Many business leaders and their teams are taking a step back to reflect on 2018 performance and making a plan to jump start 2019. They are looking at their historical and recent performance, along with market trends that may disrupt or enhance their business results going forward.
Many US businesses are expecting higher levels of real sales in 2019. In fact, the US NFIB Business Optimism Index was at 107.9 as of October 9th, slightly down from the all-time high of 108.8, but still well ahead of the historical average of 98.2.
Growth may slow however, as one leading forecaster calls for US gross-domestic-product growth to reduce to 2.5%, down from 3% in 2018, driven by Fed interest rate hikes, steel and aluminum tariffs and other factors.
When looking to jump start 2019 with a demand-driven view of the market, we suggest six steps to increase awareness of the situation and then create more choices from which to make better decisions and take action.
- Define the market and segment the customers/prospects: What is the overall market frame of reference? Within that market, who are the different groups/segments of customers and prospects that will drive your business in 2019? Which customers offer growth in sales, mix and profits? Which are in maintenance mode? Should any be allowed to exit or decline?
- Examine your value proposition/offer/positioning: How well does your company meet the needs of these customers when compared to competitors? Is your assessment based on Internet research or actual customer feedback? How much of their spending/wallet does your organization capture?
- Analyze competitive value proposition/offer/positioning: Where does the competitor outperform or underperform? What is their positioning and how are we differentiated from that?
- Complete a SWOT analysis: What are the organization’s most important Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? This is often used to summarize organizational perspective and suggest focus.
- Identify actions that deliver value and innovation to customers: At the end of the day, all customers really see is the action, not the value proposition. Accordingly, what are the cross-functional actions (e.g., products, services, marketing messages, sales initiatives, billing initiatives, distribution initiatives, R&D initiatives) that deliver value to customers? Which need investment in 2019 and which do not? What is the estimated value of each?
- Partner to deliver actions: Are there partnering opportunities to deliver actions? What is the estimated value?
Firms we’re working with now are also taking this planning time as an opportunity to model and deliberately migrate their mix of products and services with current customers to drive more profit from current sales levels. For example, one IT firm is moving from billings-per-hour (marked up) to a managed service plan that allows its clients to budget the entire year upfront and the IT firm to better plan and manage its manpower.
Don’t fall into the trap of being caught up in the day-to-day, finding yourself too busy for looking ahead. It’s worth investing time now to get a clear view of your business and to set plans and budgets for 2019. Engaging your cross-functional team in this process (even considering suppliers and clients, where appropriate) can lead to more ideas as diverse thinking is proven to be more innovative. Now’s the time to jump start 2019 success!