What’s your company’s Achilles Heel?

AchillesHere’s an interesting question that you don’t ask yourself every day: If you left your present organization and went to work for a competitor, knowing what you know about your present firm, what would you then do from a marketing standpoint to grow market share at your old company’s expense?

As marketers, the tendency is to look at what your competitors are doing and saying and, if important enough, figure out how to mitigate it so it does no harm to your firm. BUT, when you take a look at your own organization through the lens of someone who has inside knowledge about your firm’s “Achilles heel,” as well as the plans you have in place for the future, an entirely different set of issues present themselves. And, that’s a good thing if you do it as part of a healthy review of your business and its marketing activities.

I’ve had business dealings with lots of marketing folks who have left one company to join another whose insights on their past employer have played an important part in the growth of their new firm. Now I know you’re saying, “Well, that isn’t right. People should keep what they know to themselves and not share that at the expense of their past firm.” I hear you, but I have a different view on that. If my job performance and my family and career prospects depend on my being successful, then knowing what I know is going to come into play either consciously or on some other level. And that, my friends, happens all-day every-day in this “new normal” business environment. Putting a company’s marketing efforts on auto-pilot and then playing the “Woe is me” card isn’t going to cut it as an excuse.  (NOTE: I’m NOT talking about a former employee illegally or immorally appropriating a company’s passwords or passing along genuine trade secrets or violating terms of an NDA, just to be clear.)

Maybe the best example of what I’m talking about takes place in competitive team sports.  Coaches, managers and players are always looking to fine tune areas that they feel the other team could exploit for their benefit.  Teams watch films of games and their own practices to identify things that they could be doing better before the other team can identify those problem areas. They talk to players who have come from another team to get some inside intelligence on what other teams see as limitations or flaws. Only taking this knowledge into account and addressing it can the team feel confident that they’re prepared for what lies ahead. It shouldn’t be any different for your company. Taking an introspective look at how or whether your marketing initiatives and business approach is susceptible to a counter attack is something that should be done before current and future plans are placed in jeopardy.

So now the question is, “how do we as an organization start the process?” I’d suggest the first place to start is the good-old, time-tested SWOT analysis, something that can be implemented almost immediately.  To begin the process, have those associated with your firm’s marketing functions put together their own SWOT analysis on the specific marketing activities that the company is engaged with, i.e., PR, Tradeshow/Events, Advertising, Social Media, Pricing, Promotion, etc. Then, assemble the team to discuss, review and make decisions on the input with an eye towards creating a next-steps plan to shore up marketing functions and activities that are critical to the success of the company’s integrated marketing program.

Remember, the idea of performing a SWOT analysis is to accomplish two primary things:

One:  Reduce Risk.  Improve the viability of your company by pairing up external threats with internal weaknesses to highlight the most serious issues faced by your company.

Two: Improve Performance. What actions you should consider to improve the performance of your business by pairing up internal strengths with the external opportunities.

With everything on Marketing’s plate today and the urgency in which it needs to get done, there’s a real danger of losing sight of the basics. Who has the time, right? Well, if we lose sight of the need to regularly and carefully look at what we think our company is (warts and all), particularly in light of all the resources we use or spend in the ever-evolving marketplace – not just our guesses about it – we risk losing all that we work so hard to achieve: increasing revenues and market share.

The time-tested marketing adage has never been more true: If you don’t really know where you are, it is much more difficult to get where you want to be.  And knowing what your company’s particular “Achilles Heel” is and taking moves to protect it will go a long way toward your winning the race.

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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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