DIY Business Review – Asking the tough questions

This is a five-part series will help you to ask penetrating questions about your own business and give you the framework to complete a thought-provoking picture enabling you to develop a business marketing roadmap. Penelope Herbert, a marketing and public relations professional has put this programme of questions together to help you take a good look at your business and find the gaps.

In today’s current climate it will only be the fit that survive – so don’t shy away from the tough questions. We have created this as a series so that you will have the time to give each area the time and attention that it needs. When answering the questions, there are no right or wrong answers, but it is critical that you are honest with yourself.

This week we are looking at your internal environment, next week we will be looking at your customers and consumers, week 3 we will be looking at your market and market segmentation, week 4 we will be looking at your current marketing activities and branding and finally in week 5 we will look at your competition, following on with some trigger questions to help you with your marketing materials.

Week One : Your Internal Environment

This section is designed to be thought provoking and to give you the opportunity to honestly assess the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business.

1. What business are you in?

Yes, this is a trick question. When George Eastman, the founder of rolled photography film and the Kodak company, asked his staff what business they were in, they variously answered “Taking pictures” and “Developing film” and “Selling cameras”. George Eastman knew what business he was in. “Creating Memories” he told his staff. So, what business are you REALLY in?

2. What vision do you have for the future and what are the timeframes? (ie new products/services)

It is essential to have clear vision for the future of your business. Use strong words such as ‘will’ not ‘may’ ie: We will be XYZ in Q months. Timeframes are particularly important to assign to your vision whether it’s 3 months or 3 years.

3. What are the core resources/processes that your organisation possesses that make it unique? (for example, staff, monetary, unique technology, organisational culture, etc)

Modern marketing thinking is that businesses should strive to be ‘authentic’ not ‘different’. It can be increasingly harder to differentiate yourself. It’s easier to be authentic. But one thing that is totally unique to your business is the make-up of your staff. No other business will have the precise mixture of personalities and talent.

What other CORE resources or processes does your business possess? How are they unique? Or are they? Remember your ‘core’ is your reason for existing.

Sometimes, your core resources can also provide a problem. For example, one of my clients develops customized software. Their response to this question was “We use tools that are very fast at developing programs so we can write software very quickly. But this can be an issue if we need to write a lower end system because it costs more and consumers may not pay.”

So in deciding what are your core resources, also think about whether these have a ‘flip side’.

4. Are the sales of your products or services increasing or decreasing?

Answer this honestly as it will affect your future marketing planning.

5. Which ones in particular? Why?

If you don’t know which of your product lines or services are increasing or decreasing then you won’t be able to make informed marketing decisions. You should also know which are the most profitable – not those that cost the most, but those that have the greatest profit margin after expenses.

6. Can you provide information about the size of your market share?

This can be a very difficult question and most small businesses do not have adequate information to answer this question effectively. It might be more useful for you to consider how many potential clients you can service, and then what % of that market you currently service.

For example, one of my clients has a business cleaning rubbish (wheelie) bins. Their potential market share is over 500,000 households. However, they couldn’t possibly service this market until they grow and franchise their operations. Currently, they service 1400 households. But their potential right now is 2,000 households. Therefore they have immediate and long-term growth opportunities.

7. How many sales staff do you currently have and what is their territory?

Clearly, this is not a question to be answered if you have no sales staff and no sales territories. However, use this question to ask yourself whether your business growth lends itself to developing sales territories. Or whether you can use sub-contractors, local outlets or some other sales channel.

This may seen obvious, but I had a client with 10 sales staff and they did not have dedicated sales territories; strange but true. And this was a company that turned over millions. Needless to say, they now have sales territories which has greatly focused the activities of sales staff.

Or, view this question from the viewpoint of what selling you do yourself (if you have no sales staff) and what territory that covers. Is your territory too big? Is it too small? Would you be better to have a smaller area in which you concentrate your marketing?

8. Are sales targets currently being met? Why?

If your sales targets are being met, what are you doing right? Are you making the best use of your time and marketing & financial resources to achieve the targets? Are they the right targets for your business? Are they the right targets for your market share?

If your sales targets are not being met, why not? Are you under-resourced? Do you have a skills gap in your business? Are your resources focused on a geographic area that is too big? Do you have a ‘scattergun’ approach to your marketing?

9. To what level in $dollar terms would you like to see your turnover increased and over what timeframes?

This is a link question to question 2.

10. In what market segment do you receive the greatest profit margin?

Think in terms of products, services and customers. From which product or service do you receive the greatest profit margin, not the sale price? Similarly, if you have different customers, ie: women, people in a certain age group, children, schools, professionals, stay-at-home mums, etc.

11. In what market segment do you receive the least profit margin and/or you are satisfied with the least?

I have come across many businesses that have a favourite product or something that has ‘always been available’ and they can’t bear not having it. They make excuses saying “Oh well our customers like it” or “But my Father started this business with that product”. There are various emotional and historical reasons for offering a product or service. But you still need to acknowledge if a product or service is the worst performing or with which you are not satisfied. Suck it up; be honest.

If your answers to al these questions do not provoke deeper thought r set off inspirational light bulbs then you either have a fantastically organised and well-thought out business, or you are not being truthful with yourself.


There are five parts to this series developed exclusively for Women Unlimited. Set these answers aside and look forward to going through Week Two : Your Customers & Consumers. You are building a valuable picture of your business. At the conclusion of this series, I will provide you with tips and tools to overcome common marketing dilemmas.

SPECIAL OFFER: An exciting, new marketing book ‘Underdog Marketing’ by Dr Alex Davidovic and Penelope Herbert, will be released in mid-March 2009. It has been described as  –

“Underdog Marketing is the must have book for anyone planning to create their future around their own expertise. It will teach you, through real life experience, how to market yourself, how to plan and how to protect your business for the future.” Penny Power, Founder and Director – Ecademy Limited

“This book is important. It is a definitive work that should be read by everyone, whether in business already or just starting out and is one of the most comprehensive books of its kind I have found.” (Phil Shepherd is based in London and works as a business advisor)

A must for anyone starting out in business or wanting to improve their marketing in an existing business, this book leads you ‘step by step’ through solutions to develop an ongoing marketing strategy that works for you. Barbara Gabogrecan, President of Marketing Communications Executives International (MCEI Melbourne)

‘Underdog Marketing’ will be released with a very special $2,000 worth of free gifts, including security software, animation software, videos and e-books, on ONE LAUNCH DAY ONLY – Register now for up-dates at and be immediately advised when ‘Underdog Marketing’ is released. For an investment of just $US29.95 you will receive $2,000 worth of quality resources not available for free ANYWHERE else.


About the Author: Penelope Herbert was born in New Zealand, lives in Australia and has worked in Japan, Malaysia and the USA. She trained as a Film Editor/Director in New Zealand before embarking upon various media, marketing and public relations roles overseas. Her time as Editorial Director for a national fashion and lifestyle magazine gave her a passion for print and the impetus to open a marketing & public relations agency, Hot Pepper, in 2002. For seven years she has been a Contributing Editor to ‘in-business’ magazine specializing in women in business and the issues & challenges of small business owners.

A sought after public speaker and seminar presenter, Penelope has authored two comprehensive workbooks based on her popular workshop series and her work with small business owners & corporate clients. She also recently finished an eight-week television segment based on her co-authored book, Underdog Marketing, to be released in March 2009. The book is a complement to the state-of-the-art, skills development, 12-step mentored marketing platform which features video, podcasts, structured courses, interactive features and a members forum. Penelope lives in Adelaide with her partner, Terry Reeves (himself a marketing guru so good for bouncing off) and their gorgeous Hungarian Viszla dog, Shelby.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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