Recently, I was asked by one of our out-of-state media partners to share marketing information with their sales staff. There is a mystery in being the agency from a different state. When asked, I never miss an opportunity to share. I focused on our knowledge of the auto dealers we service and provided a few thoughts. For those of you who know me, I always have a list. When meeting with clients, whether automotive, retail or B2B, simplistic thought processes are utilized. We generally start with a strategic plan generator and move from there. To the salesforce I shared the following:
In medicine, “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” The same is true in advertising. To get an accurate diagnosis you must ask all the questions listed below. Caution: Never accept a general answer. Always ask the question again until you have specifics. For example, if the client states their customers are “all ages,” ask for a breakout. Try it like this: “Are 70 percent of them between 20 and 40? Here are my top 10 questions:
1. Briefly, how do you define your primary business?
2. What areas, target demographics, zip codes, etc. do you serve?
3. What is the value to your customer?
4. Who are your competitors? (You’d be surprised how many answer, “We don’t have any.” We all have them. Think. Who are yours?)
5. How competitive is your business? (Example—Target to Wal-Mart, Lenscrafters to Pearle.)
6. What is your competitive advantage? (Perceived or real)
7. What is your business strategy? (Okay, the answer can’t just be “To make money.” My favorite is Pepsi’s rumored statement— Beat Coke!)
8. What are the obstacles that might impede your progress?
9. How do you evaluate your performance?
10. How might the competition respond to your initiatives?
It amazes me how easily these questions can be used for business and personal matters. Our value statements are what drive us. They set the tone for our mission statement. Ten simple (or complex, depending on how you look at it) questions can set the direction we move this year and in the future. It’s not about who sells the widget anymore, it’s about what makes buying the widget from your business versus your competitor, about what was felt buying it and what the bottom line was.
My teenage daughter suffered during this past cold and flu season. I chuckled as we stood in the store gathering all the medicines to help comfort her. When I asked if she was taking her vitamin C regularly, she stared and said, “I thought I was done with it.” It reminded me of my conversation with a client in a northern state. He pulled his advertising for the month, and then asked why his used car sales dropped so dramatically. My first question, “What’s the competition doing this month?” For my second question, see number 10 above. His competitor was spending a lot during the month since he wasn’t. His target audience wasn’t hearing his message, but was hearing his competitor’s message.
When we know the climate is tough, whether cold and flu season, low gross for our widgets or coming out of a tough quarter, we still need to stay on target. If our business is going to be open for 52 weeks, we need to have a strategy each week. The questions above are a great way to start, just like vitamin C is for a cold.
As Captain Kirk used to say (and it is still a great mission statement today): “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Becky Wood’s five year mission—to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” IBI