For some people, just the words strategic planning can be a turn off. If you're from a corporate setting this may be because you're use to planning sessions being long and drawn out or because Maybe you envision lengthy meetings, long drawn out documents and time (and resources) that could be going towards action focused on assumptions vs action doesn't make sense. Which is completely understandable. Doing is important. However, doing things just to do them can sometimes be counter productive – especially when you're working within a budget.
Thats why, when done correctly, strategic planning can be so important. Planning is about putting something down on paper before you spend the funds on it. And when done the right way doesn't have to be complicated, long, or drawn out.
step outside of your box so you can see things from a different angle. The strategic planning process can be as structured (a three-week deep-dive) or as unstructured (a Tuesday afternoon whiteboard session) as you need it to be. Just make sure that when you're doing it, you touch on the big four.
1. Your offering: What makes you special.
Remember, businesses don't make any money; the things your business sells do. Your products and services are your money-makers. Take some time out before the year ends to review your offerings. Check for competitors. Validate your pricing model. Review your product backlog. Look for enhancements. Fix bugs.
Ask yourself, are we being innovative or just meeting the status quo? If the answer is "No, we're not innovative," now's the time to change that. Create a list of your top products and services and perform a competitive assessment. Identify your competitors for each offering and determine what their strengths and weaknesses are. Then compare them to yours. From there, you will see opportunities where you can do more to stand out in the market.
2. Your customers: Who are you selling your product to.
Ask yourself. Who are our customers today? Who should they be next year? Where do we find them? When we find them, how do we get them to buy? How do we get them to buy again?
Make sure you're being strategic about where you're spending your marketing, operations and support dollars by focusing on the right customers.
A natural place to begin is by reviewing your customer journey maps, sending out surveys, reviewing customer reviews or by giving your customers a call. Figure out what it is that they like, dislike and what you can do to make their experience better. Then do it.
Your marketing team should be evaluating your customers on a regular basis (at least quarterly). If they are not, now's a great time to ask them to do so and then update your marketing plans accordingly.
3. Your operations: The People, processes and systems that make everything happen.
Does your team have what they need to be successful? Find out. Run through your business process diagrams and make sure everything is still relevant. If you do not have business process diagrams, or if you don't have the time or resources to review them, give us a call. We'll do it for you.
After you've reviewed your processes diagrams, you'll have a better idea of where there are issues or areas of opportunity. Take what you’ve learned and get your team involved.
Send out a company-wide survey. Hold a town hall meeting. Schedule a company retreat. Take your leadership team through a whiteboard vision session. Task someone with looking for ways that you can streamline or automate your process.
There are a variety of systems and tools out on the market that can help you do business better. Consider your options and then schedule the implementation for sometime in 2018.
4. Your market: Your blind spots.
Make sure you're keeping an eye on your blind spots: competitors, policy changes, politics, the economy can all have an impact on the decisions you make next year. The best way to stay ahead of the curve is by frequently conducting market reviews. We recommend you do a deep dive at least once a quarter.
Losing sight of what's going on in your market can be a game-changer. Look at what Netflix did to Blockbuster. If you don't have the time—or the resources—to do a quarterly market audit, our market oversight and monitoring services may be a good fit for you. Our team will monitor your offerings on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis; identify red flags; and provide you with recommendations on how to address potential issues or capitalize on opportunities before they arise.
Once the holidays get here, it is going to be harder to make your business your top priority, so get that strategic planning meeting on the calendar. You’ll be happy you did.