DEANS OF BUSINESS

How to deal with the only constant in business: change

Posted April 22, 2011, at 3:07 p.m.
Last modified April 22, 2011, at 11:18 p.m.

We are in a transitory and ever-changing period for both business firms and marketing. This applies to all businesses, be it a new e-commerce venture, retail or service industry enterprise, a small firm or mega corporation.

What worked in the past has no guarantee of working in the future as both external and internal change is taking place at an ever-accelerating pace. New technologies, new products and services, new delivery systems and new competition change the playing field on a regular and frequent basis. Any, or a combination of these external and internal forces, may suggest it is time to redefine your business strategy, or if you are managing a new brand or enterprise define it for the first time. This process is essential prior to developing a strategic marketing plan.

If you were to analyze your market from a customer-expectations and competitive perspective, you likely would discover a great deal of “change” is taking place. You likely will see internal changes are occurring, such as utilization of multidisciplinary management teams; managing up, down and across; field-based management versus headquarters-based, etc., to name a few.

You likely will see changes in how business is being conducted, such as more outsourcing; more collaborative efforts (alliances and networking); an accelerated development process; use of fewer but more responsive suppliers, etc. Businesses are seeking to develop new competitive advantages. They want to be more market- and customer-oriented. They’re trying to improve by benchmarking (measuring themselves against others). And, where feasible, they seek to offer customized product or personalized services.

Focal points — such as looking globally versus locally — are also changing, zeroing in on the value chain and refining marketing targets. It is not surprising to find customers are redefining value to include not just the traditional “quality at a fair price” but adding “speed and convenience” to the equation.

All of these dynamics in the marketplace are not only changing how you conduct your business but also how you define it. So before you begin the marketing planning process, take a while to reflect on your companies “core competencies” and “driving forces.”  Ask yourself these questions:

(1) where does our business make a significant contribution to the perceived customer’s benefits with the end product(s) or service(s) offered;

(2) what do we or can we do that is difficult for our competitors to imitate; and,

(3) are we “market” or “product service” driven and should we change?

Then, record your new core values and driving forces.

At this point, it is time to also reexamine or develop a new “mission statement.” To do so you will need to look at and record the philosophies of the firm, develop an overall positioning statement and focus on your vision of the future — where you want the firm-business to go and what you want to achieve.

Next, you will need to prepare a positioning statement, how you perceive your product or service in relation to competition from quality and pricing perspective. One note of caution, take your time in drafting your mission statement and in defining your overall related business strategy.

Recognize it may be very different than you originally conceived (preconceived, more likely) and may also change as you go through the competitive and environmental assessment portion of the strategic marketing planning process.

Here are some hints to help you look for a potential winning business strategy. Ask yourself, can we supply something no one else does or that is in a short supply; can we do a better job than everyone else in our product or service category in supplying that product or service; can we offer a new product or service which is truly differentiated from existing products or services, and can we identify an entire new market for product(s) and service(s)?

Once you have defined or redefined your overall business strategy and drafted your first cut at a “mission statement,” it is time to step back and assess all the potential internal and external focal points potentially impacting your business, assess your competitors, and examine external factors that may have a significant impact on your business strategy and-or how you go about marketing.

Today, successful businesses reassess their product or services, marketing strategy, and their competition on an on-going basis.

Ronald A. Nykiel, dean of the College of Business at Husson University, has a number of books on travel and tourism marketing and served on a presidential commission on travel and tourism, the Board of the United States Travel Association, and on a governor’s revenues forecasting commission.

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