Strategic planning. No two words have more power to define the success of your company.
Unfortunately, most companies are so caught up in the day-to-day dramas of their business that they don't cultivate their company's true potential.
My last column was on evaluating your value-added services to see if they are valuable to your customers. The next step looks at your products and services in the big picture and close-up.
Our first analytical view is to define your big marketing picture. Start by laying out your value-added and core services in the order they are used. For example, if you are an injection molder and your value-added services are inventory management and computer-aided design and manufacturing, there is a natural placement of these services as they relate to your core activity: CAD/CAM, molding, inventory management.
Now, ask: ``Collectively, what are we really selling?'' In the case above, the molder is not merely selling molded parts, it is selling a solution. Maybe its role is providing assurance that its customers will continue to lead the way in new-product development, and, thus, stockholder value. Or maybe it's increased productivity at its customers' firms.
Armed with your big-picture mind-set, market your value-added services. Next, analyze individual services. Most firms don't target the right message to the right person. That person may not be the final decision maker, but will influence buying.
Now, write a one-page evaluation for each of these services that answers:
Who is the target audience?
Why should those people care about this?
What are their hot buttons?
What are the service's benefits to those individuals?
What marketing or sales vehicles will allow you to communicate most effectively with them?
Before moving forward, test your answers. Contact a target person or two at an existing customer for each of your value-added services and pick their brains. Find out what their hot buttons are, how they can best be reached, what publications they read. Take your research and go back to each of your one-page evaluations and change them accordingly. It's always interesting to see how close your theories are to reality.
These one-page evaluations, along with your previous analysis, will become the foundation for a comprehensive strategic marketing plan, which I will cover in my next column.
Bowen is president of Fuse Integrated Marketing Inc.in Newburyport, Mass., which serves the plastics and coatings industries. He previously held marketing positions with injection molders Global Zero LP and Shape Inc.