Three Reasons Why Your Business Needs Strategic Planning
My boss recently called a team meeting where we reviewed an endless list of tasks and projects. Some projects were big, requiring heavy lifting to get them completed. Others were smaller and could easily fall through the cracks if someone was not directly responsible. The problem with this enormous all-team "to do" list is that it wasn't being vetted against a strategic plan. In other words, we weren't asking questions like:
What is the highest priority?
What would happen if this task wasn't completed?
What's our next move?
How will this task help us in selling our product or service?
These questions cannot be answered without a strategic plan-a process for getting from Point A to Point B with greater clarity, effectiveness, confidence and efficiency. Planning without strategy is like feeling around in the dark.
In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share these three key points about strategy, from Andy Slipher, founder of Slipher Marketing.
1. Strategy is about choice. Strategy, to function as it's intended, means choosing—making significant choices throughout the planning process. In any complex or challenging situation, such choices are hard. Something must be sacrificed to move in a true and distinct direction. If you're not making hard choices in your planning, you need to ask yourself and others how distinct, clear and achievable is your approach?
Slipher shares this example: When Steve Jobs returned to a struggling Apple in 1997, one of the first things he chose to do was to stop selling so many products. He literally put an end to more than 70 percent of Apple's products (laying off more than 3,000 employees in the process) to focus on a handful of truly innovative products. This hard choice allowed Apple to focus its resources around innovation—developing something truly game-changing. The result? The Apple iPod. There's little doubt that Jobs's efforts would have been significantly more difficult and unclear if he had not made this critical strategic choice.
2. Strategy fits between your goals and plans. Strategy is not the most important thing. But good strategy is necessary and often critical to be successful. Once you've defined your goals, strategy comes next. To delineate between goals, strategy and plans, consider these points:
- Goals answer, "What is the end for the effort?"
- Plans, which follow strategy, answer, "What are the blueprints for success?"
- Strategy is the point in between that answers, "In what way are we going coordinate our efforts to get there?"
3. Strategy marries strength with opportunity. The beauty of strategy is that it coordinates and integrates activities around a common goal. What's more, good strategy finds the sweet spot where strengths meet opportunity. If you identify an opportunity, yet have no strengths to take advantage of it, how effective will you be? Likewise, if your strengths abound in a certain area, yet no opportunities exist, your strategy could come up short. Know that to improve the odds of achieving your goals, your strategy will need to amplify your strengths, while playing to the opportunities at hand.
A great example of this can be seen in the way Procter & Gamble (P&G) has nearly cornered the consumer package goods market. With its humble beginnings in soap and candles in the 1800s, P&G slowly and methodically built a strength by producing, packaging, marketing and selling package dry goods of all types. Over the years, the company has taken advantage of opportunities to both develop new products and acquire its way into new product categories. Today, the company's product holdings cover close to 80 products spanning roughly seven categories of products we buy every day. P&G has employed different business strategies over the years, but has always weighed opportunity in light of the company's inherent strengths.
Whatever your challenge, follow these three fundamental principles for better strategic planning. Your strategy will be both more clear and coherent.
Source: Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is also the marketing lecturer for SMU's accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Slipher is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success.