If you are looking for help with sales, strategy and marketing, you might want to check out our newest program, The Three Questions Every Successful Business Person Must be Able to Answer. These three videos and workbook walk you through the powerful questions that Doug and Polly use with their personal clients to create successful business/marketing plans.

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Sales, Strategy & Marketing

shutterstock 146968715Q. My husband and I are in the process of launching our new business. A marketing company wants us to spend more than $20,000 on a host of marketing services (e.g., developing a company name and logo, business cards, letterhead, brochures, graphics standards manual, website, social media campaign, etc.). We could do this, but we would have to dip into our limited savings. Do you think this is a good idea?

A. Probably not, but let’s explore the issue before jumping to a conclusion. Decisions about how to market your business are some of the most important you will make. Obviously, you will have to market your company to succeed. Whoever said, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door,” was lying. If the world doesn’t know you have a better mousetrap, no one will be knocking on your door. Building a better mouse trap, by itself, is not enough. To succeed, you have to tell the world about your offering—you’ll have to market.

On the other hand, marketing can become a black hole into which you throw your life savings with no return. Too many marketing and advertising companies have a suite of things they offer. They then try to sell this same suite of products to every prospective customer, without regard for whether or not you will benefit from them. Because the only tool they have is a hammer, everything’s a nail. Be wary of such firms. They are happy to take your money but have little to no concern for whether or not your business grows. In our opinion, it’s unethical.

Dollars spent on marketing are an investment, but like any investment, there are good ones and bad ones. To be a good investment marketing dollars must have a positive return. That is a dollar spent on marketing must return more than a dollar. In our experience, few marketing and advertising firms are willing to hold themselves to this standard—find one that is.

Here’s a way to think about your marketing investment. First, you are going to need a few basics:

· Business name – It may be a good idea to hire someone who knows what they are doing, but don’t pay for an exhaustive study. A few hours of a professional’s time and a couple of brainstorming sessions should be sufficient. If not, you hired the wrong person.

· Business cards – In most businesses, without cards, you won’t be credible. You may want to get some help designing your cards, but don’t spend thousands of dollars. Shop around for a fair deal.

· Letterhead and printed envelopes – Our advice is to get printed envelopes, but insist that your letterhead be electronic so that you can print it on your color printer. We let a marketing company sell us printed letterhead and have probably used about one sheet per year. By the way, make sure that whoever develops the electronic version of your letterhead sets things up so that pages of your communication beyond the first one look good.

· Website – These days, every business needs a website. Most people will check out your website before doing business with you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to explain your business proposition clearly and concisely. It also needs to contain your contact information so that people can get in touch with you.

· Email address – Your business email address should be your name @ your company’s URL.com. When deciding on a company name, make sure that the URL is available. Don’t use a yahoo, gmail or hotmail account. It will hurt your credibility.

Beyond these basics, don’t spend money on marketing until you know the segment of the market you are targeting and the best way to reach them. Answer the three questions every business must answer:

1. Why should a prospective customer buy my product or service rather than a competitor’s?

2. Is there a segment of the market that values the thing that differentiates my offering and is it large enough to support my business?

3. How will I reach this customer segment with my marketing message?

Only after you have clear answers to these questions can you put together a marketing plan that will have a positive return on your investment. Marketing is necessary. It can be costly. After you have the basics described above, make sure you have a clear plan for generating a return on your marketing investment before spending more money.


shutterstock 109790174Q.  I'm thinking about buying a business. Do you have any tips that will help me make this successful?

A. Buying a business is exciting. It can be very lucrative, or it can lead to financial disaster. Ensure your success by following the tips below.

Successfully growing a small business is challenging in any environment. It’s even more difficult in economically troubled times. In conducting research for our book, Let Go to Grow; why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential, we discovered five tips that can help entrepreneurs overcome these challenges.

business owner old stressEvery business owner must be able to answer one very basic question, “Why should a prospective customer buy my product or service rather than a competitor’s?” If the owner cannot answer this question, he or she should probably cut his or her losses and seek alternative employment. Fortunately, this isn’t a complex question. At its core, there are only two possible answers; either the product or service is being offered at a lower price or the offering must be differentiated from the competition’s. 

business plan and coffeeQ.Some friends have told me that I should have a business plan for the small business I am planning to launch in the fear future. What do you think?

A.You will most assuredly need a plan for your business. You may, or may not, need a formal business plan. 

Every business must answer three questions. They are:

1.  Why should a prospective customer buy your product or service rather than a competitor’s?

business man at desk Q.  I’ve been told by a number of people that I need to take my business to the next level. I’ve been successfully growing the business (increasing revenue and adding people), but how will I know when my startup has grown to the next level?

A.  Before we can tell you how you will know when you have reached the next level, we will need to define the three levels of businesses: micro, small, and midsize. In defining these three types of businesses, we do not use the typical measures of business size (i.e., dollars of revenue or number of employees). Rather, we look at management structure.

“I HIGHLY recommend Polly and Doug. They have wonderful insight to help small business owners prioritize and identify strategies for growth and improvement. Wish I had met them 20 years ago!”

Sharon MaderePresident / Premier Pet Products

My team and I have had the privilege of working with Polly on our business. Polly's keen business insight and savvy is something special. She was honest, direct, and tactful about her observations and recommendations for our team and how to grow our business. It was a pleasure having her help us and I would tell anyone that’s serious about growing their business to call Polly. She’s great!

John O’Reilly, Broker/OwnerBase Camp Realty

“Doug and Polly, I want to thank both of you! The past few months have been enlightening and overwhelming all at the same time. Your guidance, direction, wealth of knowledge, and wisdom have exceeded all my expectations. No words could ever completely describe just how amazing of a “dynamic duo” you two really are!”

Dawn Beninghove, RN, CCM, CRP, PNChief Executive Officer / Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network, Inc.

“Doug White took on an unfocused operation (in the financial services sector) and created an efficient, centralized system dedicated to excellence. He did this not by driving change from the top down, but by helping the entire team see how their part of the process could be improved. Doug then mentored us toward effecting the changes ourselves. He taught us all how to bring our “A game,” and how to take ownership and pride in what we do.”

Donna LevinVice President of Operations / care.com

"I have had the privilege of working with Polly White for several years on a variety of projects. She consistently provides clear direction on how to resolve a wide range of employment-related issues. I look forward to my continued relationship with Polly."

Elizabeth WilkinsBusiness Manager / Manorhouse Management, Inc.

I have known Polly for more than ten years. As an HR Manager, I have utilized Polly’s training expertise at my former company and with my current company. Polly exceled at assessing the needs of our management teams and tailoring training programs that resulted in visible positive change. I also know I can count on Polly as a resource on any HR topic or bounce ideas off of her when I need a second opinion. Polly has been a mentor to me and I have always appreciated her willingness to listen and offer valuable advice and expertise.

Leigh McCullar, HR Business PartnerUniversity of Richmond

I am truly impressed with the abilities of Doug and Polly White, thank you! What a difference your expertise have made in helping Associates grow in their careers. Your dedication to excellence through empowering the individual and strengthening the Company is enlightening. I do and will continue to recommend Whitestone Partners to the Executive Market.

Suzanne Pittman, MEd VAMAC, Inc.
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