We typically think of Dr. Seuss’s books as fun books to read to kids. But, as I read Oh, The Places You’ll Go! to my daughter the recently I was struck by Dr. Seuss’s genius. I realized that Dr. Seuss was simultaneously writing for children and small business owners. So in honor of National Small Business Week 2014 let’s look at a section from the book to see business owners can learn something from Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss on Focus

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.

About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”

When reading this section from a child’s perspective we see Dr. Seuss encouraging children to develop their individual personality. But, let’s look at it from the angle of a small business owner. Looking through that lens, we quickly see that Dr. Seuss is encouraging business owners to do a few things:

  1. Do thorough market research. Understand your competitors better than they know their own business.. Get your boots on the ground. Most businesses have two sets of competitors: those online and those in your local market. Make sure you do research on both sets of competitors and the market demand both geographically and online.
  2. Know your brand. What does your company stand for and what can it do better than anyone else in the world? Make sure you know what areas you can’t compete with other companies on and leave those areas. For example: if you’re a small temporary staffing company, maybe you can’t always compete with Manpower or Kelly Services on price, but maybe you can provide much better customer service.
  3. Build a strong, well-tested marketing plan. Know your customer acquisition cost. Know what types of marketing your prospects are exposed to and what messages hit their emotions. For example, if you’re trying to reach small trucking companies, they’re probably not going to respond to text-messaging ads or ads in the local business publication. Make sure you know the size of your target market. Focus on the smallest-possible target client group at first to see if your plan works on a small scale before rolling out a huge plan. Need help building a marketing plan? I recommend meeting with a SCORE mentor. They are a great resource for free business counseling.

There are many more lessons to learn from this section of the book, but for now we’ll end there. Remember, don’t get lost by moments of entrepreneurial seizure. Most small business owners are prone stop sometime and go after the latest and greatest, but having a good written plan will help you stay on track.

Later this week we’ll explore what Dr. Seuss can teach us from regularly taking a step back to work on our business instead of just in it and taking action.