Strategy: Cart before the horse?

Many people talk about employing strategies to further their business goals. However, before you can employ a “strategy,” you need to understand what makes a strategy. The official definition of a strategy is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. How do you develop a plan? It is difficult to create an effective plan without understanding your end goals or needs.

There are three main areas to understand before you can develop a strategy for your business.  The purpose of this article is not to give you a step-by-step guide to developing a strategy, but rather give you questions to ask yourself before you get to the development phase. I am a firm believer that the more time you spend understanding your needs and what you need to achieve your goals, the easier it will be to develop an effective strategy.

The first step, what is your goal? Are you trying to increase sales or increase retention? Is your goal aimed to acquire new leads or convert existing leads into the clients? Is your business focused on one-time buyers or long-term loyal clients? Many people jump the gun to go straight to developing a strategy. I would argue that you should spend the majority of your time analyzing your needs. The more time you spend, the easier it will be to create a plan to meet those needs.

If your goal is to obtain new customers, ask yourself these questions. Analyze and break down your current process. What is working and why? What is NOT working and why? Why was your current process created? Once you can answer these questions, you can move on to the next step.

Ask yourself the following questions if your goal centers around creating customer loyalty. Why do clients stay with us or keep coming back? Why do they leave? Do we have a process in place to get continual feedback? Is this process effective? What type of feedback are we receiving? How can we highlight the positives? What can we learn from the negatives? If you can accurately answer these questions, you can move on to step two.

The second step, what resources do you have at your disposal? It is amazing to see what resources we have right under our noses that can be repurposed or transitioned to be useful in another way. Once you have determined your end goal, see what or who you have in your office that can help you achieve those goals. Is there a technology that you currently use for another purpose that could be refashioned to achieve your goal? Is there a person who has an expertise that can provide valuable support? We often jump to outside resources or new technologies before looking to what we currently have at our disposal.

Now that you know what resources you have, can they help? Assess if they can be used to your goal? If not, it may be time to look to new technologies or processes. Alternatively, can they be better utilized to other goals around the company? Once you review all internal resources, it is time to scour for new resources. What tools, technologies, or people can help you achieve your goals? Do you know someone who has expertise in an area that can guide you to the resources you need? Is there a seminar or article that can point you in the right direction?   Ask your team or staff. They deal with the daily minutia and can give you insight on what can be used to achieve your goal.

The final step, what is the time frame for your goals? Is your goal a large year-long goal? If so, how can you break it up into milestones? For example, if you want to obtain 100 new clients by the end of the year, what is your monthly/quarterly goals to help you get there? The more you can break down your goal, the easier it will be for you to obtain those goals and track your progress. This process will also make you nimbler to adjust as you see if your process is working or not working. Creating a timeline will help you focus your strategies on concrete methods on achieving each phase until you reach your goal. You can create checkpoints to make changes or assess how your plan is working.

At these checkpoint meeting, you will need a method to assess your progress. It will not help your company if you create a goal but have no way of tracking your strategies to see what is working or not working. What measurable statistics can you analyze to see if your methods are working? In a team environment, it helps to have everyone on the same page. If you get two months into a new strategy with zero results, you can easily make an adjustment. If you wait until the end of the year, you have spent a lot of time and energy into something that did not work.

After you have successfully moved through all three steps, you can move to developing your business strategy. If you have seriously asked yourself all of the questions above (and much more), then you should have a clear view of what needs to be addressed to reach your goals. Now it is time to develop your strategy and set it in motion. Good luck!

So, what did we learn today?

  • Understand where you are right now and where you want to end up.
  • Goals are not born from thin air. You need to do your due diligence and understand the aim of the end goal.
  • Resources do not always have to be new and shiny. An old technology can help you achieve your goal.
  • Talk to your team, get their opinions; or talk to outside experts.
  • Break down your goal into manageable and trackable milestones.
  • Be open to tweak and change your strategies to get to your goal.