I have one favorite question. The answer to it helps you chart a course through an ocean of information and possibilities. It is:

If we could _______, our business would be ten times bigger.

Finish the sentence. Don’t create a laundry list, it only works if you list one and only one thing. It will tell you where to focus your efforts and resources to grow your business. But despite a focused effort, developing a successful company will take a more thorough situation analysis.

Here’s what we examine when we sit down with a client. We take inventory of strengths, weaknesses, market conditions and brand positioning to formulate a marketing plan that deploys tactics that are carefully prioritized to yield the greatest ROI on our client’s marketing investment.

The following questions provide a strategic “CAT Scan” that affords the opportunity to evaluate every major facet of an organization’s marketing strategy. Somewhere in these 98 questions is a great idea, or combination of ideas, just waiting to ignite dramatic growth in your business. The trick is in knowing which is the most important question, and which is the most important answer. It changes with each company, because each is unique. Concocting the right formula takes an experienced eye. That’s what we do. We formulate marketing mixes that deliver success.

Client Profile Worksheet

Sales organization:
What geographical area do you sell to?
Do you have on-staff or independent sales representatives?
Do you sell direct or through distribution?
Do you have in-field sales representation of any type?
Do you use outgoing telemarketing?
Do you have dedicated customer service reps for incoming sales calls?
What is the single biggest obstacle do you have to overcome to get
a sales appointment?
Who answers your phone, a live person or a voice mail system?
Do customers have access to any type of on-line order tracking system?
Do customers have direct lines or cell phone access to key sales people?
Do you have 24/7 emergency call service?
Finish this sentence: If we could _______, our business would be ten times bigger.

Strategic planning:
Do you have a written marketing plan?
Does your company have a mission statement, and if so, what is it?
Does your company have a value statement, and if so, what is it?
Does your company conduct marketing research or customer surveys?
What percentage of sales, or amount, have you budgeted for marketing?
Are your sales and profit goals more long-term or short-term?
What goals have you set for your organization?

Customer Profile:
How many customers do you have?
What is your customer churn rate?
Describe your typical customer.
How much of your business comes from existing customers versus new customers?
What market segments do you serve?
What type of person/position(s) do you have to sell to? (Purchasing agent, owner, etc.)
What other influencers are there in the process? (plant manager, engineers, etc.)
Describe the perfect customer for your company.
Describe the customer you don’t want.

What words would your competitors use to describe you?
What words would your customers use to describe you?
If you could pick one word or phrase that you’d like customers to associate with your company, what would it be?
Does your company have a slogan, and if so, what is it, and did it come up in the previous questions???
Does your company have a mascot or spokesperson?
Does your company have a color that everyone in the industry recognizes as yours?
What brands or trade names do you own, or have trademarked?
What are your greatest strengths?
What are your greatest weaknesses?
Do you sell off-the-shelf or custom-made products?
Are you a primary, secondary or both types of supplier?
On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the highest, where would you rate your price?

Competitor Analysis:
Who are the leading competitors in the market?
What is your leading competitor’s greatest strength?
What is your leading competitor’s greatest weakness?
When your competitors drop the ball, how do they do it?
How do your competitors sell against you?
Describe a time you beat the leading competitor and how you did it.
Describe a time when the leading competitor beat you and how they did it.

Market Conditions:
What percentage of market share do you own in your industry?
Do you have any cash cows or profit dogs in your product line, and if so, please describe?
How price sensitive is your industry?
How important is delivery speed and how fast is your company?
How important is turn-around and how quick is your turn-around?
How important is expertise and where are your areas of expertise?
How important is personal service and how good is your company at providing it?
How important are consultative services and how good is your company at providing it?
How important are personal relationships?
Where do you see the greatest opportunities?
How important is quality and how good is your company at delivering it?
How do you measure quality?
What is your warranty and return policy?
Are there any governmental or industry codes that impact your industry?
What, if any, other industries are your business impacted by?
Have there been any innovations or paradigm shifts having significant impact on your industry in the past five years?
Have, or are, any of your major competitors going through management or ownership change?

Sales Promotion:
Do you participate in tradeshows, and if so, which ones?
Do you have any type of recognition program for loyal customers?
Do you use premium items to promote business?
Do you provide customers with samples of any sort?
Do you have a showroom?
Do you have a prospect mailing list, and if so, describe it?
Are your prices published, negotiated or custom quoted?
Do you offer discounts or sales promotions?

Do you have to warn customers about anything regarding the use of your products?
Do you offer technical training in schools, manuals, CDs or DVDs?
Does your product involve installation or assembly instructions?
Do you use Power point presentations for sales or training?

Web sites:
Do you have a Web site?
Are you satisfied with the traffic and results you get from your Web site?
Do you have a pay-per-click campaign for your Web site?
Is your Web site kept up-to-date?
Does your Web site reward visitors with tips, insights and industry secrets?
Does your Web site have links to related industry sites?
Is your Web site registered with all the major search engines?
Is your Web site optimized for search engines?
Do you give people a tangible reason for going to your Web site?
Does your Web site feature testimonials from satisfied customers?
Does your Web site entice visitors to places where their areas of interest can be tracked?

Trade advertising:
Does your company belong to trade organizations, and if so, which ones?
Which trade journals serve your industry?
Do you advertise in them, and if so, which ones?
Do you send out press release on new hires, new capabilities and new products?
Do you list your company in industry buyer’s guides?
Do you use postcard decks?
Do you write articles for trade publications?
Have you ever published a white paper on a trade topic?

Print media:
Do you publish a newsletter?
Do you have a product or capability brochure?
Do you have a catalog?
Do you have an annual report or image brochure?
Do you use invoice stuffers?

Why would we share our “template” for success with prospects before they become clients?
Giving customers this list of questions is like giving someone a list of ingredients for making some exotic gourmet dish, and the telling them to make it without detailed instructions. Even with instructions, a talented chef with years of experience will get a better result. We give our clients a “better result.”

The answers to these questions is just a list of ingredients that go into an effective marketing plan. What you choose to do, and not do, and where you set your priorities is your company’s marketing mix. We use our experience to help you choose the proper tactics wisely to maximize your marketing ROI. How well you execute each task, and what results you get is largely based on talent – another element we bring to the table.

© 2013 Thompson Advertising, Inc. Reproduction of this article is only permitted if Thompson Advertising is credited and our Web site address is published along with it. “www.thompsonadvertisinginc.com”