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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 08, 2011 • Issue 11:08:01

Look like a leader: Seven essential steps

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

I've been approached three times recently by startup payment companies on a quest to look big. While they are part of the same industry, the nature of their businesses and the scope of their respective products and services differ: one is an independent merchant level sales agency, another is a value-added services provider and the third is a payment financing company.

What they have in common is a desire to compete on a level playing field in their particular niche areas and to be recognized and accepted as viable alternatives to the market leaders.

Looking like a leader means you have to act like a leader. You must walk-the-talk to make your company look bigger and more established to the outside world by taking steps to actually become the image you're projecting. There are no excuses or exceptions. To really make it happen you can't just talk about it; you must simply do it.

Steps toward market leadership

So what can and should you do to look like a leader? Here are my recommendations:

  1. Establish your company's mission, vision and values: Your mission describes the overarching purpose of your organization - the reason it exists today. It answers who you are, what you do, what business you're in, who you serve and the value you deliver.

    Your vision is a guiding image of future success with the purpose of inspiring, motivating and guiding employees to work together. It articulates what success will look like at a point in time, and challenges and inspires your company to stretch capabilities to achieve its purpose.

    Values are the basis of your company culture and are common beliefs put into practice to guide work efforts and foster organizational integrity. They reflect what is truly important, how your organization is special and, for the most part, do not change over time. Mission, vision and values are the basic building blocks of your organization.

  2. Create a strategic plan for growth: Your strategic plan sets the agenda for your company and is broad and global in nature. Operating without one is like driving a car without a steering wheel; you don't have a clear direction as to where you're heading. Obviously, the results are unpredictable.

    Your strategic plan should contain two to five high-level objectives that give action to your mission and vision. Then, define quantifiable, measurable and achievable goals to reach each objective. Your strategic plan is a living document and is subject to change and adjustment over time.

  3. Develop a polished and professional corporate identity: Image does matter, and you should cast your business in the best possible light. Dress your business for success by sending a message of seriousness and credibility to prospects, customers, suppliers, employees, job seekers and anyone else you interact with.

    Make sure your corporate identity is applied consistently to all marketing communications materials, vehicles and tactics, from simple items such as business cards, stationery and brochures to presentations, post cards, emails, advertising, tradeshow booths, your website and more. Developing the most impressive image you can is a key step in gaining visibility, being taken seriously and getting people to want to do business with you.

  4. Craft clear and concise brand messaging: Brand is the promise of value your company delivers to its customers and the marketplace. It's what your business stands for. Brand messaging describes the value that doing business with you represents and articulates what prospects can expect from their experience with your company. Your brand defines who you are, how you do business and how you're different from the competition.

    Customers buy from you because of their perceptions, expectations, and the reputation, trust and likeability of your company. They buy because they like your brand. The consequence of not having clear and concise brand messaging is that your efforts are diluted; your company, at best, is likely to just blend into the crowd.

  5. Commit financial resources: You have to spend money to make money. Using the percentage of revenue approach, 8 to 10 percent of company revenue is generally the recommended marketing spend for small to midsize businesses, with approximately 4 to 5 percent of that going to labor, either in-house or an outsourced marketing firm.

    A 2008 International Data Corp. benchmark study indicates companies typically allocate 51 percent of their marketing budgets to lead generation efforts with the remaining 49 percent dedicated to awareness building.

    The percentage of company revenue you allocate for marketing should be higher than the average recommended spend because you have more education and awareness building to do, as well as lead generation, if you intend to look big and grow fast.

  6. Construct a comprehensive marketing plan: An integrated marketing plan documents in detail the actions required to support reaching your business goals and sales objectives. The plan identifies what to do, when to do it and how to do it, with all activities and tactics working together in a consistent and repetitive approach.

    You don't want to shoot from the hip with a hit and miss approach. Study the competition and document their efforts. Then generate a comprehensive list of potential programs, campaigns and tactics you'd like to employ, and pick the ones that you believe will give you the most bang for your buck. Don't just copy the competition; make sure your final plan is unique and designed to meet your business goals.

  7. Execute, execute, execute to get the word out and drive sales: Make the time and exert the effort and be disciplined. Your actions speak louder than words. Remember a great strategy never executed is an exercise in futility, and a mediocre strategy exceptionally executed almost always yields better results than a great strategy poorly executed.

Look and act like a leader by taking these steps to make your company big. I think you'll find the outcome to be dramatic. end of article

Peggy Bekavac Olson founded Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payment companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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