by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. (Dr. Printing) April 19, 2004 -- Question: Doctor Printing, we've been trying to develop our digital printing business for over a year, and find that our results so far have been much less than hoped for. We're dedicated and motivated, and working hard, but it's just not happening. What are we missing? Doctor Printing: If you're like most of us in this business, the answer may well be: FOCUS : A condition in which something can be clearly apprehended or perceived. FOCUS is the power that digital printing can bring to a business. Yet, it is often true that it is a lack of focus on the part of the digital printing provider that keeps them from achieving their goals. More and more often, I'm finding this lack of focus to be a prevalent condition within the industry. A provider may be doing many things right, yet the focus required to find the right clients and prospects is absent. The focus required to understand the goals and needs of the clients and prospects is absent. And the focused approach to marketing that digital printing makes possible never gets a chance to get off the ground. What you're really selling is a Solution to an identified challenge faced by your client. Like most businesses, digital printing providers have a job to do, every minute and every hour of every day. It is very easy to lose sight of what that job is. The phone rings, the email arrives, people show up at the door and before you know it, we're reacting to the events and occurrences of the day, rather than focusing our attention and efforts on the activities that we should have as a top priority. For as long as I can remember, we've been told that most people don't plan to fail, they just fail to plan. And this is certainly an issue that has not been eliminated from the landscape. But after the plan is crafted and put in place, it is only as good as the results it achieves, and the key to execution of a plan is FOCUS. The concept, the vision and the goals are worse than no plan at all if the focus required for attainment is not present, every day. As someone I once worked for said, "The only thing that matters is results". Ok, so much for philosophy. What's the practical application of focus in planning and in everyday business? Here's the deal. We go out into the world and ask business owners, marketing managers and others in the world of business to stretch-- to step outside their normal way of doing things and to take a leap of faith with a better way to communicate and market their ideas, products or services. We tell them that we can utilize certain characteristics of our technologies and services to take them to market faster, reduce or eliminate waste and obsolescence, and help them acquire and retain clients better than they have been able to do in the past. But how do we achieve and maintain focus in our own daily work? Identify Your Products and Services. Think about it. What is your product or specialty? What are you selling? What are you known for? It may be that what you are known for does not match up with what you'd like to be known for. So, maybe it's time to change reality or perception. Do you specialize in Point of Purchase materials? Direct Mail? Mouse Pads? Or is your identified 'product' more about results? I hope so. What you're really selling is a Solution to an identified challenge faced by your client. This is the real product. Your particular specialized way of bringing about this solution is what distinguishes you from everyone else out there. Make sure that your team and your clients and prospects understand this VERY well. Identify Your Markets. Your market, your target audience, is defined by you. For whatever reason seems appropriate to your goals, you select a certain vertical or geographical market that you feel will best match up with your abilities and the goals and visions of your company. It could be the hotel and casino market in the Midwest. Or the automotive dealership market in the South. Where do you have contacts, relationships or specific market ability? Do your research, brainstorm the possibilities, and define the markets clearly for everyone involved. Identify Your Key Clients and Prospects. Within the market you have identified, there are a finite number of clients or prospects. You need a way to then identify, quantify and qualify the businesses that are in the market, and then a methodology for selection. Remember: FOCUS. You don't want to dilute your actions by trying to attract everyone that falls within the defined market (unless of course it is an exceedingly small market, in which case you might want to broaden your scope). You want the best and brightest, selected because they fit some type of criteria that you perceive to be a good 'fit' with your company. Their needs match up well with your abilities. You might have an 'in' with the company. The company in your sights may be a good growth prospect that you can partner with and grow together. Again, whatever the method of selection, make sure that ultimately you will have a good possibility of penetrating these clients and ending up with a financial and cultural win for your team. Define Your Method of Attainment and Retention. Be unique. Stand out. Do things differently than your competitors. Do things differently than you have in the past. This is a biggie. How do you attract their attention, win their business, and keep it? Ok, so here we go again: FOCUS. You see and understand your target. You now need a combination of Sales AND Marketing that will get you there. Marketing has been defined as the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service. To me, Marketing is everything else besides the face to face selling that we have always done. Now, to some in this industry, there is not much else besides direct selling. However, we are, in fact, becoming marketing companies. Our technologies and services largely revolve around helping our clients market their ideas and products. We MUST be able to do this for ourselves as well. Be unique. Stand out. Do things differently than your competitors. Do things differently than you have in the past. Use your technology to promote your abilities (eat your own chocolate). In order to have the opportunity to sell your abilities, you have to get their attention. And before you get your chance to sell your ideas, you have to learn that listening does not mean waiting for your chance to talk. Get their attention through whatever means necessary, listen to their goals, visions and challenges, and then you are in a good position to match your supply with their demand. This same approach reaps benefits when dealing with clients you already have. You want to do everything possible from a service standpoint to keep them happy and retain their business, but you also don't want to stop listening to them, or stop marketing to them. They are, or should be, even more important to you than prospects, and accordingly they deserve at least as much attention. Follow Your Plan. Faithfully. Ah, now it's really getting tough. Doing what you say you will do. Following a plan is probably more difficult than creating it in the first place. There are a million reasons for not following your plan. However, unless the plan has no merit, there's not ONE god reason for disregarding the plan and reverting to chaos. FOCUS on the plan and the opportunity. Have faith in the path you have chosen. Lead your team and follow the course. Measure the Results Against Expectations. Every good plan has well defined goals, and ways to measure them. Make sure that you don't skip this important step in the process. If you have a realistic plan and find that your expectations are not being met, take a good look at the implementation and actions to determine if the plan is flawed, or if it is just not being carried out as intended. All plans are projections into the future with 'if, then' scenarios, and of course there will be variance. That's why you measure--to see what's working, what's not, and make necessary adjustments. Remember, this is all a process, and processes constantly undergo tweaks to achieve maximum results. Manage Your Schedule, Don't Spend Your Time Reacting. Stake your claim on your time, use it wisely, follow your plan and reap the rewards. What used to be called 'Time Management' is still a vital part of efficient operation. If your plan for today calls for you to spend 3 hours in outbound calls to follow up on last week's letter campaign, but you instead spend those hours reacting or responding to issues of operations or other unplanned interruptions, the opportunity is lost, the plan is impaired and results cannot help but be less than your hopes or needs. This seems all too simple, but the single most common issue I see with companies in our industry (and I doubt that it is unique to us) is that we spend an inordinate amount of time in a reactionary mode, allowing others to arbitrarily determine how our time is spent. Of course, you must make allowances in your schedule for the unexpected. But, and I cannot emphasize this enough, you cannot allow this to become the ruling factor in how your time is spent. Stake your claim on your time, use it wisely, follow your plan and reap the rewards. Stay in FOCUS in everything you do. I guarantee you will see positive results.