A Quick Story
In my former life, years ago, I was on a team tasked with analyzing churn. My company had grown so quickly that we didn’t realize we were losing almost as many customers each year as we were gaining in our top accounts. As a B2B subscription business with high customer concentration, this was an issue. We found that our top two clients – and the biggest players in their industry – did not require their indirect channel to sell our product given regulatory risk. The indirect channel represented 20% of total client revenues. Competitors had exploited this and entered the market, providing commissions to dealers to sell their products instead. Over the course of several years, these players had stolen over 50 percent of our customers in that channel. It took our company two years to convince our clients to change their decision, and partner with us to offer their dealers commissions. It took another two years to implement that strategy and regain our market share. We were a global multi-billion dollar business who thought we “owned” the industry. We were wrong. Small, agile competitors had penetrated the industry under our noses and stolen our customers by providing commissions.
The morals of this story:
- Do a proactive competitive assessment on your business at least annually to keep your fingers on the pulse of your industry.
- Understand that your competitive landscape may differ, depending on your channels, products/service, and geographies.
Ten Reasons Why CI is Crucial for your Business
Competitive intelligence is essential to business growth, no matter what stage you are in. You should never use an excuse like “no one else does exactly what we do”, “we own the market”, or “we already know who our competitors are” to avoid doing a competitive assessment.
- Develops self-awareness – CI prompts you to assess your strengths and weaknesses vs. competitors, understand gaps, and create strategies to overcome them.
- Avoids complacency – If you are the sole provider in an industry, you lose the motivation to innovate – you stagnate. Competitors keep you on your toes.
- Builds your brand – CI helps you better communicate your brand by understanding how you provide distinct value to your customer base.
- Provides an indicator of demand – If you learn that more competition is entering your market, that may be a sign that demand is strong. The opposite can indicate a mature market, slower growth, margin pressure, and potential consolidation.
- Identifies an emerging trend – Competitors may launch new products or services or offer new features when they identify an unmet customer need or technology innovation. CI keeps you up to date on emerging trends.
- Encourages differentiation – Competitors will always try to provide a better, stronger, faster, cheaper widget. CI provides insights for you to deliver differentiated value to your customers.
- Uncovers unexpected partners – Competitors that provide something you don’t can expand the market. This can lead to collaboration, cross promotion, and down the line, potential mergers/acquisitions.
- Narrows your niche – If competitors are better than you in a particular area, you may decide to target a segment of the market where you have a competitive edge.
- Motivates strategic planning – By focusing on CI, you get out of the day-to-day. CI can provide insights that can lead to strategic decision making around investment, resources and technology.
- Prioritizes customer needs – CI provides a path towards a more customer-centric organization. Prioritizing your customers’ needs first will ensure ongoing satisfaction and loyalty.
WIZ’s CI Process
Step One: Collect all available information on your competitors. WIZ Advisors designed an infographic on Competitive Intelligence Sources that outlines the best sources for CI and the types of information each source provides.
Click here to access the infographic: https://wizadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CI-Sources-Infographic-March-2019.pdf
Step Two: Summarize it in a matrix using Word, PPT or Excel. Put each competitor in a separate row and each type of information down each column (e.g. Products/Services, Customers, Partners, Strengths, Weaknesses, etc.)
Step Three: Turn the information into insights for your key stakeholders. What risks and opportunities does it present? These insights should provide the basis for your go-forward strategy.
I know conducting CI can be time-intensive, but I hope I’ve convinced you that it is an essential step in your strategic planning process. If you lack the resources or time to do a CI assessment internally, reach out. CI is one of WIZ Advisors’ core marketing services. Until next month.
Chief Marketing Strategist, WIZ Advisors
Mobile: (615) 934-1817
A BIG announcement from WIZ Advisors…
I can't wait to share this with you.
WIZ Advisors was just designated by UpCity (www.upcity.com) - an online marketplace that certifies and promotes local marketing agencies in the United States - as one of the “Top Marketing Consultants of 2019” and “Top Content Marketing Agencies of 2019” in Washington DC. As an entrepreneur with two years in business, I was floored just to be nominated!
Here are links to the UpCity lists:
Going forward, you will start to see these UpCity badges on WIZ Advisors' marketing materials. Be on the lookout!
Thanks so much for being a part of WIZ Advisors' success.
Chief Marketing Strategist, WIZ Advisors
Mobile: (615) 934-1817
WIZ Advisors Marketing Strategy Monthly – February 2019 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
WIZ Advisors’ Marketing Strategy Monthly
Date: February 26, 2019
Topic: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
I hope you enjoyed our inaugural "WIZ Marketing Strategy Monthly" last month, where I shared some insights on Content Marketing, as well as a Content Marketing Framework. You can still access the framework at this link:
For February, I thought we'd address search engine optimization (SEO). Most companies agree that SEO should be a priority in driving brand awareness, but few know how to do it effectively.
SEO Strategy: The Four Pillars
"Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic - not paid - search engine results." - Moz.com
An SEO strategy includes on-site and off-site optimization tactics. Onsite SEO focuses on optimizing content and code on your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Off-site SEO focuses on link-building, the process of having reputable sites on the Internet link to your content, because they find it relevant and engaging.
There are four pillars that every marketer must consider in their SEO strategy: indexability, crawlability, content, and links. Indexability and crawlability are related to the coding on your website. I am not a website developer - but lucky for me - there are fantastic tools like SEMRush that will do a free audit of your website and let you know any errors in code that are preventing your site from being properly indexed or effectively crawled by search engines like Google. The tool is extremely user friendly so even non-coders can understand and make the respective updates. The third and fourth pillars, creating and promoting relevant content and having "trustworthy" sites to link to your website, are significantly more difficult and require a longer term outlook with respect to results.
Download our "Quick intro to SEO: A Strategist's Perspective":
To learn more about the keys to executing the "SEO 4 Pillars Strategy" and the challenges you can expect, you can download our SEO Framework deck by clicking on the link below. In the deck, I have also provided my perspective on why SEO - while important - should be just one of many tools in your brand building toolkit.
Did you know that WIZ Advisors just launched its YouTube channel, where we are posting FUN FACT videos every month on various marketing subjects, like SEO? Check it out!
If you have any questions about the deck, WIZ Advisors, or would like to discuss your company's specific challenges and needs, feel free to email me or call my mobile directly.
Until next month.
Chief Marketing Strategist, WIZ Advisors
Mobile: (615) 934-1817
Let’s face it. All of us at one point or another have dreamed of having our own firm. We’ve built careers working for large – or small – companies, learned the ropes (pun intended), developed our skill sets and leadership capabilities, discovered and leveraged our strengths, and worked our butts off driving value for our companies and their clients.
For some of us, that is enough. We like our jobs. And we prefer stability - the paycheck every two weeks, the annual bonuses and benefits. We don’t need to take the leap. For others, we feel like something is missing. Every time we hear an entrepreneur passionately describing his path to success, we feel a tinge of regret – and think, “that could have been me”.
A year ago, I was at a crossroads in my career. My job had been eliminated due to a merger, and I had to figure out what’s next. I looked at various job opportunities but couldn’t find one I liked as much as my former role. I had two criteria for the next phase of my career. 1) I wanted to do what I love – marketing strategy – for a company whose values and vision meshed with mine. 2) I wanted to prioritize time with my kids – they are 6 and 9 and for too long, I missed important talent shows and soccer games because of work commitments.
So, how did I decide to start my own consulting firm? And why was it like walking a tightrope?
Takeaway #1: If you overanalyze, you’ll never take the first step.
I am one of those people who analyzes everything. In my consulting practice, it’s a strength. I think methodically through pros and cons, opportunities and risks, and develop actionable strategies for my clients. In my personal life, it can be painful. A question about which hotel we should stay at on vacation turns into a competitive matrix of potential options, each with different price points and amenities.
When I started WIZ Advisors a year ago, I didn’t overthink it. It just happened. A former colleague called me out of the blue in need of my help. He had taken on a job as an interim CEO and needed a go-to-market strategy to present to his Board of Directors in 8 weeks. It sounded right up my alley, so I said "yes". At the time, I didn’t plan to start a consulting company. I didn’t have a company name, logo, website, tax ID number, suite of services – I hadn’t even calculated an hourly rate. But I had a client. And that is all you need to get started.
Takeaway #2: It’s you – and you alone - on that rope.
Over the course of my career, I’ve been both an individual contributor and a team player. I prefer working on a team because I enjoy learning and debating with peers, brainstorming with smart people who challenge me, and reaching major milestones together. As a consultant, you get to do that through collaboration with your clients. However, behind the scenes, as a solo practitioner, you are building a firm all by yourself.
Things come up on a daily basis that you never encountered as an employee. You need to figure out which licenses and permits are required to incorporate in your city and state. You must create a company brand – website, logo, business cards, marketing materials, etc. You must develop content, strategic frameworks, social media company sites, capabilities and proposal decks – everything you need to market your consulting services.
All I can say is “thank you, God” for the Internet. Unlike twenty years ago, there are now a plethora of websites with free - or at least, cheap - tools out there to do all aspects of digital marketing. Whatever I didn’t know, I taught myself. I didn’t have a team of marketing managers or creative designers on hand to help me. It was just me – and me alone - on that rope.
Takeaway #3: Curve balls will come at you. If you stay calm and nimble, you will reach the other side.
Launching a business is like walking a tightrope - there will always be unexpected challenges. On a tightrope, it may be a gust of wind that threatens your stability. In your first year as a firm owner, curve balls become commonplace. You may launch with one engagement strategy, only to change it several months later. It’s all about understanding your clients’ needs and evolving your strategy to meet them. For example, I started WIZ Advisors with a consulting model that offers a suite of services on a monthly retainer basis, similar to a large-scale agency. However, I quickly learned that without an established brand and significant client base, that business model isn't realistic. So, I changed my model. I targeted smaller companies in the $10-$100M range in my network and offered them project-based marketing services. My clients had the opportunity to gauge my work product before trusting me with more business. And I formalized my positioning as a niche marketing strategy firm that delivers project-based services to meet individual client’s needs and budget. Given this new model, I also had to alter my marketing efforts to build a pipeline instead of relying on word-of-mouth referrals. I spent time and effort developing my brand in the marketplace and driving higher awareness of my services. I also formed lead generation partnerships with other boutique firms who have complementary services.
Learning to be flexible and deal with change is probably my #1 tip for a new business owner. The first year isn’t easy and things rarely go as expected. Did I at times feel like a tight rope walker in a wind storm? Absolutely. But I also gained valuable insight into what it takes to build a sustainable business – one step at a time.
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