Start-ups, businesses pivoting, and anyone with a strategy issue…


This is a straight-shooting, simple way to start diagnosing strategy issues in your business.

With SMEs across the globe grappling with how to survive, making changes to their business model and aligning marketing activity, now’s the time to have these conversations in your company.

Sit down with your team and work through the questions together. You’ll get some great conversations going and be able to step back to see the “wood for the trees”.  Move through these questions and just move straight on if one doesn’t apply to your situation.

Do the right people know about you?

<Yes? Great. Move to next>

No? You’ve got an awareness challenge. But you probably already knew that.

Your Actions:

Take time to consider the following:

Are you just starting out? Is this a new product or service for your business? Is there general awareness of the wider category you’re operating in? If not – then you have a big opportunity to capitalise on as a ‘first mover’, but also a good sized challenge that will require investment from a time and money perspective.

    • Creating awareness of a whole new category – means you’ve cracked something brand new, or…’re planning on marketing something that already exists with a fresh or surprising angle.
    • Just make 100% sure that there is either:
    • A need/desire for what you have created, or;
    • That your marketing will be smart and powerful enough to create that need/want in people’s psyches.

If this is an existing market and no-one knows about you then simply put – you have to tell them.

    • This is where knowing your target market – what drives them and where they ‘hang out’ from a researching / advertising perspective is mission critical. Are they LinkedIn devotees? Do they shop in physical stores? Are they listening to Talkback?
    • Design a marketing plan with the right channels and messages to get in front of these people. And remember that the best marketing plans are multi-channel – because shoppers are dynamic, and marketing messages won’t generally work on first sighting.

Do the right people want your stuff?

<Yes? Great. Move to next>

No? If your target market is aware of you and what you sell but they don’t want it – that’s obviously a problem! This may be showing up in terms of little or low sales. There’s a few layers to explore here:

  1. The ‘stuff’ that you’re selling might need some fundamental changes – new features, new benefits, a new way of purchasing it,. Or,
  2. Perhaps you haven’t harnessed the true benefits of your ‘stuff’ or the ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) factors of your products or service to be able to communicate them effectively through marketing.

Worst case and you’ve got a dead dog? It’s better to fail fast on that now and repurpose any investment, than to drag it out exhausting your precious funds and time.

Your Actions:

  • Get out there and talk to people – identify who the perfect customers are for your products and get them to open up over a wine, or in a focus group setting with a few key questions. Or better yet, invest in professional research and get them to run this for you in an unbiased way.
  • Do a survey of your databases – just make sure they’re “clean” with up to date contact info, correct email addresses and ultimately segmented based on the “persona” they represent to you.
  • Add an incentive, or run a Facebook poll.
  • Create a stronger brand story. Dig deep and tell a more authentic and interesting story about why you exist. Remember that people sometimes don’t know they want something until it triggers an emotion, or paints a picture of how their life could improve… now that’s powerful marketing.

Do the right people buy your stuff?

<Yes? Great. Move to next>

No? So people want your stuff but they’re not buying it? This is interesting – but there has to be a reason.

Your Actions:

Consider and take time to identify the issue:

  • Maybe it’s out of reach for them in terms of pricing? (which doesn’t automatically mean you should drop your pricing by the way)
  • Perhaps where your stuff is being promoted isn’t reaching the right audience, i.e. an audience who would be able to afford it.
  • Maybe your audience just need a little more convincing (similar to “not wanting your stuff”).  Have you created a case powerful enough to compel them?
  • Is your brand story, the features and benefits of your product, and the ways it solves problems or improve lives, loud and clear in all the marketing you’re doing?
  • Are you putting enough cash behind your marketing to get reach and cut-through?

Do the right people keep buying your stuff? / Stay with you?

<Yes? Great. Move to next>

No? A one-off purchase of a product or service (if it lends itself to be recurring) could spell any one or more of a few issues: a customer experience issue, a promise vs delivery issue, a value-for-money issue or a “lure of the competition” issue. If this is happening at scale, then it’s very important you get to the bottom of it.

Your Actions:

  • Are you running any sort of post-purchase feedback process? (Surveys, NPS etc)
  • Are the channels available to customers for feedback clear and accessible?
  • Are you applying the right amount of time, money and resources to: “surprising, delighting, upselling and cross-selling to relevant products within your existing customer base?

(Too often the new ‘shiny’ customer gets much more of the attention and money than they should. You know the old adage…the one about what it costs to get a new customer vs. keeping an old one? If not, it’s a LOT easier and cheaper to keep the current ones happy!)

Do the right people tell other people about your stuff?

<Yes? Great. Move to next>

No? Hmmmm apathy… that silent, slow killer of brands and revenue lines. If you’re not getting referrals, engagement with your social media channels is minimal, or your customer feedback suggests people are ‘okay’ with your product or service but wouldn’t go out of their way to recommend you… then you need to take some action.

Your Actions:

  • Lift the experience you give people, create fun, easy ways for customers to share their experience with you
  • Ask for Google reviews
  • Provide ‘instagrammable’ picture options and experiences as well as the hashtags to go with it
  • Consider using influencers to promote products
  • Ask for referrals from customers – (use prompts written in the right ways), incentives or loyalty points if you’re in the right space for that.
  • Create stories with customers, talk to your customer community about the ways people are using your stuff, share your brand / individual story

Are you truly growing?

<Yes? Great. Move to next>

No? So people know about you, they like you and buy from you – maybe even on repeat and then they tell people about you also? – you’re killing it! But are you truly growing?

I worked at an investment company once where their key measure was the dollars under investment management each month. But the bulk of any “new” money came from existing customers – who were also aging quickly. There were little new bodies coming through the doors…

As you can imagine, this model had a very risky shelf-life with revenue lines that falsely signaled “growth”.

Your Actions:

  • Make sure you’re measuring the right things to signal whether there is existing and new interest in your product from a new customers / market share / brand strength perspective.
  • Share these insights and reports a wide as you can to inform decision-making and build clarity and empowerment within your team.

Are you truly making money?

<Yes. Time to get back to business then!>

No? So you’ve got the bodies – the new customers coming in droves, but what does your net profit look like? Are people ecstatic with your product but for some reason you’re left wondering why you’re not living like a king?

Clearly you’ve got an adjustment to make – on pricing, on operational costs, on human costs, processes, assets…..etc.

Your Actions:

  • Identify which, or how many of these dials need tweaking and then carefully go about adjusting your model without rocking your boat of raving fans.
  • Take them on the journey – if it’s right for your brand personality, tell people that they may experience some changes.
  • If it’s pricing – people do expect price increases from time to time, especially if you can justify the increase via improved value, economic times, costs of materials etc.
  • Make sure people (staff and customers) are part of your communications plan – where appropriate, give them the respect they deserve by taking them on the ride of your evolution…

I hope these questions help to ignite some robust conversations in your business and some even better solutions.

From marketing companies to construction-equipment clients, I have a knack for designing and facilitating sessions around these key areas. If you need some help in this space give me a shout.