Why You Should Gather Information About Your Current Business Situation

We will look at Step 3 of your Business Plan; gathering some baseline information and documenting where you are now.

This is information about:

Your Customers  –  who you sell to, who is your target audience

Your Product and Services, and how you charge for these

Your partners, alliances and influencers

And

Your Competitors

Documenting this information in specific and clear terms provides a reference point for the action plans that follow.

For example, your marketing and sales plans start with a clear understanding of your target market, those individuals or companies who will have the greatest need for your product and services.

This may seem obvious, but I find that many organizations do not have this information readily at hand and in a format that everyone in the company can understand

As you review and revise this information on a regular basis, you and your teams will better understand who your best customers are, and what changes you need to make to your products and services to continuously add value for them.

This document will become a useful record as you evolve your business over time.

Let’s start with Your Customers.

The intent here is to clearly articulate the criteria of your target customer. Depending on the size and scope of your business, you may have a relatively short criteria list or  it may require a matrix or spread sheet to clearly explain your current  situation.

This is a good place to involve a wider circle of employees to put this information together.

The test of this document is when everyone in the company can recognize a potential new customer and know how to categorize a new lead. – and to know who isn’t a likely prospect, so you don’t waste time and effort there.

Next, Products and Services/Pricing,

Look at the array of products and services you currently offer, and how you charge for these.

Again, put this information in a format that is easy to understand, both internally and, more importantly, for your current customers and prospects.

Are there any immediate changes you need to make to your current offerings, or pricing strategy? If so, make a note here and transfer an activity to the action plans section later in your business plan.

By the way, when was the last time you asked your customers about their changing needs?

A disciplined, quarterly review, of your business plan, will keep your service offerings fresh, profitable and ahead of your competitors.

Partners, Alliances, and Influencers.

This section captures important information about the companies and individuals you rely on to run your business and deliver on your promises to your customers. These may be your suppliers, or other service providers who have an impact on your business.

The intent here is to assess these relationships and build more productive ones in the future.

We start by looking at the criteria for a productive partner or business alliance, What do you need from a business partner to ensure successful results?

For example,

  • Are their business needs aligned and complementary with yours?
  • Are they open to sharing information about clients?
  • Do they have the same or similar corporate Values?

What other criteria can you use to identify a solid business partner or alliance to ensure your company is successful?

In this workbook, the distinction between partner and alliance is a matter of degree – a partner is a much stronger connection and usually will have a contractual arrangement

An alliance is less intimate connection, and may be seen as a potential future partner

Influencers are people or organizations that can “influence” potential or existing customers – both in a positive or negative way. It’s helpful to recognize these sources, and from time to time, invest some energy in building these relationships.

A good example of an influencer is your industry association groups and key players within these associations. They also might be opinion leaders in the media, either the  traditional media , or social media.

In today’s world of exploding social media, the affect “influencers’ have on your business will surely grow.

Getting clear on who your “Influencers” are, will help you formulate strategies and action plans in the Marketing section later in this workbook

Next, Competitors, 

The Competitors section is designed to capture information and bring some attention to your competitors.

Although I am not a big fan of spending a lot of energy or focus on competitors, it is helpful to keep track of who they are, and, over time, learn as much as possible about them and from them.

We start with a simple list of who they are, a somewhat subjective “risk rating” and a comment on what they do better than you do – what do they, or their customers, say is their competitive advantage?

If you have the inclination and resources you can dig into more detailed Business Intelligence data on your competitors over time. Keeping this document current on each review period will remind you to pay close attention to your changing customer needs, and help refine your target market for future growth.

Keep in mind, a competitor, depending on your perspective, may be a potential future partner or alliance.

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