By Rosemarie Monaco List only those things you are very good at or that you intend to improve. This way you can zero in on what you do best and use that to your advantage. January 28, 2005 -- Most people think of advertising, direct mail, sales promotion and possibly public relations when they think of marketing. But before you can do any of these things effectively, you need to identify where your company is today and where you want it to be in three to five years. You need to analyze your market, its potential and what you have to do to meet market needs. Focusing on customer needs is essential to effective advertising. And advertising something before you are certain you can deliver it usually ends in disaster. You also need to take a look at the competition and determine how you can differentiate your business from theirs. Once all of this is done then you can create a company image or personality, target your markets, and develop a communications strategy. Analyzing Your Business You may have already determined how you want to position your company and where you want to take the business. But if you are unsure which is the best route, take a close look at your current business. It is important to step back and view your operation as if you were an impartial observer. This will help you to define your goals and create an identity. Make a list of all the products you offer such as design, on-demand printing, variable-data printing, finishing, etc. Next, list your services or the more intangible, value-added offerings such as fast turnaround, price-value, high quality, training, etc. List only those things you are very good at or that you intend to improve. This way you can zero in on what you do best and use that to your advantage. Once you have identified your strengths, look at what you can offer in relationship to customer needs. Analyzing Customer Needs Now you need to determine if you are equipped to service prospects as well as offer current customers new products or services. So the next step is to compare your capabilities with their requirements. Let's say you've identified five targets. Draw yourself a matrix. Across the top, list all the requirements that may be needed to do business with them. For the sake of this example there are only five, but be sure to include all the possibilities. Speed High Quality Training Design On-demand B & A Stores F & M Printing City University Newtown Police Mertens and Co. For each company, indicate the products or services they are currently buying or that you believe they have a strong need for (represented by the blue boxes). If a customer has sent you problem files more often than workable ones, they may well welcome a PDF training program Remember, clients don't always know what they need. They probably think they know their businesses better than anyone. But if they have sent you problem files more often than workable ones, it is safe to say they need and may well welcome a PDF training program. Next, take the same list and mark the boxes that represent your current capabilities. In this case we used a red circle. An interesting picture takes shape. All the blue boxes with the circles represent services that you can provide immediately to those prospects. Speed High Quality Training Design On-demand B & A Stores O O O F & M Printing O O City University O Newtown Police O O Mertens and Co. O O If you look at B&A Stores and F&M printing, you'll see that you already have everything they need. So you can solicit that business immediately. Now look at Mertens and Co. You can fill their needs immediately for two out of three of their requirements, which is rather good. But you may also be able to set up a training session with them by partnering with a vendor. So Mertens is another good prospect. Next let's look at the services in which some customers are interested but you are lacking. In this example, design and training. Knowing what you do about your customers, you'll need to consider if you are willing to make the investment necessary to target these new prospects. Implementation comes next, along with some selling focused on customer needs. This is how you begin moving forward. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses and understanding market needs are important steps toward shaping your goals and developing an image for your company. Zeroing in on what you do best and turning it into value for customers is one way to target the market. Another is to focus on what customers need and develop your business around it. Always remember that most detrimental to your success is advertising to companies that do not need what you have to offer, or offering what you cannot deliver. Please provide feedback, suggestions or comments to Rosemarie at [email protected].