Want Success? Ask Before You Act

Want Success? Ask Before You ActMark Lowenstein with the SCORE office in Cape Cod, Massachusetts shares with us some key questions he asks his clients when they are looking to make their business more successful. Lowenstein has held positions as a former professor of business, COO, vice president of business development and vice president of sales and marketing. Recently retired, Lowenstein volunteers at SCORE to help others succeed in small business.

Below are some great questions to ask yourself to figure out where your business stands and how you can grow it:

• What are you selling—product, service or both?
• Who is the customer—be specific and identify them? (Maybe you need different products for different segments)
• Do they need it or want it? Why do they need/want it? (List features versus benefits)
• What is the price and why?
• What makes you different than your competitors—can you charge more or do you need to charge less. Are you high end, low end, or in the middle?
• How are you selling (direct, channels or web)?
• How to reach the customer (marketing, advertising or PR)?
• After sales service—warranty. How important is it?
• What are the demographic characteristics of past, current and potential customers?
• Is there a specific geographic area where customers are located?
• What are current sales of this type of product or service in your market?
• What customer needs does your marketing mix address? Which customers find these needs important?
• Are customers aware of their need for the product or service?
• How do customers make their purchases? Is there one decision maker or more than one? Are they influenced by others? Where do they gather information before making a decision?
• Are customers aware of your company? Are customers aware of your brand? Are they aware of competitive brands?
• How many customers have tried your product or service? Of these, how many currently use the product or service? What are their attitudes about the product or service? Do these customers also use competitive products or services? Of those who tried but no longer use your product or service, why do they no longer use your product or service?
• Which customers use a competitive product or service? How difficult would it be for users of a competitive product to switch to your product? What are their barriers (inertia/training/parts)?
• Are there customers that use other products you sell—but not the product or service for which the plan is being developed? Would those customers be interested?
• Do customers have concerns about using your product or service? Of those not using your product or service, why are they not using it?
• What is the thought process customers engage in when buying this product or service?
• Where and how do customers gather information in the buying decision process?
• Where do your target customers buy this product? Do they use multiple channels?—For example do they gather information from the internet but buy at a local store?
• Do not limit your information gathering to these questions. What other questions will help you better understand how to design a marketing mix that allows you to find and meet customer needs?

As a partner of the U. S. Small Business Administration, SCORE is a nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses succeed. The association is supported by more than 13,000 volunteers, which enables them to provide their services at no charge, or for very little cost.

SCORE has volunteer mentors in 62 industries to share their expertise. They offer free online business tools, templates and tips as well as confidential business counseling in person or via email. They also offer inexpensive or free business workshops and webinars.

For more information, visit www.score.org

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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