Insuring the viability of your business 10+ years into the future is not just a matter improving your manufacturing process and maintaining a brand reputation. Investing in marketing will always be a part of business operations, but the global economy has turned business sustainability practices on its head. Having the latest equipment is not a guarantee of success. Investing 8%+ of income on marketing is still smart planning but the planning process needs to change.
Standard practice for running a profitable business doesn’t guarantee success.
I have watched the printing industry in the U.S. change from a competitive, growing industry to a devastated industry trying to find a formula that will guarantee sustained growth. Two of my favorite print companies closed their doors this year. The economy use to support all sizes of printers, from a 1-man shop to a multi-location printer with 100+ employees.
We can all recite a dozen factors that impacted the printing business. Specialization and keeping up with new techniques has been pushed in all industries as the requirement to succeed. Doing everything right didn’t protect every business from losing money and closing their doors.
I am not talking about the businesses that are ignoring the changes happening around them and insist on doing business the same way it’s “always“ been done for years. I spoke with a representative of a company who said their web page was 11 years old and the owner was satisfied. He said the business owner doesn’t see how the internet can bring him sales. That is another article waiting to be written.My interest is with those companies in touch with reality and making the effort to grow their business. The past couple of years have proven that following best practices for building a healthy business that can last for generations doesn’t always save the best companies. But the same questions remain an important part of building a business that will thrive and survive.
3 questions to ask to begin developing a business and marketing plan to navigate your business through the changes are:
- What business are we in?
- What business can we be in?
- What business do we need to be in to remain healthy long into the future?
These aren’t unique questions, but they are difficult questions. You can’t just answer them once. You need to continually ask these questions because of the new economy we are in. Evaluating the competition has to be done continually to position your brand in the market, but we don’t always question the position of future business opportunity for the company, brand or product.
25 years ago no one considered the impact of the internet on print. Magazines and newspaper sales were already struggling when people depended on publications, TV and radio for news and information. 25 years ago the changes were natural evolution of publications loosing their focus, competition and audience evolution. Today’s publications are far different and the competition is even bigger if you include blog sites. A small online publication can have significant influence that previously was only seen by publishers like Time Warner because they to have global reach.
Consider the degree of change to the publishing industry!
It underscores the need to change the perspective of how you look at and answer the questions you ask when creating a marketing and business plan to build your brand. Textbook publishers have been slow to evolve their product even though the potential is tremendous in advancing education as well as offering parents cost effective up-to-date textbooks on disk. Their business model needs to change from print to digital or a combination of both. I am surprised that a renegade hasn’t stepped in to fill that void. Maybe we all have to look for a sales different model for selling product or services?
Don’t avoid the question of what business should you be in.
Slow to adapt, slow to admit it’s the wrong business is costly and could make it harder to recover. As humans we dislike change and surprises especially when this seem to be great. Someone in your organization has to be responsible for looking for trends – good and bad – so your business and marketing plans are created on a foundation of being proactive. With every economic downturn I have been through, those that were reactive business models suffered more than those operating as proactive.
Proactive model of planning and action needs to be across the board from business, and sales to product development. It takes a disciplined balanced approach, all aspects of running the business being evaluated and managed. Don’t restrict the approach to answering the questions of who you are and what should you be. Reclaim the attitude of youth where anything is possible and there is a solution for every roadblock. Get outside the comfort zone; refuse to accept anyone telling you “it can’t be done”.