Rate your new business strategy with this quick DIY audit

Perhaps business has been challenging recently – with the departure of a major client, changes in industry regulations or arrival of new competitors – and you want to be confident that your current new business strategy is right.

New business strategyMaybe the business has been doing just fine, but your focus has shifted to faster growth or to preparation for sale, and you’re reviewing your new business strategy to see where to make improvements.

Or perhaps you’ve inherited an ongoing new business plan in a new role or a new firm, but you’re really not sure whether it’s right for the company.

You’ve got reservations, and want to do a quick sanity check.

This post is for you.

A new business audit can be quick and easy

This simple DIY review will reassure you that you’re heading in the right direction, or help identify where the gaps are. Once you know where the gaps are, you can make a plan to plug them.

I believe a new business audit doesn’t have to be a protracted process. It really doesn’t. Especially if you’re an SME.

So here’s what I suggest.

Below are ten straightforward questions…

You simply ask your directors, management team, or sales and marketing bods these questions. Or – if you’re a really small business – just ask yourself. Or – for the slightly bigger ones – ask your consultants, account managers, researchers, specialists. Or you can ask everyone in the firm. (But if you do this, be prepared for unexpectedly high levels of divergence or even disagreement).

One thing worth remembering, if you do ask a wider group of people their views, they are going to want to know what the answers overall were. And – vitally – what you are going to do about it now that you have the information! So be prepared.

If you can answer these questions quickly, easily and concisely…

You probably have a clear new business strategy in place. If the people you ask answer them in the same way as each other (and as you), then things are looking good. You can check them back against objectives to get a feel for whether it’s the right one for you, or maybe just the right one for now.

If you find you answer most of them OK, but find some questions really hard, or if different people are giving you different answers, then there is definitely room for improvement.

Ten questions to help you rate your new business strategy

  1. What are your new business objectives – in terms of both financials and client base?
  2. What exactly do you do?
  3. Who specifically are your ideal, target audience?
  4. Can you articulate the criteria that create an ideal prospect?
  5. Why are you best suited to these prospects?
  6. Can you demonstrate to these prospects why you are a good fit?
  7. And do you currently demonstrate to these prospects why you are the best fit?
  8. Where do your prospects spend their time – and how do you go about finding them?
  9. How do you start, and then develop, your relationship with them?
  10. Why should prospects choose you over your competition?

Just by reading these yourself now, you will probably start to get a feel for how quickly and easily (or not) the answers are coming to you.

Start by answering them yourself

You might feel yourself itching to grab and pen and start writing them down.

So do it! Do it now, because you’ll soon find out what you really want to know – which is whether or not your company’s new business approach is on track.

I’d love to know how you get on, and I expect others would love to hear more too. Leave some comments at the end of the post and tell us which questions were easy to answer, or which really weren’t. Just by sharing your views here, anyone reading this post can learn more.

Top tips and ideas on what to do next

If you answer “no” or “we don’t/can’t” to most of these questions, or if everyone has a different viewpoint, you’re probably going to want to do something about it quite urgently.

So here are some simple suggestions to get you started.
  • Brainstorming. Starting with the first question from the list above that wasn’t easy or consistently answered and working down, get the relevant people in a room and give yourselves an hour per question. In an ideal world, you might want to use someone as an objective facilitator (because you might be surprised how hard it can be to reach a healthy consensus) but if that’s not an option, then just crack on. Don’t do more than 2 questions per session if it takes the full hour to all be clear on an answer.
  • Write or draw. If anyone is half reasonable with using a marker pen, record things as pictures, quotes, flowcharts, soundbites, words on a flipchart, giant post-its and stick them on the walls as you go. Being able to see the discussion in progress visually can really help people keep track, see how they’re moving forward and draw useful conclusions. You can take photos at the end for someone to write up if needed. Far more effective (in my view – though my clients will recognise my own drawings skills for their utter lack of artistry) than taking minutes.
  • Look at your backstory. Remind yourself what you’ve been best at to date, what clients have loved you for, which work has been most profitable and what you’ve enjoyed most. Checking that against the market opportunity will help you answer a lot of the questions. More on how to use your backstory to get your positioning right here.
  • Write down the the problems your clients have that you can solve – but in their words. This is a great one. Think back to meetings, briefs and ‘phone conversations where your clients have been worried, moaning or asking for help. Write it down in their language, using their words.
  • Grade your clients. Give them all a RAG (red, amber, green) status against some relevant criteria that are important to you. Maybe their profitability, how good at giving briefs they are, whether they refer you or not, whether you would work with more people like them or not. Whatever you rate them for, it’ll help you get clear on who you are looking to work with. (And who you wouldn’t want to). This will get you answers to your target audience question.
  • A bunch of Venn diagrams. This is always useful to find out what makes you different from the competition. To articulate your positioning, your differentiation and your USP (if you like marketing language). To get clear on your competitive advantage. Draw a circle for the services you want to sell more of, for the top sectors or types of clients that get green RAG ratings, for your location if relevant, any IP (intellectual property) or in-house products you’ve got, your business style/culture/values. The bit in the Venn diagram where they all converge is YOU. And only YOU.

There’s lots more where these came from, but as my posts often get a little long (ah-hem), I’ll stop now.

If you want help doing any of this because you’ve got too much on your own plate – but you know it’s a priority – and you’re an SME with a base in the South of England, then please do give me a call.

I can help you with a new business review, strategy or actions. More about me here.

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