Controlling the Assumptions in Your Sales and Marketing Strategy
When you incorporate a new strategy into your service business there are certain assumptions that are made upon which the success of your strategy relies. These assumptions need to be monitored and controlled to give your company the greatest chance of accomplishing your stated objectives. The assumptions we make as business leaders are limited to two primary areas: 1) the external environment and how it will change, and 2) the industry in which we operate.
1) Outside Environment. The external environment is something that we really have no control over, but we can make some intelligent predictions about what will or may happen and then determine how we should shape our strategy in light of those predictions. Consider for a second how new housing developments in your city might affect your business. While you have little say in whether or not the developments actually happen, the fact that they take place means you have new opportunities to offer your services to a larger group of people and you can plan your sales and marketing efforts accordingly. Other assumptions can be made about inflation, new governmental regulations regarding employment or quality standards, or major demographic shifts.
2) Industry Changes. Industry changes will also affect the successful implementation of your strategy. They may come from competitors, suppliers, or distribution partners. If a competitor is scaling back and reducing staff, it might create an opportunity to enhance our presence. If we predict that a supplier will raise prices, we may need to adjust our own pricing or start looking for a new supplier to maintain our required margins.
Making the assumptions is the easy part. Controlling them is a different matter. The first thing to remember is that you only need to keep tabs on the assumptions that could have a drastic impact on your success. Think again about the housing development example. If the housing market stumbles and development stops, you will have to rethink your prospecting strategy and make adjustments. So how can we keep our eyes on upcoming changes and make those adjustments?
1) Conduct market tests. If you think your suppliers will raise their prices in the next 6-12 months, do a test run of your products/services at a higher price point and see how the market reacts to your pricing change. If the reaction is reasonable, maybe you don't need to look for a new supplier. If the reaction is drastic, you better get on google and search for someone new.
2) Schedule time to analyze your strategy at key points throughout the year. Conduct a quarterly review of your assumptions and compare how they align with reality.
3) Read, re-read, then read some more (and go to a conference). The Wall St. Journal, industry publications and blogs, social networking sites, local newspapers, and conferences are great sources of information about what is changing and how it might affect your business.
If your sales and marketing strategy is established for the next few months, remember to watch out for current trends in your industry and in the external environment. It will help you stay on top of any changes coming your way that require a an adjustment in your strategy.