Today’s turbulent marketplace places a great deal of strain on most businesses, particularly those in the business-to-business markets. Fierce international competition coupled with stringent lending practices work together creating a tough place to successfully market. So are you feeling the pinch in your business today, and is it placing higher than ever demands on your strategic marketing?

If so, perhaps what’s needed are some tips to jumpstart your strategic planning. Well, here you go: 2 practical market cues (and one additional cue) that you can use to build a successful strategic growth program.

Cue #1 – Think Small

I don’t think there’s a better way to put this. Companies often make a significant strategic error in launching their new product or service with a national focus. This is fine for global brands that are in every business throughout the United States, and elsewhere, but not effective for a local or regional business. Thinking small allows you to focus all of your resources on your most important asset: your customers, and this always pays huge dividends. Obviously without customers you don’t have a business. Once you have dominated a small group of customers within your local area you can branch out to larger geographies, and/or markets, and continue building market share relative to your resources and capabilities. This may seem obvious, but over 25 years of strategic consultation has led me to see that many businesses do not follow this simple and effective strategy.

Cue #2 – Produce Strong Ideas

Every single successful business started with a compelling core “IDEA” that made customers and clients prefer their brand from their competition. Over time, their products became the preferred choice because they performed at or above customers’ expectations. Differentiation of your brand, product, service, and ultimately your company, comes from the fuel of being truly unique. Take any major leading brand and ask what is it about it that makes them stand out. Disney equals world-class theme parks. FEDEX equals overnight delivery. Oracle equals enterprise-ready software integration. All of these companies’ marketing folks work their butts off to keep their brands at top of mind, but they do so by sticking to the core benefit their brand brings. This benefit began in a small localized area with a big idea behind it. Today, their product is based on a very strong idea that is central to their entire company’s DNA. So the question you should be able to answer confidently is, “Is what I am marketing truly different to every other competitor I have?” The more the answer to this question is yes, the more successful the company can become; and the reverse is equally as true.

Cue #3 – Fear Nothing

Marketing is not for the timid at heart. If you work for a CEO that doesn’t like taking chances in general, and in strategic marketing in particular, you might want to consider a different position. Or if you have been hiding behind “safe” marketing ideas to keep your head down with the least amount of accountability to preserve your position, you may also want to consider a career change. I realize this sounds harsh, but the simple fact is without risks there are no rewards. And a CEO, or marketing director, who doesn’t understand this, can easily derail even the most potentially successful strategic marketing program. Take a company that has a set of products that in times past were real winners but have fallen out of the market’s favor. The senior marketing executive determines this and begins to suggest, and then demand, a newer set of products that can regain the market’s interest. But the company is already financially strapped and the CEO doesn’t want to risk further capital investment preferring to “bunker down until the market goes positive.” Sound like I know of such a company? Well I do. This company ended up going out of business after ignoring their marketing executive’s advice and draining the company’s reserves to zero rather than betting the farm on innovation.

The bottom-line is three easy steps can lead you to successful strategic planning for growth: Think small, produce big ideas, and take some risks. You’re not going to be right every time but if you prepare extensively and are honest with yourself about your true market position you can find a way to set your company apart. This strategic focus is how global brands are built, and you can use them too! And the fact of the matter is no decision is a decision.