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Growing Against the Grain
Marketing in Uncertain Times — "So ... what?"

by Muriel Haverland, President, The Mentor Dynamic, Inc.

Every organization has challenges daily. Managing those challenges and keeping them in perspective is how organizations succeed or fail during the most difficult of times. As Chairman for TEC, The Executive Committee, an International Organization of CEOs, I interact with CEOs every day regarding their success and survival tactics.

An organization has to have a clear vision and mission.
How do you define that “clear vision and mission?” What are you trying to achieve? It is the end result, not the process that needs to be defined. It is much like a life affirmation. Write it in the present tense, focus on its intention, focus your attention on the intention, and manifest the outcome. A shorter version “Fake it till you make it!” or “Believe you can and you can!” So…What do you want to become? When do you want it to happen? How is it going to happen? Who is going to ensure that it happens? Who is going to hold you accountable for it happening? If it doesn’t happen, then WHAT?

What differentiates you from your competitors?
When asked this question, CEOs answer with cliches, “better customer service, quality, etc.” Everyone says that, so it is almost like saying nothing at all. So what is it that you do differently? Maybe nothing. Maybe you just do it “faster, smarter, cheaper, better.” If so, is it reflected in your price, your warranty, your referrals, and in your bottom line? Capitalize on what you know about how or what you do differently and make sure that you can prove it. Truth flies in the face of any competition. It will affect your margins and your bottom line. So…What differentiates you from your competition?

What is the organization focused upon?
If you are worried about “not getting the contract or not getting the business, not meeting payroll, not enough cash flow” that is where your focus is…on the NOT. What the organization is focused upon is what it will create! Focus on image, reputation, cost-reduction, developing deeper relationships with existing clients (the best resource for new business), and leveraging those relationships for new business. Spend some real planning time looking at strategic alliances/partnerships that will be mutually agreeable and profitable (this may look easier than it is – use resources that are available to you to make it work right the first time). Find new applications, new markets, and new territories to explore, or conversely, deploy deeper and more fully in your current market, depending on your product, service and objectives. So…On what and where are you focusing your energy, talents and resources?

Focus on SALES!
Planning, research, and new business development strategies are paramount. Doing everything the same in slower times will result in slower than normal results. Don’t allow the organization to be focused on excuses? Difficult times? The Economy? No! Do you want to stay in business? Then you have to sell, sell, sell. Work SMARTER, not harder. Get the team together and discuss everyone’s ideas. No idea is good or bad. It is just an idea. Each person who offers an idea then has to go back and sell the organization on how it will improve sales. Each person gets involved in the solution and therefore is more committed to the outcome and the process of getting there! So…What is it you need to be doing? Differently? Stop doing? Do more of?

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN, and then Revisit the PLAN and PLAN Again!
There is nothing that can replace planning or excuses for not PLANNING! Planning is your opportunity to stand back and examine the business, include others in the process, and explore your options. It is the way to plug the holes, stop doing what isn’t working, and start doing more of what is working. Revisiting the plan on a regular basis gives a fresh perspective to old ideas – stale? right on? on target? In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, those CEOs who out paced even the Jack Welsh’s of the world, planned and planned and planned again. Then they worked their plan, all the way to the bank! They outperformed GE and other major icons by many X’s. So…What is your plan? When did you last review it? Have you READ the book? Whom do you know who can “objectively” review your PLAN?