Ask Alan – Ideas and advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners



“How can I improve ROI [Return on Investment] from the marketing tactics I use?”

                                             —T. Onsrud, Troutman




Strategy Before Tactics!

Most small business marketing efforts seem to flounder. Many are barely hanging on—making it week-to-week. Yet some are doing remarkable well; considering the chaotic economy and changing market trends.


A strategic plan

The primary difference between struggling businesses and those thriving, may have a lot to do with having a strategic plan. Consider this:  Every business on the Forbes “list of 100 Most Admired U.S. Companies” and Fortune Magazine’s annual list of “Best Places to Work,” have and use a strategic plan. Poor performers use tactics with no strategic plan. This is what I call “ready-fire-aim.”

If you don’t’ have a strategic plan, how do you know which tactics to employ? Without a plan, the outcome of failure is predictable. Spending money on tactics without a strategy is the slowest route to victory.


No one ever plans to fail

Many companies fail to plan properly, but none ever plan to fail. How many times have you heard, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure?” Having a strategy will help you achieve objectives. Break down the strategies into action steps that are measurable. Track your progress. It will help make sure that the tactics used remain in support of the strategy.


I don’t have the time

Clients frequently complain that they don’t have time to create a strategic plan. You can’t spend all your time working in your business. You must also take time to work on your business. If you don’t, your business will react accordingly. There are many ways to get off the crisis management treadmill.


If you feel that you don’t have the time or intellectual capital to create a strategic plan from within, then you should consider retaining a business coach. They can bring “fresh eyes” to your business.  Your coach will ask the questions that need to be asked. They will then collaborate with you to develop a plan that will drive positive business results.


Without a strategic plan, you are doomed to fail

Physician and Corporate Wellness Director Chris Hawley from Modesto, CA says that “Investing the time to create strategies before jumping to tactics ensures a quality heartbeat for the business. It also helps owner/managers enjoy the journey, working smarter not harder.” Sr. Business Development Professional Chris Craven of Charlotte, NC takes a stronger position, “Without a strategic plan you are doomed to fail,” he says.


Knowing where you want to go

Clearly you need to know where you want to go; otherwise, how will you know when you get there? Chart your course, pick the best way to get there and go! Define your strategy, establish benchmarks, measure progress and make course corrections as needed. Take action! In today’s market you need to be nimble and quick.


Once you have a plan, push the “Go” button

Finally, Michael Oddi, Chief Marketing Officer at KSL Media in LA, advised that we consider what author Seth Godin says in his book, Poke the Box, “Sometimes companies suffer from planning overload and never implement their strategy. The most successful companies are driven by those who aren’t afraid to push the GO button.”



Have a question? Ask Alan…

If you have a small business question email it to Alan: alan@alan-adler.comQuestions may be combined and answered in an upcoming column of “Ask Alan!”



Alan Adler is an Executive Coach, Business Consultant & Speaker. He’s worked for Westinghouse Broadcasting, as a producer/director and with senior management at AT&T, as a corporate spokesperson. Additionally, Alan has been an entrepreneur, creating and growing his own business, Alan Adler & Associates. As a result, he knows management, media and marketing. Alan specializes in helping entrepreneurs through mid-sized businesses, improve profitability. He lives in Huntersville, NC with his wife Mindy. They have two grown children, two adorable grandchildren, and a rescue dog named Bentley.