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Business Planning Basics
We're all experts at working IN our business, but how much time & effort do we dedicate to working ON our business? Sure, working in the business can keep the lights on each day, but what if another rainy day like COVID hits again tomorrow? Would your business sink or swim?
Planning for the future of your business doesn't have to be extravagant or complicated.
Whether you’ve been in business for a year or 10 years, new clients, expenses, staff changes, seasonal effects are all jigsaw pieces that need to be put together. No two years in business are ever the same. Maybe similar, but never the same.
Information, trends & patterns that have gone before are important to be aware of. Here are some questions to help you review the history of your business, so that your choices about the future are more informed & impactful:
• What are the peaks and valleys that happen throughout the year?
• When were you busiest? e.g. influx of new clients, increase in work load
• How did summer vacation, Christmas & other holidays affect your business?
• Did the above holidays have an impact on your staff?
• Did you implement anything new to the business e.g. automated billing, and what was its effect?
COVID changed a lot, especially how we need to plan for the future. It showed us that we need to be agile enough to allow us to stop & pivot on a dime. Some businesses were able to immediately take a step back, examine what was truly affected, and then lean into those areas that weren’t. Things like Electronic Filing (eFiling) & Electronic Recording (eRecording) allowed those Counties already accepting it to continue to do business, while it showed others that they need to get on board. Not just from a COVID perspective, but the benefits to all involved were numerous: it’s cost-effective, time saving for bout County & litigate,
Setting goals for the future doesn’t always have to be about growing either. Maybe your business is the size you want it, so your goals may center around process improvement (how to make your life easier) or streamlining your P&L to increase your profits.
“To catch the Fox, one must think like the Fox”
Marketing in 2023 is the most diverse it’s ever been, and continues to further diffuse every day. Things that used to be niche are now mainstream & vice versa. And while how we pitch to the different demographics are in a constant state of flux, the questions we need to ask prior to advertising remain constant.
WHO is your target demographic?
This is by far THE MOST IMPORTANT question to ask, and to keep in mind for 2 reasons:
1. For your marketing to be most effective, you need to know who to target:
b. Age range?
d. Socio economic status?
e. Marital status?
f. No. of dependents?
g. Sexual orientation and/or identity?
i. Education level?
k. English as a Second Language (ESL)?
… just to name a few
And why is this so important?
2. Unless YOU are the target demographic, your marketing should not appeal to you, because it’s not designed for you: it’s designed for THEM.
Once you define WHO, then you can start to figure out the rest…
WHAT do they like/appeals to them?
Wording, imagery, color (and more) all affect the various groups in different ways.
• Boomers & Gen X will respond better to reliability, assuredness, safety.
• Millennials are attracted by imagery and wording that is disruptive and cheeky.
• Gen Z prefer messaging that feels authentic and real aka the complete opposite of most marketing campaigns.
Remember, unless you are your target demographic, your marketing probably shouldn’t appeal to you.
HOW do they find businesses & digest information?
The modern customer will 9/10 find us via a digital source. But that is not the end of the answer: it’s just the start. Digital advertising is so diverse & unique in its’ own right that what works on one medium, will not work on another. This comes back to why identifying your target demographic is so crucial, as each of them will access and prioritize various platforms and media over others (some media, even within the same platform!)
• Boomers & Gen x are most likely to engage with Facebook posts & advertising.
• Millennials will mainly respond to Instagram posts, with a subset now actively engage with Reels.
• Gen Z are drawn to apps like SnapChat or TikTok, and also the most likely to search YouTube for “How To” videos instead of Google (like the other groups)
And what about physical ads: mailers, postcards, flyers, YellowPages etc? They still have a place, and definitely appeal a particular group, however the people that start their customer journey and/or decide to purchase are gradually decreasing.
WHAT media do they engage with most?
Ok, so you’ve narrowed down their preferred medium, however each branch of this tree usually contains multiple leaves:
• Print ad?
• Word of mouth?
• Email campaign?
• Paid banner ad?
• Sponsored Reel?
• Live Stream?
• Organic post in their feed?
• Paid Influencer promotion?
Facebook, for example, allows you to advertise via paid banner ads, sponsored reels, live streams, organic posts, word of mouth & paid influencer promotions.
WHEN are they actively looking?
Often overlooked, but just as important. When you speak, you want someone to listen. You want the most amount to hear you. So what’s the point in speaking if no one is around? Same with your marketing. Unless your target is actively engaging with the medium, then what’s the point?
• Target: Millennial office worker, who lives in the suburbs but works in the city.
• Platform: Instagram Reels
• Best time: either between 7:30am-9am and/or 4:30pm-6:30pm
• Why: This target has a high probability of using public transport to get to/from work, to be travelling at this time, and to be active on their preferred platform.
WHY would they choose you over the competition?
This is your “Point of Difference”: what truly separates you from the competition?
“We have great customer service!”
According to all business owners, you all have great customer service. NEXT
“We know what we’re talking about”
Everyone is an expert in their field, thus they opened a business. NEXT
“You talk to a human”
Unless you’re calling a BIG company/corporation, people expect to talk to a human. NEXT
“We have over 100+ years of combined experience in our team.”
Even though it leans on being an expert in the field, not many other companies can boast that fact.
This is a Point of Difference!
Once you have your PoD, now you need to figure out how to capitalize on it!
WHAT are their purchase drivers/influences/motivators?
The vast majority of people can be categorized into one of four categories that determine what drives their search & decision-making process.
• People at are a dominant personality will want messaging that is direct & to the point. They detest “fluff” and anything that dances around.
• Those that are more impulsive are the opposite, and are attracted to high-energy, bright, and usually easily excited and want to be first.
• Then by contrast, the stable person will do as the name suggests: they want things that are tried and tested, reliable, and will steer clear of anything that draws attention to themselves.
• Finally, the conscious-type is all about details, facts and figures. They do their research, cross their T’s & dot their I’s. Very much data & accuracy seeking.
Every person is a mix of all four, but at different levels of intensity & control over their perception and, by extension, what influences them to make decisions.
Most of you started & own the business you work in every day. It’s your creation, your dream, your (unofficial) child. But the rest of your team will never see it that way. They will never obsess over the small details, never be as protective or boastful. To them, it’s just a job. But their productivity/output has a direct impact on your bank balance. They are the ones that do most of the leg work to bring money in the door, but they can also be just as responsible for putting your business into the red on the ledger.
It Starts With A Click Or A Tap...
The Customer Journey starts LONG before they set foot in your door. It is now the amalgamation of algorithms, geolocations, review scrutinization, Contact Us forms, chatsBots, and maybe a phone call.
Digital Meets Reality
Today, more than 90% of new & existing customers come to us via digital sources. That’s modern business. Maybe you paid a lot of money for a flashy app, an SEO expert to increase web traffic to your new website, or invested in chatBots to provide 24.7 chat support. Your digital presence made your business seem like it was the Ritz Carlton. Now comes time for a human interaction, maybe a visit to your office, and instead the Customer finds it’s more like a Motel 6. You “catfished” the customer. They were expecting Cinderella at the ball, instead they got Cinderella at home.
If your business is 100% digital, then this isn’t an issue. However, most of us will need to have some human/face-to-face interaction at some stage. This means there must to be congruence between the lure & the hook.
It takes at least 10,000 hours to become a Master at something...
Working for 8hrs a day/365, it’ll take the average human a minimum of 3.5yrs to master just one thing. Now think about how many different aspects there are to running a business. Not all require mastery, but at the same time the more skill/knowledge in that area, the better.
No one is an expert on everything, BUT you can easily learn a little about a lot. Online courses, Google & YouTube have changed the way we assimilate new knowledge and skills. But these can only teach us so much. The humility to acknowledge our short falls doesn’t always come easily, but when it comes to success in business, it’s nothing short of mandatory at times.
So, how much do you know?
What do you know a lot about?
What do you know a little about?
And what just straight up bamboozles you?
THE question: can you draw the horse yourself, or should you hire an artist?
You get 6 secs for a first impression. How does your business present to a potential customer or employee?
Cluttered & chaotic, or cleaned & controlled? As business owners, it’s far too easy & common to walk in, see a stack of papers sitting on a counter top and think “oh that needs to be there for XYZ reasons” and walk past it. A new customer or employee doesn’t know XYZ: they only see a stack of papers sitting in the middle of a counter top, seemingly unorganized & cluttered. Maybe your business looks more clubhouse than office; a great place to grab a beer & watch the game, friends to hang out with rather than do business.
Whatever it is, your new customer is now having their initial interaction with your business through that preconception, good or bad. If it’s good, then you’re off to a flying start! If the first impression is bad, you’re now working extra hard to a) undo that preconception & change how they see you and your business so that they’ll be receptive to what you’re telling them, so that b) they’ll actually hear what you have to say (the purpose of their visit).
When making any plans, the following is the litmus test at apply every time.
Those that are already familiar with S.M.A.R.T. will notice there's an extra A...
• Be as precise as possible, as the criteria you set will help be better indicators when you are successful.
Is it Measurable?
• If you don’t have a metric(s) to monitor your goal by, then how will you know when you achieve it?!
Is is Achievable?
• Can you actually hope to achieve your goal? Or is it Mt Everest sized, and needs to be broken down into smaller steps (requiring their own individual SMARTA goal)?
• Is this a goal that needs to be done now, or are there other things that should be prioritized over this particular goal (and can be saved for further down the track)?
What's the Time frame?
• We all need deadlines, especially if something is important to us as it helps create a sense of urgency & can fight off procrastination.
• Tell a co-worker. Tell your whole team. Your family, a friend… anyone who will ask you about your progress & help push you forward.
A dream written down becomes a goal.
A goal broken down into steps becomes plan.
A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.
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