The aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” is associated with the idea that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy. Many businesses see changes in their top line revenue in this same fashion.

Everyone on the planet is aware of the economic storm wreaking havoc on the bond market, shrinking retail demand, diminished revenue growth, the rise in gold prices and the somewhat-stagnant unemployment rate. It has been reported that the U.S. is experiencing a “softening” in the rebound from the “great recession”. European economists cannot seem to accurately assess the future of some of the member EU countries. Yet these same soothsayers press upon others involved to “stay the course” rather than depart the Union.

boats_low_tide_470x353If your firm is experiencing annual growth in revenues through “organic market activity”, you may just be heading for trouble. In fact, unless you are strategically creating increasing revenues rather than benefiting from the overall market demand, then you are near disaster if and/or when the market demand weakens and dries up. For those lulled into believing you have been “just plain fortunate”, you are in a serious situation that won’t change in any circumstantial fashion. You, my friend, are in a “quagmire.”

Experience tells me that there are telltale signals to be mindful of to qualify for the quagmire distinction:

            • Key decision makers don’t understand marketing in the “new age”.
            • Lack of specific, growth oriented goals throughout the organization.
            • Lack of analytics, metrics and regular measurement against goals and previous efforts pertaining to ROI of sales and marketing efforts.
            • Absence of a sophisticated, strategic marketing plan; one with definable objectives and multi-faceted, cross-channel actions,
            • Lack of marketing-focused logic in the mindset of all; executives and staff alike. It is everyone’s job toward growth initiatives.
            • Missing forms of pay-for-performance programs for non-sales staff.

Quagmire firms are those that have no strategic plan, no marketing plan, and exist thinking that the gods of commerce have favored them. Their year over year growth is remarkable, I would agree, but it is no measure of how the business is doing. In fact, once the markets dry up further, disaster plans will be too late to intervene in the free fall of revenues and profits. Unless there is an active, sustainable strategic marketing plan to drive revenues (as opposed to let the free market dictate), businesses relying on the status quo are merely fooling themselves. Once the rose-colored glasses come off, the severance agreements and bankruptcy settlements will not support any type of comfortable future.

There are things that can be done to avoid becoming a “failed business” statistic. Rather than relying on luck and good fortune, begin to think proactively and strategically. Develop a professional marketing plan that works in today’s environment. While centered in the digital space, inbound marketing can become the linchpin of an overall marketing plan, regardless of industry. A professional inbound marketing agency can review not only your marketing activities, but analyze your competitors’ actions, and help with goals and what it will take to get you there.

There is no time like the present, to coin a phrase. There are notable inbound marketing agencies with the wherewithal to assess and address your needs, hopefully in time for the next market adjustment.

Unfortunately for some, the time may have passed for salvation. I met with a PA-based printing company, looking to us to help create a succession plan. After completing my assessment of the business I sat in my car and nearly cried, realizing that this seventy year old owner had worked hard for many years and believed his business would one day represent his retirement plan. But in actuality his business was nearly worthless and his ideas for succession were simply not going to be a reality. It broke my heart.

As for your firm, it may not be too late to react and turn the situation to your advantage.