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Common Business Mistakes

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4 Common Business Strategy Mistakes

As a consultant, I get to see the inner workings of business after business, which allows me to observe problems that repeat themselves time and again.  Interestingly, prospective clients ask us, “What experience do you have in my industry?” believing that industry-specific knowledge is the most important factor in creating a successful strategy. My general observation over hundreds of clients is that IT IS THE ROLE a business plays WITHIN its industry that seems to determine what problems it will have, not the industry itself. Here’s what I mean:

1. Distribution Businesses: These businesses have it tough, often getting price-squeezed by their clients, and mistreated by their supplying manufacturers. The secret to success of a distribution business seems to be not to become over-dependent one line, and to add value by providing services that relate to the product lines sold, like maintenance, or consulting. Then they can easily establish credibility for the lines they do sell by charging for expertise, and providing excellent marketing.

2. Service Businesses: These businesses, especially smaller ones, generally don’t charge enough. Most charge hourly rates, and get stuck in the rut of not ever having enough cash left over to grow. Most would do well to create packages of their services and offer flat or project rates to accomplish the tasks they are hired for. What’s more, if they base their fees on the value the service brings to the client, they can get paid far better for the work they provide than if they stay in their hourly pricing model.

3. Manufacturers: Manufacturing or Construction businesses are willing to spend heaps on equipment or property upgrades, but typically do not leave enough budget for their marketing. They seem to think “if we build it, they will come.” Many manufacturers I’ve dealt with have built a marketing plan with good intentions, only to set it aside so they can buy another piece of equipment. In the end, if you don’t have a branded product, you have a yard sale.

4. Retail Businesses: Retailers are either very loud or very quiet when it comes to marketing, but most think too much about the products and pricing (especially discounting for temporary sales), and too little about the service and expertise they offer…or a unifying angle to make them stand out. But when retailers take the time to know their customers personally, this guides them toward the right products, and provide expertise, price be comes far less an issue.

So there you have it: If you’d been in my shoes as a strategy and marketing consultant over the past few years, that’s a taste of what you’d have observed. I’m sure that regardless of the business you operate, you’ll find a grain of truth in what I’ve learned…and maybe take a little tip to get you going in the right direction.

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Jacqueline Drew
About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm MBA is CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a Calgary-based marketing research and strategy firm. She loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win" and is also an energetic supermom, bandleader and songwriter.

One thought on “Common Business Mistakes

  1. Your point that knowledge about business and marketing is just as important as knowledge of the industry is well-taken. As a consultant in Public Relations over many years, I’ve also found that clients value the specialized knowledge and insight. In my case, about communications. Certainly, some experience in their industry does help but it’s not the main thing.

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