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5 Small Business Management Questions to Help Choose Marketing Programs

As small business managers, we juggle limited resources in a quest for success. To an extent, when we focus on success in one area we forego attention elsewhere. Limited money and time mean we must choose from seemingly endless -- and often conflicting -- advice and recommendations from marketing service providers; management and marketing consultants; and internal experts. This creates a dilemma. How do you choose which recommendations to embrace and which to pass by?

Consultants, marketing service providers, and/or other departments within your company will eagerly give advice from their viewpoints. You will hear the benefits of focusing on "___" (fill in the blank with appropriate specialty). This is not a bad thing; it is their job to sell you on the advantages of their specialties. It is your job to probe for the downsides and tradeoffs.

Different Perspectives

Back in my brand management days, it was sometimes frustrating when individual departments could not grasp The Big Picture. The graphics department and the outside ad agency wanted to focus strictly on graphical elements when other aspects of a campaign were just as critical. Manufacturing was worried about throughput and efficiency, never mind what the customer wanted. Each department was doing what it could to optimize its own function, but this did not always work in The Big Picture. A catch 22 of small business management is if all functions are "optimized," it could be to the detriment of the business. When resources are spread too thin and timelines expand, implementation suffers.

In the online world the same Big Picture problems occur. Each specialist knows much about her or his own specialty, but often little about how it affects other areas. Most of the advice makes perfect sense. Toss in a dose of reality, however, and you may stretch your resources too thin if you simultaneously try for perfection in all areas.

The Big Picture

When reality hits, you find it is simply impossible to optimize all areas of your business. The obligations associated with small business management do not allow you to stop ongoing activities while trying to obtain detailed perfection. God may be in the details, but profit is in the implementation. As small business manager or "chief cook and bottle washer," it is your job to make it work by bundling the advice into a profitable implementation package.

Once you accept that some areas are going to be initially less than perfect (providing you with opportunities to improve over time), the challenge is to figure out what makes sense for your business and site. When is it critical to optimize and when is less than perfect acceptable? When considering advice from a marketing consultant or other expert, ask yourself these five questions:

1) Does it solve a problem? One of the best ways to comprehend the importance of an action is to relate it to a problem. If you think strategically - first identifying your major problems, then designing solutions to solve those problems - your business is more likely to thrive.

2) What are my alternatives? There is always more than one solution to a problem. If you evaluate different approaches, you will ultimately make better decisions.

3) What are the downsides? Perfection and optimization are in the eyes of the beholder. What you see as a disadvantage may seem trivial to the specialists. Ask questions and do some research on your own to uncover the downsides.

4) Is it likely to be profitable for me? Larger companies can afford programs that smaller companies and individuals cannot. If you have to go into debt or dramatically reduce other critical activities to implement a program, your cost increases dramatically. In these cases, carefully weigh the resources required against the potential gain.

5) What happens if I do not do this? Some activities are "niceties" and some are necessities. Know the difference. If you are losing customers to other sites or businesses, for example, taking action is critical. Some activities - those you want to do but do not help solve a significant problem - can be pushed to the back burner.

Incorporating The Big Picture into your decision-making is critical. When you ask yourself these five questions, you are in a better position to make the right decision. Your small business depends on it.

About the Author

Bobette Kyle draws upon 12+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing research in her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network and author of the marketing plan and Web promotion book "How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Website Marketing For Small Budget Business, .

Copyright 2002, 2004 Bobette Kyle. All rights reserved.

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