Dare you look in the Mirror?

Magic-MirrorI don’t know too many people who really like pictures of themselves.  “Oh, I look too fat, too old, too…whatever!” Personally, I hate hearing my own voice on radio or in recordings.  I think I sound goofy and inarticulate.  And anyone who’s ever seen themselves on television (not including actors, of course) gets it from all sides.  We simply don’t like seeing ourselves as we suspect other people really see us.

Oddly enough, we’re the same way when it comes to our businesses.  We’d just as soon not think about what we really “look like” to outsiders.  The truth might be just too upsetting.  But the truth always wins out.  So what is the truth we must all face as professionals?  What’s the best mirror we can hold up to see ourselves most clearly?

A couple of years ago, our agency was asked by an industry association to provide consulting services to their members.  We found that we could do that most effectively by sending anyone who sought our consultation a 12-point questionnaire about their business.  It was surprising how challenging it was for many to answer the most necessary questions about their own business’ strengths and weaknesses.  We quickly realized that this was that mirror!  This questionnaire, if taken seriously, forces company marketing officers to look inward honestly and be willing not to like the answers.

I herewith offer these same questions to you to ponder with respect to your own enterprise.  But to do it properly, you cannot be superficial in your answers.  You have to dig as deep as you can.  And if you can only come up with the “obvious answer” or draw a complete blank, take that as a sign that there’s work to be done.

Ready?  No cheating…

  1. What business do you see yourself in?  (It sounds obvious, but think about Domino’s Pizza.  They don’t say they’re in the pizza business; they’re in the business of feeding hungry people fast.  Or Nike, who isn’t in the athletic clothing business; they’re in the business of encouraging athleticism in everyone.  That paradigm shift is critical.  So what business are you really in?)
  2. What or who is your major source of business? Do you want to change this?
  3. What type of customer are you looking to attract?  Is that different from who you’re attracting now?
  4. What are your current marketing/business goals? (i.e. increase sales/customers; attract business partners; grow visibility in a different business segment)
  5. How realistic are those goals? Why?
  6. What is going to stop you from getting there? (i.e. competitors, financial condition of firm; change in industry; etc)
  7. Who is your major competition?
  8. What differentiates your business from the competition?  (I mean, what really differentiates you?  What is it that ONLY you can say. Not something that with a switch of a logo or name your competitors. Once you strip away everything that you and your competitors all do, what is it that makes you different…and relevant.”)
  9. List all the ways non-customers can find out about you right now?  Is that sufficient for your growth plans?
  10. Where do you feel you fall short in your marketing efforts?  Message?  Creative?  Media expenditures?  Media selection?
  11. What has worked best for you?  What has worked least?
  12. What do you want people to remember or say about your company after “you’re no longer in the room”? (1 or 2 things)

On your first read-through of these questions, I’ll bet you say, “Oh, I can answer all that, no problem!”  OK, tough guy, then give it a go.  Build up the sweat and answer these 12 questions to the very best of your abilities.  However you answer it, whatever holes are left unfilled, whatever questions it brings up as you sit there stumped, you’ll have developed the most important document you need to move your company forward.  Because getting to your destination of choice depends fundamentally on knowing where to start and taking your first step.

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Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

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