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3 Commonly Overlooked Strategies Necessary for Starting, Building, Pivoting or Expanding Your Business Are you starting, building, pivoting, or expanding your business? What type of marketing strategies are needed, and how should a financial prediction statement or proforma be structured to get started?

By Adam Horlock Edited by Joseph Shults

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Are you starting, building, pivoting or expanding your business? What type of marketing strategies are needed, and how should a financial prediction statement or proforma be structured to get started? Think strategically and spend intelligently through brand strategy, truly understanding your market and customer base. Confidently reach that customer base directly and cost-effectively by mapping out your customer's journey. Finally, be prepared to deliver to customers and your business.

First, start with brand strategy

What is your brand, what does it represent and what does it project to the public? Know who you are and know who your customer is. Your marketing efforts project what you say you are, but your brand can be defined by what your customers say you are. As consumers are exposed to an avalanche of more and more brands through multiple channels, ensuring a well-planned brand strategy has never been more critical to help your business stand out. It is not enough to open, assume the product or service will sell itself, or spend advertising dollars in hopes of immediate return without a structured plan with clear benchmarks.

It is worth the time and expense for most businesses to develop a robust strategy around the brand itself, including clarifying who best fits the brand's purpose, message and services. It is worth the expense to enlist a qualified brand strategist or agency for help. A qualified brand strategist who has experience in developing and growing brands in your industry will be able to find the decisive factor that separates your brand from competitors in the market. It is best that you define the brand and not let someone else define it for you, in which you lose control of the brand.

Related: Ready to Start a Business? Think About Brand Strategy Before You Start Spending.

Have you successfully mapped out your customer journey?

The customer experience is just as necessary as the products and services offered. In designing the customer journey, determine the most critical phases of the journey. An accurate assessment of performance in those phases as you retain more customers is vital. Add-in processes to quickly adjust based on customer needs are crucial to keep the customer journey map updated. For example, if the business solely relies on an e-commerce platform, enlist the assistance of a User Experience (UX) specialist to ensure the experience is simple, straightforward and poised for continuous use by both new and existing customers. If using a UX specialist, one of the best questions to ask is, "what experiences can be implemented or changed to turn the customer base using the platform into an advocacy base for the business?"

Related: The 5 Critical Components of a Great Customer Journey Map

Have you truly defined a go-to-market strategy?

This is where many businesses get into trouble. So many will spend countless dollars investing in real estate, inventory, equipment, hiring, marketing and more, only to get the remainder of this strategy wrong and be stuck with excess inventory or, worse, selling at a loss. Many get into trouble through pricing by not carefully estimating the time and resources needed to complete projects or sales profitably. Assuming that digital marketing or social media ad spending alone will drive sales is worse. Those who accurately track their numbers and have processes to review and revise consistently can project future gains and losses better and adapt faster.

Many businesses also take existing or new competitors as an excuse to lower pricing or over-promise to protect existing market share. Instead, companies should try to look for "collaborative competition," and if not possible, implement a strategy of first determining a "me only" differentiator. For example, competitors may offer similar products or services, but what is their specialty? Moreover, what areas of the market do they overlook?

How does a business avoid much of this? Start with an accurately written proforma, and take it a step further. Overestimate all expenses while underestimating revenue. Acknowledge that business interrupters, market fluctuations and the unpredictable will occur more frequently than projected. Nothing goes according to plan! Expect the unexpected, and always start with strategy first. Blind luck is rare, so strategically map out your next steps.

Related: 3 Ways to Differentiate Your Business in a Competitive Market

Adam Horlock

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Operating Officer, Edit Media Consulting

Adam Horlock is the Chief Operating Officer for Edit Media Consulting. His agency offers PR, social media and business consulting services to brands nationally. He has made numerous media appearances and continues to be a resource for entrepreneurs nationwide.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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