This is the start to any marketing campaign or plan and unfortunately it is seldom considered in small businesses. You need to ask yourself the question: how much business do I really want?

There are two reasons to ask this question. The first is to give you a daily target to aim for. If you don't know how much business you want you will never be satisfied. The other reason is to try to eliminate the risk of getting too much business, yes, that's right, too much business.

It is amazing how clear everything becomes when all of a sudden you know how much business you need to survive and how much business you want to make a profit. Very few businesses take the time to figure these targets out, but successful ones always do.

The second point, generating too much business, brings to mind the following stories. A friend of mine was involved in building a large Oceanarium. The launch of the attraction was very big with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on enticing crowds for the opening day. Well the crowds came, far more than the Oceanarium had allowed for and the result was that the day was a disaster. People were stuck in queues for hours, the crush of the crowds was crazy, the restaurants ran out of food, children were lost, people fainted, you get the picture.

It took a long time for this attraction to rebuild its reputation, years in fact. The grand opening was a financial success but a complete failure in terms of long-term marketing. The crowds left after a disappointing experience and conse­quently they told their family and friends not to bother visiting the attraction because it was a shambles.

Another short story that I have found fascinating has to do with smoking. A friend recently tried to stop smoking following an intensive advertising campaign from the QUIT line (a number people could call for advice and support to quit smoking) on television. The graphic blood and gore advertisements were too much and the QUIT line seemed to be a fabulous support for anyone trying to give up the dreaded nicotine. The advertisement worked and my friend made the decision to quit on the spot.

After a week without cigarettes she had a moment of weakness and decided that she needed help quickly. A quick call to the QUIT line and everything will be OK. She called the line, was put on hold for ten minutes and then a rather rude lady said that she couldn't help now but someone would call back soon.

Seven days later someone called, apologizing about the delay and protesting that the extra advertising had made them so busy that they could not cope with the thousands of calls they were getting every day. By this stage my friend had given up trying to quit and she still smokes.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned. If you start to do a lot of marketing make certain that your business can cope with the increase. All businesses want the phone to be run­ning hot but few can cope with a sudden increase in business without making at least a few operational changes.

Published on: Mar 31, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.