Six Ways to Help Your Employees Execute Your Vision and Strategy

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1. Keep explaining the “why” until they get it.

Remember that people are far more likely to execute a strategy wholeheartedly — even if they disagree with it —if they understand the “why.” To paraphrase Nietzsche: “People can handle almost any What, if they understand the Why.”

If you weren’t involved in the decision, i.e. mid-level manager, do your homework so you thoroughly understand the rationale. Get feedback on whether your explanation makes sense. Explain the reason for the initiative to someone not in your company and see if they understand it and can see its validity. Tweak your message until it makes sense to someone without your background knowledge of the situation.

Also, don’t assume explaining it one time will suffice. Often when people are shocked by news, their brains lose their ability to process information.

2. Anticipate objections and generate valid answers.

If you are part of the senior team that made the decision, this should be straightforward. If you weren’t and don’t have enough information to answer some of the potential objections and questions that might be raised, seek out the answers.

Here’s an example of how you can frame your request: “I want to make sure I present a compelling message to the team, so part of what I’ve been doing is making a list of potential questions and objections. There were four that I couldn’t answer because I don’t have the information. Can I get your take on them?”

3. Present a compelling “future story.”

Describe what this new approach will do for them, their customers, and the company. Describe what you envision things being like 6-12 months in the future.

Think in terms of telling “future stories” such as: “So for instance…with this new approach…when an existing client does X, instead of Y happening, we’ll now respond by doing Z…which will enable you to new, desired response and the customers to get whatever increased value the new employee response will deliver.” Notice how asking this makes you look like the nothing-short-of-excellence person you are.

4. Make sure you address the WII-FM for all parties.

As you describe the future story, make sure you describe how this will benefit them (the WII-FM, or the “what’s in it for me?”), their customers, and the company (and therefore their job security).

5. Don’t BS.

While you want to explicitly state the good that this change will produce, you don’t want to be dishonest. As you know from being on the receiving end of “company spin,” all it takes is one dishonest message from a leader to irrevocably damage trust.

You also don’t want to be that kind of leader, right?

So, don’t try to pretend certain outcomes or changes are a great thing when they actually are a net loss for your team. Also, don’t try to hide from the downside realities. Honestly acknowledge them.

6. Relate human-to-human, not role-to-role.

Often, I see leaders putting on their “game face” and relating as “The Leader,” rather than being a genuine human being.

This alienates employees. Don’t be afraid to be real, to be authentic. Judiciously share the concerns you have about its effect on your people and how you took that into consideration. Interviews with employees at client companies going through downsizings have repeatedly shown me how powerfully it affects employees when they can see — and hear — how much their leader cares about them and the impact their decisions will have on them.

The more real you are, the more “bondable” you become, and therefore…the more your people will want to do their best for you.

Source: David Lee

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How to Create a Target Market Profile

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Creating a target market profile and positioning statement is a process that helps business owners to identify and communicate with the prospects that offer the greatest chance of sales success. A target market profile is a concise description of the type of prospect you want to sell to. A positioning statement is a brief summary of the way you want prospects to perceive your product or service.

Define the target market for your products or services as precisely as possible. A target market profile identifies the characteristics of the prospects most likely to purchase from you. Use characteristics such as age, gender, location, income level or education to build the profile. Age or gender are important characteristics if you sell products such as clothing or children’s games. Focus on location if your products are only available in certain areas or if they are location-specific, such as hiking or skiing equipment. Income is important if your products carry a premium price.

Profile business customers by a different set of characteristics, including size of business, industry sector and location. Identify the decision-makers in target companies. The decision to purchase your product may involve business, financial or technical personnel as well as senior executives if the purchase represents a significant capital investment. An example of a business target market profile is medium-size companies in the manufacturing sector, based in the Midwest, with a turnover of more than $2 million.

Research the interests and preferences of your target market to find out what they feel is most important about a product like yours. Approach customers for feedback, asking them about important features and benefits. Consumers might consider factors such as “the product improves my lifestyle,” “it saves me money” or “it makes me feel healthier.” For business customers, identify the opportunities and problems that face different types of businesses by monitoring customer feedback or reviewing industry surveys. Challenges such as reducing costs, improving quality, speeding up time to market, or improving competitiveness are issues facing many types of business.

Build a more detailed profile of your target audience by capturing information on their interests and requirements on your website. Offer website visitors publications or special offers that they can download after completing a registration form. Provide a page where visitors can create and update their own profiles and request certain types of information from you. Analyze their preferences and record the information they request to build personalized profiles.

Identify the product benefits that represent the greatest value for your customers. Compare the important factors with the performance, features and benefits of your products. If your product aligns with the main customer factors, use those factors as the basis for your positioning statement. Compare your product with competitors’ offerings to assess how you can differentiate your product. Relate your differentiation to the most important customer values.

Create a positioning statement for each distinct customer sector. Use a consistent format such as “for this target audience, our product provides these important benefits that our competitors cannot match.” Use the positioning statement to create compelling messages to motivate the prospect to buy. Incorporate the key elements of the positioning statement in all your marketing communications so that prospects receive consistent messages at each point of contact with your company. Share with employees target market profiles and positioning statements so that they not only have awareness, but also going forward they are constantly reassessing the criteria used to define the target audience and how elements may influence that audience and what adjustments might need to be considered. It is crucial to the culture of any company that employees are keenly aware of who it is they serve: the customer. Who they work for is the boss.

Source: Ian Linton

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How to Define Your Target Marketing in 5 Steps

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What’s my target market? What should it be? How would I know? Here’s a list of five things that will help you figure it out.

1. Don’t try to please everybody.

Strategy is focus. Say you’re running a restaurant; which of these three options is easier?

  • Pleasing customers 40 to 75 years old, wealthy, much more concerned with healthy eating than cheap eating, appreciating seafood and poultry, liking a quiet atmosphere.
  • Pleasing customers 15 to 30 years old, with limited budgets, who like a loud place with low prices and fast food.
  • Pleasing everybody.

I really hope you chose one of the first two, and not the third. Because this is the essence of target marketing—divide and conquer.

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U.S. census data divides into demographic segments.

2. Learn market segmentation.

It’s about segments, like pie segments or orange segments, except that in this case it’s segments of a total market. In my “divide and conquer” thought above in the first point, those are segments. In the illustration above, U.S. census data divides into demographic segments. Demographics are the old standards like age, gender, and so on.

3. Use segmentation creatively.

Don’t just settle for age, gender, and economic level. When I was consulting for Apple Computer, we divided the market into user groups:

  • Home
  • School
  • Small business
  • Large business
  • Government

I also liked a shopping center segmentation that divided its market into so-called psychographic segmentation:

  • Kids and cul-de-sacs were affluent upscale suburban families, “a noisy medley of bikes, dogs, carpools, rock music and sports.”
  • Winner’s circle were wealthy suburban executives, “well-educated, mobile executives and professionals with teen-aged families. Big producers, prolific spenders, and global travelers.”
  • Gen X and babies were upper-middle income young white-collar suburbanites.
  • County squires were wealthy elite ex-urbanites, “where the wealthy have escaped urban stress to live in rustic luxury. Affluence, big bucks in the boondocks.”

I knew a business that segmented its business customers into decision-process types as well:

  • Decision by committee
  • Decision by functional manager
  • Decision by owner

Any of these creative segmentations can help you set a target market.

4. Consider your own unique identity too.

Your business probably reflects who you are and what you like to do, as well as what you do best. Marketing to people you like is an advantage. If you like the feel of small business better than the big corporate giants, then you’re probably better off setting the small business as a target market.

As this business—Palo Alto Software, the host of Bplans—grew up, with business plan software, its founder (that would be me) was more comfortable with the do-it-yourself entrepreneur and business owner than the high end consultants, so we ended up targeting the do-it-yourselfers in business.

So, somebody who loves fine food, tastefully prepared and served, is probably more comfortable with an upscale target market than with price-sensitive young families.

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5. Use strategic segment intersections.

For example, in the diagram here, the social media services that Have Presence offers are targeted to small business owners who:

  • Want outside help with their social media; and
  • Value business social media; and
  • Have budget to pay for the service.

Defining target markets makes your life easier. Do it well as soon as you can, and keep reviewing and refreshing as you go along.

The right target market increases your chances of success because you can communicate better with a well-defined group, and that holds expenses down and makes results better.

Source: Tim Berry

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How To Define Your Target Market

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To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly.

Given the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. No one can afford to target everyone. Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market.

Many businesses say they target “anyone interested in my services.” Some say they target small-business owners, homeowners, or stay-at-home moms. All of these targets are too general.

Targeting a specific market does not mean that you are excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.

For example, an interior design company could choose to market to homeowners between the ages of 35 and 65 with incomes of $150,000-plus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. To define the market even further, the company could choose to target only those interested in kitchen and bath remodeling and traditional styles. This market could be broken down into two niches: parents on the go and retiring baby boomers.

With a clearly defined target audience, it is much easier to determine where and how to market your company. Here are some tips to help you define your target market.

Look at your current customer base.

Who are your current customers, and why do they buy from you? Look for common characteristics and interests. Which ones bring in the most business? It is very likely that other people like them could also benefit from your product/service.

Check out your competition.

Who are your competitors targeting? Who are their current customers? Don’t go after the same market. You may find a niche market that they are overlooking.

Analyze your product/service.

Write out a list of each feature of your product or service. Next to each feature, list the benefits it provides (and the benefits of those benefits). For example, a graphic designer offers high-quality design services. The benefit is a professional company image. A professional image will attract more customers because they see the company as professional and trustworthy. So ultimately, the benefit of high-quality design is gaining more customers and making more money.

Once you have your benefits listed, make a list of people who have a need that your benefit fulfills. For example, a graphic designer could choose to target businesses interested in increasing their client base. While this is still too general, you now have a base to start from.

Choose specific demographics to target.

Figure out not only who has a need for your product or service, but also who is most likely to buy it. Think about the following factors:

•   Age
•   Location
•   Gender
•   Income level
•   Education level
•   Marital or family status
•   Occupation
•   Ethnic background

Consider the psychographics of your target.

Psychographics are the more personal characteristics of a person, including:

•   Personality
•   Attitudes
•   Values
•   Interests/Hobbies
•   Lifestyles
•   Behavior

Determine how your product or service will fit into your target’s lifestyle. How and when will your target use the product? What features are most appealing to your target? What media does your target turn to for information? Does your target read the newspaper, search online, or attend particular events?

Evaluate your decision.

Once you’ve decided on a target market, be sure to consider these questions:

•   Are there enough people who fit my criteria?
•   Will my target really benefit from my product/service? Will they see a need for it?
•   Do I understand what drives my target to make decisions?
•   Can they afford my product/service?
•   Can I reach them with my message? Are they easily accessible?

Don’t break down your target too far! Remember, you can have more than one niche market. Consider if your marketing message should be different for each niche. If you can reach both niches effectively with the same message, then maybe you have broken down your market too far. Also, if you find there are only 50 people that fit all of your criteria, maybe you should reevaluate your target. The trick is to find that perfect balance.

You may be asking, “How do I find all this information?” Try searching online for research others have done on your target. Search for magazine articles and blogs that talk about or to your target market. Search for blogs and forums where people in your target market communicate their opinions. Look for survey results, or consider conducting a survey of your own. Ask your current customers for feedback.

Defining your target market is the hard part. Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to figure out which media you can use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. Instead of sending direct mail to everyone in your ZIP code, you can send it only to those who fit your criteria. Save money and get a better return on investment by defining your target audience.

Source: Mandy Porta

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Defining Marketing Objectives & Strategies

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Marketing Objectives are defined as the group of goals set by a business when promoting its products or services to potential consumers that should be achieved within a given time frame. A company’s marketing objectives for a particular product might include increasing product awareness among targeted consumers and providing information about product features. Specifically, common marketing objectives include:

  • Introducing new products or services
  • Cross-selling more products or services to existing customers
  • Expanding into a new geographic market
  • Seeking out and securing new customers
  • Improving customer services
  • Increasing the average size of an order

Once the Marketing Objectives have been defined, you can create a focused Marketing Strategy for each one. Marketing Strategies have many potential tactics that can be utilized. Below are examples of Strategies with their corresponding tactics:

  • Market Share & Expansion Strategy: Develop aggressive sales & marketing tactics to expand your market. Examples of tactics include:
    • Consumer and/or trade promotions (e.g. coupons, BOGO’s, contests, special offers, etc…)
    • Direct mailing to include incentive
    • Secure additional distributors and/or sales force
  • Positioning Strategy: Designed to affect how people think and feel (perceive) about your product or service. Examples of tactics include:
    • Advertising and public relations campaigns
    • Attending, exhibiting or presenting at trade shows
    • Enhancing and/or developing corporate communication and marketing materials (e.g. brochures, website, flyers, social media profiles, etc…)
  • Reminder Strategy: Reminds customers to make a purchase. Tactics include:
    • Postcards via direct mail with coupons
    • Free premium items with company’s information
    • Disseminate monthly newsletters
    • Communicate newsworthy information via social media

Determining which Marketing Strategies are necessary and important based on your business goals is critical to the success of growing your company. If done incorrectly, you will only end up wasting a lot of time and money on implementing the wrong strategies. Needless to say, my advice is to seek out a qualified Marketing Consultant who can assist you through this process.

Source: Danielle Foley

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How To Write A Vision Statement

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A carefully crafted vision statement is at the heart of every successful business. This statement clearly and concisely communicates your business’s overall goals, and can serve as a tool for strategic decision-making across the company.

A vision statement can be as simple as a single sentence or can span a short paragraph. Regardless of the individual details and nuances, all effective vision statements define the core ideals that give a business shape and direction. These statements also provide a powerful way to motivate and guide employees, said Addam Marcotte, vice president of operations and organization development with executive coaching and organizational change firm FMG Leading.

Why does this matter? Research shows that employees who find their company’s vision meaningful have engagement levels of 68 percent, which is 19 points above average. More-engaged employees are often more productive, and can be more effective corporate ambassadors in the larger community.

Given the impact that a vision statement can have on a company’s long-term success and even its bottom line, it’s worth taking the time to craft a statement that synthesizes your ambition and mobilizes your staff.

Vision Statement Versus Mission Statement

Before determining what your vision statement is going to be, you need to understand what it is not. It should not be confused with a mission statement. Those statements are present-based and designed to convey a sense of why the company exists, to both members of the company and the external community. Vision statements are future-based and are meant to inspire and give direction to the employees of the company, rather than to customers. A mission statement answers the question, “Why does my business exist?” while a vision statement answers the question, “Where do I see my business going?” Jamie Falkowski, vice president of creative and experience at the marketing communications firm Day One Agency, said, “a vision is aspiration. A mission is actionable.”

Who will shape your vision, and how will it be used?

The first step in writing a vision statement is determining who will play a role in crafting it. Brandon Shockley of consumer insights agency Plannerzone, Inc. recommends developing a vision statement through a series of workshops with key stakeholders who represent a cross section of your organization. Teams of people can craft alternate versions of the statement and receive feedback from the rest of the group.

“Think of it as ‘Shark Tank’ for your vision statement,” Shockley said

Falkowski added that individual stakeholder interviews offer another effective way to get real and honest feedback in which people won’t hold back on how they feel.

Additionally, a business should determine early in the process where its vision statement will appear and what role it will serve in the organization. This will prevent the process from becoming merely an intellectual exercise, said Shockley.
“The vision business statement should be thought of as part of your strategic plan,” he said. “It is an internal communications tool that helps align and inspire your team to reach the company’s goals.”
As such, vision statements should be viewed as living documents that will be revisited and revised.

How To Write A Vision Statement

Writing your vision statement is a time for creativity, ambition and fun, but the task should be approached seriously.

“There is a process to this, and it’s not usually quick or simple,” said Linsi Brownson, founder and creative director of business strategy group Spark Collaborative. “The best way to begin is to reflect on some of the most significant events or ideas that have impacted the company.”

A vision statement should also be concise, no longer than a sentence or a few paragraphs. You want your entire team and organization to be able to quickly repeat it back and more importantly understand it, said Falkowski. But a vision statement should be more than a catchy tagline, he said.

“[It] can be smart and memorable, but this is for your team and culture, not for selling a specific product,” Falkowski said.

To begin, Brownson advised first identifying core values of the organization when drafting your vision statement. Then, ask yourself, “What do we do right now that aligns with these values? Where are we not aligned with these values? How can we stay aligned with these values as we grow over the next five years, 10 years?” Those questions address your current situation and help identify the bigger-picture vision, Brownson said.

Next, ask yourself what problems your company hopes to solve in the next few years. What does your company hope to achieve? Who is your target customer base, and what do you want to do for them?

“Based on your responses to these questions, ask yourself what success will look like if you accomplish those things,” said Jené Kapela, owner and founder of Jené Kapela Leadership Solutions. “This answer should shape your vision statement.”

When you’re crafting your vision statement, dream big. Don’t worry about practicality for now — what initially looks impossible could be achieved down the road with the right team and technologies. Work on shaping a vision statement that reflects the specific nature of your business.

Shockley noted that there is nothing wrong with a vision statement being a little daring, distinct or even disagreeable.

“If a vision statement sets out a generic goal that anyone can agree with, it is likely to produce mediocre results,” he said. “A goal like ‘delivering an exceptional experience’ applies equally to a hospital, a bank or a fitness club.”

Tips For Crafting Your Vision Statement

Vision statements should stretch the imagination while providing direction and clarity. A good vision statement will help inform direction and set priorities while challenging employees to grow. The vision statement should be compelling not just to the high-level execs of your company, but also to all employees.

Based on our expert sources’ advice, here are some tips to keep in mind:
•   Project five to 10 years in the future.
•   Dream big, and focus on success.
•   Use the present tense.
•   Use clear, concise language.
•   Infuse your vision statement with passion and emotion.
•   Paint a graphic mental picture of the business you want.
•   Have a plan to communicate your vision statement to your employees.
•   Be prepared to commit time and resources to the vision you establish.

Your completed vision statement will give your employees a clear idea of your company’s path forward. Then, it’s up to you to nurture and support that vision and to inspire your employees to do the same.

Source: Paula Fernandes

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How To Write A Mission Statement In 5 Easy Steps

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I’ve had a 30-year love-hate relationship with mission statements. I’ve read thousands. I love it when a mission statement defines a business so well that it feels like strategy—and that does happen—and I hate it when a mission statement is generic, stale, and completely useless.

Your company’s mission statement is your opportunity to define the company’s goals, ethics, culture, and norms for decision-making. The best mission statements define a company’s goals in at least three dimensions: what the company does for its customers, what it does for its employees, and what it does for its owners. Some of the best mission statements also extend themselves to include fourth and fifth dimensions: what the company does for its community, and for the world.

The vast majority of the mission statements  are just meaningless hype that could be used to describe any business in the category. People write them because some checklist or expert said they had to.

A well-developed mission statement is a great tool for understanding, developing, and communicating fundamental business objectives, and should be expressed in just a paragraph or two. If you read it out loud, it should take about 30 seconds. And it should answer questions people have about your business, like:

•   Who is your company?
•   What do you do? What do you stand for? And why do you do it?
•   Do you want to make a profit, or is it enough to just make a living?
•   What markets are you serving, and what benefits do you offer them?
•   Do you solve a problem for your customers?
•   What kind of internal work environment do you want for your employees?

Unfortunately few mission statements actually do that.

So how do you make sure yours isn’t one of the bad ones? Over the decades I’ve spent reading, writing, and evaluating business plans, I’ve come up with a process for developing a useful mission statement, and it boils down to five steps:

1. Start With A Market-Defining Story

You don’t have to actually write the story—it’s definitely not included in the mission statement—but do think it through:

Imagine a real person making the actual decision to buy what you sell. Use your imagination to see why she wants it, how she finds you, and what buying from you does for her. The more concrete the story, the better. (And keep that in mind for the actual mission statement wording: “The more concrete, the better.”)

A really good market-defining story explains the need, or the want, or—if you like jargon—the so-called “why to buy.” It defines the target customer, or “buyer persona.” And it defines how your business is different from most others, or even unique. It simplifies thinking about what a business isn’t, what it doesn’t do.

This isn’t literally part of the mission statement. Rather, it’s an important thing to have in your head while you write the mission statement. It’s in the background, between the words.

2. Define How Your Customer’s Life Is Better Because Your Business Exists

Start your mission statement with the good you do. Use your market-defining story to suss out whatever it is that makes your business special for your target customer.

Don’t undervalue your business: You don’t have to cure cancer or stop global climate change to be doing good. Offering trustworthy auto repair, for example, narrowed down to your specialty in your neighborhood with your unique policies, is doing something good. So is offering excellent slow food in your neighborhood, with emphasis on organic and local, at a price premium.

This is a part of your mission statement, and a pretty crucial part at that—write it down.

If your business is good for the world, incorporate that here too. But claims about being good for the world need to be meaningful, and distinguishable from all the other businesses. Add the words “clean” or “green” if that’s really true and you keep to it rigorously. Don’t just say it, especially if it isn’t important or always true.

3. Consider What Your Business Does For Employees

These days, good businesses want to be good for their employees. If you’re “hard numbers”-oriented, keeping employees is better for the bottom line than turnover. And if you’re interested in culture and employee happiness, then defining what your business offers its employees is an obvious part of your strategy.

My recommendation is that you don’t assert how the business is good for employees—you define it here and then forever after make it true.

Qualities like fairness, diversity, respect for ideas and creativity, training, tools, empowerment, and the like, actually really matter. However, since every business in existence at least says that it prioritizes those things, strive for a differentiator and a way to make the general goals feel more concrete and specific.

While I consulted for Apple Computer, for example, that business differentiated its goals of training and empowering employees by making a point of bringing in very high-quality educators and presenters to help employees’ business expertise grow. That’s the kind of specificity you should include in your mission statement.

With this part of the mission statement, there’s a built-in dilemma. On the one hand, it’s good for everybody involved to use the mission statement to establish what you want for employees in your business. On the other hand, it’s hard to do that without falling into the trap of saying what every other business says.

Stating that you value fair compensation, room to grow, training, a healthy, creative work environment, and respect for diversity is probably a good idea, even if that part of your mission statement isn’t unique. That’s because the mission statement can serve as a reminder—for owners, supervisors, and workers—and as a lever for self-enforcement.

If you have a special view on your relationship with employees, write it into the mission statement. If your business is friendly to families, or to remote virtual workplaces, put that into your mission.

4. Add What The Business Does For Its Owners

In business school they taught us that the mission of management is to enhance the value of the stock. And shares of stock are ownership. Some would say that it goes without saying that a business exists to enhance the financial position of its owners, and maybe it does. However, only a small subset of all businesses are about the business buzzwords of “share value” and “return on investment.”

In the early years of my business I wanted peace of mind about cash flow more than I wanted growth, and I wanted growth more than I wanted profits. So I wrote that into my mission statement. And at one point I realized I was also building a business that was a place where I was happy to be working, with people I wanted to work with; so I wrote that into my mission statement, too.

5. Discuss, Digest, Cut, Polish, Review, Revise

Whatever you wrote for points two through four above, go back and cut down the wordiness.

Good mission statements serve multiple functions, define objectives, and live for a long time. So, edit. This step is worth it.

I’ve been writing professionally all of my adult life. I was a foreign correspondent for a decade, and then I billed more than $2 million in business plan consulting, and then I wrote books published by Entrepreneur Press, McGraw-Hill, Dow Jones-Irwin and others, and thousands of blog posts for this site and a number of high-profile sites; I’ve never written anything that wasn’t better with editing. And most of what I’ve written was better after I cut it to half its original length.

As you edit, keep a sharp eye out for the buzzwords and hype that everybody claims. Cut as much as you can that isn’t unique to your business, except for those special elements that—unique or not—can serve as long-term rules and reminders.

Read other companies’ mission statements, but write a statement that is about you and not some other company. Make sure you actually believe in what you’re writing—your customers and your employees will soon spot a lie.

Then, listen. Show drafts to others, ask their opinions, and really listen. Don’t argue, don’t convince them, just listen. And then edit again.

And, for the rest of your business’s life, review and revise it as needed. As with everything in a business plan, your mission statement should never get written in stone, and, much less, stashed in a drawer. Use it or lose it. Review and revise as necessary, because change is constant.

Final note: Should I apologize for putting the word “easy” into the title of this piece? Sometimes I confuse interesting, useful, and important with easy. I always underestimate tasks I like doing.

Source: Tim Berry

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Do You Know Your “Why?” 4 Questions To Find Your Purpose

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If you’ve ever faced a significant crisis in your life you’ll have experienced the power of purpose to tap reserves of energy, determination and courage you likely didn’t know you had. Your mission was clear. Your goal was compelling. Your focus was laser-like. Your potential was tapped.The power of purpose is similar to the energy of light focused through a magnifying glass. Diffused light has little use, but when its energy is concentrated—as through a magnifying glass—that same light can set fire to paper. Focus its energy even more, as with a laser beam, and it has the power to cut through steel. Likewise,  a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to take risks and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles.

Unlike animals, which are driven simply to survive, we humans crave more from life than mere survival. Without an answer to the question ‘Survival for the sake of what?,’ we can quickly fall into disillusionment, distraction and a quiet sense of despair. The alarming increase in rates of drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide, along with the growing reliance on antidepressant medications, seems to indicate many are doing just that.  Likewise, a quick glance at employee engagement statistics points to a crisis of purpose and meaning on an unprecedented scale. Given we’re wealthier today than at any time in history, there is clearly a marked difference between ‘well off’ and ‘well-being.’

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German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’ Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving!). Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.

Certainly this has been the experience of Tom Hale, whose company BACKROADS will top $100 million in revenue in 2014.  “My passion for bringing active travel experiences to more people has driven me over the last 35 years.”  In a recent interview, Tom shared with me that in the first seven years of starting BACKROADS, he put in enormous effort for little return. “Given the hours I worked, I think I was earning about 35 cents an hour,” he joked. “However, while I knew we had to make money to grow, I was never driven by the money. Once I got clear that this was my life’s work, doing something else was never an option.”  Tom’s leadership of BACKROADS from a small start up to a major player in the travel industry has created an organization whose employees are as passionate about his company’s mission as him. BACKROADS’ on-going growth – in both the range of experiences offered and the company’s bottom line profit – speaks for itself.

While there’s no one pathway for discovering your life’s purpose, there are many ways you can gain deeper insight into yourself, and a larger perspective on what it is that you have to offer the world.  As I wrote in Stop Playing Safe, your ‘life’s work’ sits in the intersection of your talents, skills/expertise, passions and deepest values (see adjacent diagram).  Reflect on the corresponding four questions below to help find the ‘sweet spot’ that sits in the intersection between what you care about, what you can contribute, and what will be valued most.

1.  What makes you come alive?

The word inspire comes from the Latin, meaning “to breathe life into.” Accordingly when you are working toward things that inspire you, it literally makes you feel more alive.  What makes you come alive isn’t referring to taking your dream holiday or watching your favorite team play football (unless you’re called to a career as a football coach or commentator!). It’s bigger than that. I’m talking about a why that moves up the food chain from being about you to being about something bigger than you. It’s about connecting with what you’re passionate about, knowing that when you focus your attention on endeavors that put a fire in your belly, you grow your impact and influence in ways that nothing else can.

You don’t have to declare at this point that you want to invent the next iPad, solve the world’s energy problems or cure cancer (though you might!). This is about you connecting to a cause that’s bigger than you are, but which is also congruent with who you are what you care about.

2. What are your innate strengths?

In The Element, Sir Ken Robinson says that our element is the point at which natural talent and skill meets personal passion. When people are in their element they are not only more productive, but they add more value and enjoy more personal and professional fulfilment. Accordingly, it’s also often where they also tend to make more money!

What are the things you’ve always been good at (sometimes wondering why others find it so hard?) Are you able to see patterns and opportunities amidst complexity? Are you creative, naturally adept at coming up with ‘outside the box’ solutions? Are you a natural born rebel with an innate ability to identify where the status quo is in need of a makeover? Are you brilliant in the details, naturally good at executing projects with a precision that some find tedious? Or are you a naturally gifted communicator, technocrat, diplomat, networker, leader, problem solver or change agent? For a free strengths survey visit http://www.viame.org/.

Of course, you can also be passionate about things you have no natural talent for, and talented at things for which you hold little passion. However experience has shown me that we rarely aspire toward ambitions we have no natural talent to achieve. As civil rights leader Howard Thurmon once wrote, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Indeed they do.

3. Where do you add the greatest value?

Doing work that you’re good at, but which you loathe, is not a pathway to fulfilment. That said, knowing your greatest strengths and where you can add the most value—through the application of your education, skills, knowledge and experience—can help you focus on the opportunities, roles and career paths where you are most likely to succeed and therefore find the greatest sense of accomplishment and contribution.

Too often we undervalue our strengths, skills and the expertise we naturally acquire over time. If you reframe the concept of adding value through the lens of solving problems, you can ask yourself what you’re well placed and equipped to help solve in your workplace, career, organisation or industry. You can also ask yourself what problems you really enjoy solving, and what problems you feel passionate about trying to solve.  You’ll then be more successful at focusing on your natural strengths and those things you’re innately good at than trying to bolster or eliminate your weaknesses.

4. How will you measure your life?

People who don’t stand for something, can easily fall for anything. Deciding how you want to measure your life means making a stand for something and then living your life in alignment with it.

Ultimately, living with purpose means focusing on things that matter most. Ironically, the things that matter most are rarely “things.”  That said, while some people are in a position to trade the security of a regular salary in order to pursue a passion, many simply can’t—at least not in the short term or without violating core values (like paying off debt or providing for their family). But following the money and following your heart don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By shifting the lens in which you view what you are doing now, you can profoundly shift your experience of it. No matter what your job, you can draw meaning from it and find greater purpose through how you do what you do. If you don’t think you’re the kind of person you’d want to work with, then consider that it may not be because of the job you do each day, but your attitude toward it.

Knowing your purpose may compel you to take on challenges that will stretch you as much as they inspire you. Just as a boat under power can handle any size wave if perpendicular to it,  when you’re powered by a clear purpose, there is little you cannot do.

Source: Margie Warrell

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What Is Long-Term Marketing?

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When you start a small business, you may have to focus on immediate sales to pay the bills and fund growth, but you also need to think long-term. Marketing for future sales involves a different mindset than short-term marketing. A wise small-business owner will dedicate some time and money to developing markets that can pay off down the road.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing is the opposite of transactional marketing. In transactional marketing, the marketer wants to close a sale as soon as possible. The focus is on getting the customer to buy. In relationship marketing, you develop an ongoing dialogue with a customer, taking time to get to know the customer’s needs, and establishing your business as the place that can solve those needs in the future. You also offer customer service that indicates you want to resolve any conflicts and continue to be worthy of your customer’s loyalty.

Long-Tail Marketing

Long-tail marketing is a phrase that was coined by Chris Anderson, executive editor of “Wired” magazine. In the book, “The Long Tail,” he describes modern marketing for small-business owners as a type of niche marketing. Filling a small niche can provide you with loyal customers for the long term. You have to constantly position yourself as the business that best fills the demands of your niche. You actually sell to only a certain segment of the market, but sell repeatedly to them. This kind of long-term marketing can provide a steady income and even growth if you continue to offer new products to your niche.

Long-Term Online Marketing

If your website makes too many overt appeals to “buy now,” you will alienate a lot of potential customers. Web surfers have come to expect a lot of free information online. You have to offer articles and newsletters that appeal to people searching the internet to solve problems. These do not pay you, but they can attract viewers who think of you as a reliable source of information. As they return to you over and over, they will notice your offerings and may eventually become paying customers.

The Marketing Mix

Your small business needs agility to survive. Align yourself with long-term goals and review your marketing decisions in terms of their ability to get you to the position you want to be in for the future. While looking long-term, keep one eye on market changes and prepare to take advantage of them in the short term. Doing this will keep your cash flow up. Try to choose short-term objectives that can contribute to your long-term goals.

Source: Kevin Johnston

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Marketing Decision Making

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Marketing personnel must make decisions whenever they perform any of the marketing functions. Marketers must continuously decide what is to be done, who is to do it, how it is to be done, and when and where are the best time and place to do it.

How To Make Decisions

Step 1: Define idea or problem to be acted upon. Before seeking answers, you need to identify the real problem. The first step in decision making is to find out what the problem really is; only then should you work toward a solution or answer. Defining the problem is not an easy task in most cases. What appears to be the problem might at best be merely a symptom that shows on the surface.

Step 2: Collect, interpret and evaluate relevant information about the problem.

Usually there are many sources from which to gather information affecting a decision. Sometimes standing orders, policies, procedures, rules, and regulations provide relevant information. Other sources of information include your own experience, company records and reports, discussion with individuals and personal observations.

Step 3: Develop possible alternative solutions. The next step is to develop alternative ways of solving the problem or taking advantage of the opportunity. Alternatives are possible courses of action that can satisfy a need or solve a problem. Usually several choices are available to the decision maker if he or she is able to identify or develop them.

Step 4: Select the preferred or “best” alternative. You have reached a point where you must make a decision. You should logically and rationally pick the alternative you think is most desirable for all concerned from an objective, ethical, and practical point of view. Sometimes the preferred alternative involves cost/benefit analysis and risk analysis.

Cost/Benefit Analysis:

You estimate what each alternative will cost in terms of human, physical and financial resources. Then you estimate the expected benefits. Finally, you compare the two estimates and select the one with the greatest “payoff” where the ratio of benefits to cost is more favorable.

Risk Analysis:

Risk, which is the possibility of defeat, disadvantage, injury, or loss is inherent in decision

making. You should try to minimize the risks involved by effectively forecasting outcomes and considering all variables involved.

Step 5: Implement the decision. Effective decision making doesn’t stop when you choose from among alternative solutions. The decision must be put into operation.

Step 6: Follow-up, evaluate, and make changes if needed. Follow-up and the evaluation of the outcome of a decision is part of the process of decision making. Follow-up and evaluation of a decision can take many forms depending on the nature of the decision, timing, costs, standards expected, personnel, and other factors. If the follow-up and evaluation indicate that something has gone wrong or that the results have not been as anticipated, then the decision-making process must begin all over again. This may even mean going back over each of the various steps of the decision-making process in detail.

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