Trailblaze & Grow Month: May 2015

Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup: Unicorns, False Assumptions, New EU Tax Rules and more!

As you know, we share two of our favorite articles and blog posts each day.  For those of you who do not have time to read each of them, we have compiled the top 5 articles that have been shared the most:

1.  Why False Assumptions and Wrong Metrics Can Kill Your Marketing Success  via Susanna Gebauer

2. The 3 Competitive Defenses of Enduring SaaS Companies  via Tomasz Tunguz at Redpoint

3. The Most Important Advice I Could Give You About Unicorns http://ow.ly/2YLPTO via Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures

4. How Will the EU’s New Value Added Tax (VAT) Rules Impact US Based Businesses? http://ow.ly/2YLPTv via Ed Leiber and Small Business Trends

5. Simple Market Research for Your Business Plan   via Trailblaze Growth Advisors

What was your favorite?

BusinessPlan

Simple Market Research for Your Business Plan

Whether you are a massive corporation or a fledgling startup, understanding your market is absolutely essential. Without a deep understanding of your industry, your competition will quickly outflank you and leave you wondering where it all went wrong.

Fortunately, there are more resources for conducting business research than ever before — provided you know how to use them.

The following is a basic roadmap that can help you analyze your industry and draft a coherent business strategy that you can use to grow your business as fast as possible.

Before investing in any strategy, one of the first steps you must take is market research.

Would you play a game like Risk without knowing the rules? A few might decide to do so, but those are the people who often find themselves outmatched by the people who spent the time to understand the mechanics of the game and perhaps even some possible strategies.

Business works the same way, except, of course, for the fact that the stakes tend to be much higher — your career and your money, your investors’ money or both. It makes sense, then, that you should spend some time conducting market research on your particular industry, which you can then use to inform your overall business strategy.

What does market research actually entail?

The first step in conducting market research is to look at what competitors are doing and saying. Often, you can get a fairly clear picture of an industry by reading company blogs and publications to which industry experts frequently contribute. You should also be able to find news stories about market strategies that other companies — in other words, your competitors — have utilized. Instead of wasting precious time and resources learning from your own mistakes, you can instead learn from the mistakes and successes of others in your industry. Right off the bat, this will help close the gap between you and the more established players in your field.

It’s also important to understand how the industry itself measures success. What does a promising and/or successful company look like? How did it get to where it is? What are the key performance indicators that are used to measure one company’s success against others?

You should also learn about the size of the overall market and any specific or related sectors that could come into play. Knowing whether and where the industry is growing is important, as well.

It’s also critically important that you understand the regulations on the federal, state and local levels with which you will need to contend. Not only that, but in today’s politically volatile environment, it’s just as important to stay abreast of where the political winds are blowing with regard to your industry, so you can be prepared if and when regulatory changes come knocking.

Finally, you need to understand what you need to get started. Do you need investors? What are operating costs going to be as you grow? What expenses will increase with size, and which will benefit from economies of scale?

Once you have analyzed the answers to these questions, your business strategy should start to naturally take shape. Of course, it can be helpful to consult with an expert (or a team of experts) that really knows how to market your business, so your business strategy can be leveraged within your particular industry.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources on the Internet, as well as marketing experts available for hire, who can help ensure that your business is as successful as it deserves to be.

Photo credit: Bert Kaufmann / Foter / CC BY

Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup: Consumer Engagement, Big Data, KPIs and more!

We got great feedback from last week’s roundup, so we’re going to continue providing you with our lates top 5 every Friday.

As you know, we share two of our favorite articles and blog posts each day. For those of you who do not have time to read each of them, we have compiled the top 5 articles that have been shared the most:

1.  Friday Is When Consumer Is Most Engaged With Their Phones [Report] http://ow.ly/2Yj6Ta  via NextBigWhat and InMobi

2. Big Data Driven Decisions http://ow.ly/2Yj6SU via Business 2 Community

3. The Marketing Trends That Will Drive Your Business in the Next 5 Years http://ow.ly/2Yj6SL via Business 2 Community

4. 3 Simple Secrets to Marketing Absolutely Anything (Including Yourself) http://ow.ly/2Yj6Ti via The Muse and Alex Honeysett

5. Best Marketing KPIs to Track Your Business Success  /insights via Trailblaze Growth Advisors

What was your favorite?

Dashboard

Best Marketing KPIs to Track Your Business Success

As marketing has become more advanced and targeted, it has also become increasingly important to understand the specific metrics with which effective marketing is measured. These metrics, more commonly known as KPIs (key performance indicators), are a powerful way to determine which marketing tactics and strategies are most effective. Used properly, they can dramatically improve your marketing tactics.

Digital marketing has quickly become the driving sector in the overall marketing industry. This is largely thanks to the fact that close to half of the world population, or about 3 billion people, now use the Internet on a regular basis. As a result, it should come as no surprise that many of the most important KPIs involve the Internet and digital marketing in one way or another.

While each business will have different KPIs, these are some of the most important marketing ones to pay attention to:

1. Cost per lead

Understanding how much it costs to acquire a lead is as important for a startup company as it is for a well-established corporation. If nothing else, understanding what makes the cost per lead increase (or preferably, decrease) can be a powerful marketing tool that improves profit margins. Beyond that, however, understanding what it costs to acquire a lead can be used as the basis for understanding whether or not a marketing campaign is a worthwhile investment or not.

2. Ratio of leads to qualified leads

One of the greatest advantages of digital marketing is the ability to highly target leads. In fact, if you are not targeting leads on a particularly granular scale, you are all but certainly wasting marketing resources in an inefficient marketing campaign. One of the best ways to determine whether your marketing campaign is appropriately targeted is by comparing the ratio of total leads to qualified leads, and ultimately the ratio of each of those metrics to an overall conversion rate. A small number of high-quality and highly-targeted leads are significantly better than a massive number of unqualified leads.

3. Return on investment

Return on investment, or ROI, is as important in marketing as it is in many other aspects of business. With marketing, ROI is used to determine which marketing tactics and strategies are most effective (as well as which ones are not), and can have a substantial impact on determining which marketing strategies will be used moving forward.  In the subscription world, you’ll pay closer attention to customer acquisition cost, or CAC.

4. Lifetime value of a customer

The lifetime value of a customer is a bedrock metric for any business, and it can help determine the marketing framework as well. Ultimately, understanding that the lifetime value of a customer is particularly high (for example) can help to justify the upfront costs of qualifying leads and then acquiring them. On the flip side, a low lifetime value might mean the marketing campaign needs to be as streamlined and bare-bones as possible.  In the subscription world, you should be tracking the churn rate (or retention rate if you want to keep a positive mindset) and the average monthly revenue per customer to calculate LTV.

5. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Net Promoter Score is based on the theory that customers who are strong proponents of your company are highly valuable. These “loyal enthusiasts” are a powerful source of referral business, and can be a major factor in the long-term viability and health of a company.

The NPS theory can basically be boiled down to this: customers who rate their overall experience with your company a “9” or “10” out of 10, are likely to be “promoters”, or customers who will dramatically improve a number of KPIs, including cost per lead (thanks to free referrals), lifetime value of a customer (thanks to loyal repeat customers), return on investment (again, thanks to the long-term value of customers), and numerous others.  While it might seem difficult to attain a 9 or 10, the reality is that anything lower (7-8 is considered “passive” and 0 to 6 is considered a “detractor” rating) will not be beneficial to one’s business.

The Net Promoter Score, along with the rest of the KPIs listed above, can and should be used to measure the strength or weakness of your marketing campaign. You can rest assured that your competitors are doing the same.

Photo credit: stratman² (2 many pix!) / Furniture Fair / CC BY-NC-ND

Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup: Online Privacy, Decision Science, Content Marketing and more!

This week we are trying something new.  As you know, we share two of our favorite articles and blog posts each day.  For those of you who do not have time to read each of them, we have compiled the top 5 articles that have been shared the most:

1.  The results driven approach to blogging via The Next Web

2. Online privacy and security: the impact of constantly changing social media settings on users’ privacy  via FastHosts

3. How Decision Science Can Improve Your Sales and Marketing  via Intuit QuickBooks

4. 21 Most Distrusted (and trusted) US Companies!  via Gerry Moran and the Temkin Group

5. Four Reasons Why Content Marketing Drives Traffic (and Revenue) via Trailblaze Growth Advisors

We will continue to provide our insights, but wanted your feedback on whether we should add this to our rotation of content.  Is this useful for you?