Planning Your Annual Initiatives

Setting priorities starts with a plan. A good plan creates focus, sets goals, creates alignment throughout your organization, and provides a means for accountability. Have you reduced organizational activity down to the minimum to achieve maximum results? Are anyone’s priorities working at cross purposes to the company’s? Are your daily activities properly aligned toward your goals? You are likely emphasizing the wrong set of priorities to your team if you don’t address these issues.

Planning Equals Prioritization

Planning requires prioritizing initiatives. This will help you to send the right message to your team and prevent time and resource loss. As with most plans, I recommend there be no more than five annual initiatives (less is preferred). Once you have your Critical Numbers, you can determine which initiatives are most important to undertake, maintaining at least one annual initiative focused on just your critical number(s).

After meeting hundreds of business owners, I find that most fail to create a good business plan. The secret is in the annual initiatives. Many leaders confuse budgeting with business planning. Others confuse action steps with priorities or initiatives. Others are not thinking big enough when creating their plans. Are you finding it challenging to create a good business plan? How often is there a difference between the plan you create and the actions your team initiates? How big is the gap between expected and actual performance? In my experience, poor business planning may cost you serious growth in revenue and profits.

5 Pitfalls to Setting Your Annual Priorities

A good business plan should help you determine priorities. These are the 3 to 5 annual initiatives that should move your business forward. Many business leaders ignore their weakness in this area because they fear impacting their financial goals. Priorities are usually strategic in nature or are items that do not show directly in the P & L, such as initiatives that strengthen customer loyalty. The natural tendency is to worry about today, which is why most business plans are never executed. That said, while creating a good business plan and setting your annual priorities, beware of the following common pitfalls:

• Poor Clarity – An initiative should be described with such clarity that a stranger would know what you are trying to accomplish and be able to hold you accountable.

• Short-Term Focus – Some plans focus on initiatives that affect only the most immediate quarterly goals. Every business needs to make money and cover its expenses, but the problem occurs when you are so focused on the short-term that you are not able to spend time making the changes that are necessary for making quantum leaps.

• Ignore the Trends – I see companies that continue to ignore the fact that the traditional ways in which their customers purchase their products and services have changed. Blockbuster didn’t recognize these trends and has been replaced with forward-thinking companies like Netflix.

• Accepting Your Weaknesses – Knowing that you have weaknesses is not the same as doing something about them. Every company should make it a priority to seriously address, if not eliminate, at least one weakness per year.

• Over Ambition – Too often leaders see all the things they are unhappy with and try to turn initiatives into priorities. Generally, it is good practice to have 5 or fewer annual priorities.

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Marketing Strategy: Let an Online Business Manager Lead the Way

When you have an online business manager on your team, one of her primary responsibilities might be to partner with you to create your overall marketing strategy. That includes everything from brainstorming to campaign planning to hiring contractors to execute creative, setting up response tracking metrics, and so on. An Online Business Manager can handle all of these important elements:

    1. Work with you to create a baseline “state of the business” evaluation. You need a clear understanding of your market, your products and/or services, what sets you apart from competitors, and your market share. You need to know not only what you are doing, but also what your competitors are doing and how it’s different (or similar) to what you offer. Be detailed about your business’ strengths, weaknesses, external threats, and opportunities.

    1. Get a handle on product positioning. What makes your product special? What features make it stand out? Decide what features will appeal to different customers. For some, convenience is a top priority, but others are just looking for a good price. And still others hold out for top quality. You can’t offer everything, so determine what makes the most sense for your business.

    1. Help you clarify marketing goals. What are you trying to achieve? A growth in sales? By how much? More customers? How many? Keep a running list of large and small goals.

    1. Define tactics. How will you achieve your goals? There are many ways: sales contact by phone, email or in person. There’s social media marketing. There’s direct (snail) mail. And there’s advertising. Decide when you will utilize which methods to reach your goals.

  1. Draw up a marketing budget. Remember, to make money you (usually) have to spend money. You should never spend more than you can afford, but over time you’ll win more business and your marketing budget can expand accordingly.

Just imagine how smoothly your business might run all year when you have a professionally developed marketing strategy set for the whole year! You’d have the freedom to devise new offerings or even just take some well-deserved vacation.

It’s not right for every entrepreneur or small business, but if yours is well established and ready to move to the next level, an online business manager can help you get there. Let’s connect to see if you are ready to work with an Online Business Manager.