots of blogs and tweets/shares these days — they’re among the most in-demand content I write.
  • Why Am I Not Scared? The Threat to my r’aison d’etre? The economic realities that my clients face as small businesses serving medium-to-large companies. Their marketing officers are suffering from “next big thing” fatigue—they are expected to jump on every social media or newest flavor of content bandwagon and then show an ROI on these untested tactics. The threat to my core belief—you need this, you should read this—is that it doesn’t get to the person who’s ready to hear it—or they can’t find it—or the company that hired me to write it doesn’t know where to put it. Or worse—we can’t prove that it worked. This threat is met square on by me—by being up-to-date on cost-effective content strategies and educating my clients on these. By becoming an ROI-KPI detective about these approaches to ensure that they can explain them to their bosses. And by really, truly knowing their customer wants and needs before I put one finger on the keyboard. See, that wasn’t so scary.

You can probably see yourself in some of my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Run a SWOT on the why of what you do before you sell your what. It’s key to building a lasting relationship with your customers.


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.