Ask Alan: The First Steps in Your Strategic Plan

Alan Adler

, B2B

For the past 100+ years the word, marketing, has been defined as: “Mar*ket*ing. 1. The act or process of buying and selling in a market. 2 The commercial functions involved in transferring goods from producer to consumer.”


This may work well philosophically but it’s hardly practical! Try using this to create a strategic plan. It’s not likely to be very helpful.


Make it easy for your customers to know what you do

John Jantsch, author of Duct-tape Marketing, created a checklist for marketing, that I believe is “spot on.” Especially, for the diversity and choices available in today’s marketplace. Jantsch’s definition is, KNOW, LIKE & TRUST.


Try, buy, repeat, and refer

When a shopper knows, likes, and trusts a business, they’re more likely to Try, (your product or service) Buy, (pay for your product or service)  Repeat (become a repeat and perhaps, frequent customer), and Refer (become an ambassador who will refer your product or service to their friends, colleagues and acquaintances). If you’re of the same mind/opinion then, you’re ready to take the next steps. And, create a strategic plan that’s perfect to position your business for today’s marketplace.


The first required question

There are two required questions that you’ll need to ask. The answers will provide you the foundation of your business’ strategic plan:

  • Who is your ideal customer/prospect?

To determine your ideal customer, be sure to include demographics, psychographics, geography and behavior.


Value and profit

Here are a few hints: Your ideal customer is one who values you and the relationship they have with you. This customer is also one who is profitable. If your profit margins are consistently off kilter with a customer, it doesn’t matter how much or frequently they buy from you, they may be costing your business money.


The second required question

2) How does your business differentiate itself from competition?


Don’t be afraid to ask your customers about their experience

Differentiating yourself from others may require you to ask your customers the following:

  • What would you “Google” to find our business?
  • Why should people choose our company over others?
  • What does our business do differently or have, that’s better than the competition?

Additionally, ask yourself, when shoppers buy from your business, what are they really getting?





Tell your story and match your customers’ needs

Since their inception, Federal Express (FedEx) operated their business as if they were in the package expediting business. And, they used very similar marketing tactics as their competitors did. Then, several years ago, they went through a process like the one above. FedEx discovered that by making a change to their business philosophy, they could be dramatically different from their competitors. They exited the package expediting business and became—the peace of mind business!


It’s not just a tag line, you need a good service or product

FedEx’s excellent service gave their customers peace of mind because they knew their package would be delivered on time. FedEx changed their marketing to reflect what their best customers already knew—FedEx could be trusted time and time again to deliver their packages. It’s the perfect example of Know, Like, Trust, Repeat, and Refer. By changing tactics to market the FedEx customer experience—FedEx reached more of their ideal customers and then those customers referred more customers.


Remember, there is no way to choose or measure the effectiveness of your tactics until you have a strategic plan, first.


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 a business coach/consultant who prides himself on ensuring that his individual, executive and small business group clients receive the highest return on their coaching investment. He provides services that span the spectrum from leadership skills, listening skills, lead generation, converting leads-to-sales, marketing, social media and HR issues. Whether it’s the basics, which may include helping people change jobs, time management, create resumes, elevator speeches or how to network more effectively, Alan strives to improve skills that result in solid business results. Alan has written two books designed to provide solutions to small business problems. Getting the Fish to Swim to YOU & Keeping Them in YOUR Boat and UpStream. Both are available on




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