Tag Archives: Marketing consultant

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+

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5 Reasons to Hire a Marketing Consultant

By Gordon Benzie

 

direction_to_follow_to_hire_marketing_consultant

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+

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Public Relations on a Shoestring Budget

public_relations_on_shoe_string_budgetBy Gordon Benzie

 

Having just discussed the importance of measuring the incremental marginal value and marginal cost of public relations as a way to determine an optimal level of investment, sometimes that option simply doesn’t exist. If you only have a limited budget, then you must simply learn to make do with what you’ve got.

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume you have at least some funds that can be allocated to PR. For your initial public relations campaign, you need to start small. Regardless of your budget, spending a high proportion of available cash flow on an untested, unknown marketing activity is needlessly risky, so don’t do it! Instead, set a few targeted objectives and allocate a modest budget to accomplish.

Most importantly, you must be able to measure these actions with metrics that matter. Then give yourself a minimum of 3-4 months to lay the foundation for your Public Relations campaign to allow for a bit of a “runway” to experiment with a couple of activities. Often a campaign will “grow legs” and set in motion other, related actions that bring rewards and opportunities you never even considered.

First Steps

Once you have mentally committed to this “experiment,” the first step is to identify an objective or goal that can be measured and is a reasonable expectation. You don’t need to talk to a marketing consultant to know that if you are currently ranked #50 amongst your competitors, issuing a press release won’t get you to #1 over night!

To help illustrate, let’s say you own a shoe store, located in a mall. Your customers primarily consist of those who are either already at the mall and see something interesting in your window display, or are repeat buyers. Given your knowledge of the business, you know what a “normal” traffic baseline is, so for this example, our goal is to increase foot traffic by 20 percent. Note I am not directly targeting an increase of revenue, but instead that increased traffic will lead to more sales. My hypothesis is simply that a rising tide will raise all boats, leading to more sales. If increased traffic does not improve sales, then a different problem might exist.

The Campaign

Now we have a goal, the next step is to think about is what event or activity can be established and communicated to achieve more traffic at the store. Perhaps you are friends with a local celebrity in the area, in which case you could advertise they will be in your store next Saturday to sign autographs. With this “call to action,” you can now invest the time (and resources) to draft a press release announcing this activity, which then would need to be published in time for your prospects to read about it and make time in their schedule to visit. You could then reach out to your local paper to make a short announcement, even inviting someone from the paper to attend (if they are available). A few phone calls and some time spent writing the announcement sums up your investment for this trial activity.

Another example might be to sponsor a local school event by providing running shoes for some (or all) participants. This could be a way to raise awareness to the other athletes in the area your commitment to being part of the local activities, helping to make your store be known as one that is investing in the community. In “marketing speak” this is referred to as brand awareness. With this scenario, the investment cost all depends on what you want to give away.

In the end, the activity or campaign will then need to be measured against your objective to see how it fared. Missing your objective can teach you just as much as over-attaining it. Dissecting this activity can reveal enormous intelligence on how your customers perceive you, as well as insights into their buying behavior. From this knowledge, you can then adjust your approach, message or outreach to hopefully continuously improve your results and return on investment.

And that, after all, is the key to unlocking the future upside in any business.

 

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+

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