Category Archives: Marketing Consulting

Policy Change, or New Trend Opportunity?

trend_or_new_business_opportunityI recently had the opportunity to go to France on a business trip. Despite the increasingly “flat” world we live in, each country definitely has its particular nuances on how business is done and what social customs are acceptable. Fortunately, I was able to spend a bit of time in restaurants where I enjoyed the wonderful French cuisine.

One thing that caught my attention was when it came time to pay my bill. I was aware that when using a credit card, the tip had to be referenced early so as to be included with the authorization approval. What struck me as odd was that a tip amount could no longer be included with my credit card charge.

Shortsighted Policy Shift

This policy change surprised me, so I asked further what the thought was behind it. My server told me that it was causing too much taxes to be charged to the restaurant – apparently VAT or other taxes are applied to not only the food bought, but the services tipped. So, the solution was to simply stop including tips with credit card bills.

My next question was to my server – what did he think of this change? You might guess his response, “It is terrible.” I can only imagine. Personally, I carry little cash with me, relying heavily on plastic to cover my expenses, especially during a business trip. I didn’t have any Euros on me, so had to explain I would be back later to reconcile my shortcoming (which, by the way, I neglected to despite good intentions).

Industry Change, or Window of Opportunity?

My next thought was whether this change was government-mandated, or just the establishment’s decision. After doing a bit of research, it appears this was an isolated incidence (please let me know if I missed something). Given my server’s response, if the policy was country-wide, I suspect we would have all heard about it by now!

Given that this appeared to be an isolated change, what do you suppose will be the outcome? To start, I have a lower opinion of the restaurant – why do I want to support an organization that is clearly not thinking about their employees?

Further, I am inclined to believe the hired help will seek employment where tips can be added to the receipt. This might even create a cycle (and a reputation) that this business owner may, or may not truly understand. Those that can’t find “full payment” employment opportunities might ultimately become the staff at this establishment – effectively lower the bar on the quality of staffing. These folks might have to accept a lower payment in exchange for a lack of experience, poor work history, bad reputation, or some other challenge that precluded their working elsewhere.

As a competitor, this opportunity could be viewed as a window of opportunity to initially hire away the best employees, and in the future, to convince new recruits to not even consider their competitor for employment.

Alternatively, if this were a broader industry shift, such as a new government mandate, then the window of opportunity might be with a different perspective. For example, a new business plan that might now gain traction could be to provide mobile payment via a new app capable of digitally paying a bill while bypassing the restaurant’s own internal billing format. From a marketing communications perspective, the waiters could then become your own distributed sales force, offering this service to those without cash on hand.

Those with a keen sense of what was driving the change and what the perspective is of those impacted by the change will stand to benefit – if they can move quick enough to provide a new solution before everyone else.

So, next time you observe a shift in a routine, it might be worthwhile to pay particular attention to what is driving that change – a new business plan opportunity might be just around the corner!


Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Business Plan, Business Plan Writer, Business Strategy, Marketing Communications, Marketing Consulting

Business Plan Writing vs. Advising

business_plan_advisor_or_writerOver the years I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few people eager to start a new business with ambitions to conquer a market, introduce a new product or to just start something new. Once the idea is born, the challenge is to pick the best path through to fruition. There are many decisions to make with regards to how to spend your time, where to focus your budget dollars as well as reviewing ideas with close friends and family. As part of this decision process, the source of capital for launching or expanding the business will inevitably come up. Can I fund this idea myself and retain 100% of control, or, do I need help via a capital investment?

Those that make it through these hurdles with the conclusion that outside funding is required must then face the task of best explaining their new idea in such a way that it can generate excitement without necessarily giving away all of the “secret sauce” of the venture. It is at this point that the topic of writing a business plan will emerge – do I need one now, or, can it wait?

Given the capital markets, it is likely you will need to make a bit of a time investment to achieve success … you will need to speak with many individuals before finally finding the right match of your opportunity with the investment profile of an angel or Series 1 investor. In the interest of efficiency, it is typical to arrive at the conclusion that another “venue” for telling your story is needed. In fact, you probably need a few different formats to best tell your story.

To start, a 30 second elevator pitch is critical. If you can’t tell your idea quickly with enthusiasm, then you venture will likely die. Add to this challenge the fact that everyone is totally overloaded today, being impacted by literally thousands of messages, images and other distractions all the time. Your communication must be crisp, unique and stand out from the crowd.

Those that you “hook” with this elevator pitch will then ask for more information. This is a good thing – you have their attention. So, the next step is what do you do? If you can arrange a future meeting in person, great. A presentation will be needed, at a minimum, to continue your conversation. I would propose that in addition, now would be an excellent time to have a business plan already prepared to send prior to your meeting. Access to a written plan can be well worth the time and investment to prepare, provided it demonstrates your commitment to the project and achieving success with your venture.

The challenge is that you can’t really wait for the next “chance” encounter to then sit down and write the plan. These documents need time and effort to be invested so they sound good, are well thought out and exciting to read. This type of writing doesn’t happen overnight, nor can you really put something together in just a few hours. You want to show that you have thought through this business opportunity quite carefully, and are ready to go once finding the right partner, employees, or other resources necessary to get started.

It is at this decision point when you must ask yourself: “Do I just need a writer to capture my thoughts, which I am completely confident are all correct?” Or, is it more accurate to consider that you have “pretty much” the idea for the plan in your head, but, there are definitely some of the details, competitive pressures and product / service differentiation that could do with some refinement? If the latter is the case, realize you need more than just a business plan writer. You need an advisor, a person who can help you with not only the writing to ensure it is understandable, but that it can withstand the scrutiny of an investor that is putting some of their own money into the venture. This type of reader will have very specific questions that must be answered before they consider proceeding further.

If you come to this point in your new business process, challenge yourself to really assess if you need a person who is skilled with what business models can actually be executed, or, do you want to hire a writer that will simply replicate what you tell him or her. If it is an advisor or modeler you seek, then look to see what marketing experience in planning and execution that they have. After all, the entire discipline of marketing is focused on planning, strategizing and executing the best way to achieve business plan objectives. Once the plan has been carefully thought out, it then becomes the responsibility of sales to actually execute upon it. Of course, this may be one and the same person for a smaller organization, but, the concept still holds true.


Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business model adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

Leave a Comment

Filed under Business Communications, Business Plan, Business Plan Writer, Marketing Communications, Marketing Consulting

5 Reasons to Hire a Marketing Consultant

By Gordon Benzie



Most business professionals have a budget or a fixed level of resources to work with. Those working at startups must be extra vigilant, as extended budget overruns could sink the company. When you are operating within these types of constraints, it is easy to get into the mindset of thinking “I can do it all,” or “I have to do it all” because I can’t afford to pay someone else to do what I can do, which in the end gives me a greater chance for survival.

Entrepreneurs justify these actions under the umbrella of “I can do this task better” than anyone else, further validating the decision to “in source”. Interestingly, this philosophy can be either highly beneficial OR detrimental to a young, growing business’ success. It just depends. An Entrepreneur that spends the time to really understand their client’s needs by giving them a lot of personal attention might be doing the right thing. The same logic, however, may not apply to other activities.

Because of this ambiguity, I thought it might be helpful to provide a checklist of five potential benefits to consider in your decision to hire a third party marketing consultant.


  1. To obtain a third party perspective from someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your current marketing strategy, lead generation or messaging campaigns. A consultant will be more likely to point out an inconsistency or ambiguity of your current programs, simply by what questions are asked. Fresh eyes and ears are valuable as a “bouncing board,” such as what your objectives are or who you’re trying to speak to.
  2. To remove (or at least reduce) politics from making the right marketing decision. Consultants are less likely to be as caught up in office politics for the simple fact that they are typically brought in to “fix” an already acknowledged problem. If you really need to know if a marketing campaign proposed by the founder or CEO, it might be difficult for a Vice President of Marketing to express concern.
  3. To provide a weighted perspective to break through tough, “logjam” decisions. Product naming exercises are one of the most challenging marketing tasks to perform, right before creating a whole new website. In these complex and often emotional thought processes, a third party consultant can operate better as an intermediary to break “ties,” or even better, to provide the rationale and leadership to make better decisions. If you are paying for a marketing consultant’s advice, why not actually use it!
  4. To hear an “outside in” perspective, ideally from a perspective gained while working in other industries. Quite often, the marketing challenge you are facing has been dealt with already in another industry, so why re-create the wheel? Well-seasoned consultants benefit from the simple fact that they have worked with clients in similar situations in other markets or geographies. Embrace these other viewpoints to gain greater value from your investment in your consultant.
  5. To address an issue faster than trying to uncover it yourself, for a problem that might be new or unknown to your marketing team. A consultant typically understands they are there to fix one or a few specific issues, so won’t focus as much on “justifying” their existence to keep collecting a paycheck, as a new hire might be more inclined to do. Of course, there are always exceptions, but consultants typically are laser focused on quickly identify the problem and then remedying it with the fastest solution available. I would propose that this concept further applies to those outside consultants who are in strong demand, as they have other billing clients eager to hire them next.


Hopefully these perspectives help to give you an expanded perspective on why it might not be the right choice to apply the “DIY” philosophy to all marketing activities. It might make sense to hire a consultant if the value delivered is accomplished quickly, or if an issue is fixed that you may not have even understood exists. Of course, there are good consultants and there are bad ones. Each of these objectives all fall by on the wayside if your consultant is not experienced in solving your problem. But, once you find a good one, it can be an excellent investment of your resources to periodically bring them in for a marketing “tune up,” or to review of your current campaigns to help assess whether or not you are on the best path to success!


Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

Leave a Comment

Filed under Business Strategy, Marketing Communications, Marketing Consulting