Ask most executives about their new year strategy development and you get the sense that strategy is a four letter word. Most of us realize that strategy is important we just don’t like doing it. It’s too complicated to figure out, put into practice and to track. Usually we do one of two things when this happens. One, we have our strategy in our head never to be fully reveled and ever changing or two, we don’t do it all. If a strategy does get developed it usually remains on the proverbial shelf of our hard drives not to be looked at until we develop the next years strategy. Of course none of these solutions bring any benefit to the business. So how do we overcome the challenge before us? Simple, we find a system that is easy to follow, implement and execute. Remember, I said simple not easy. It’s not difficult, but will take some work, but it’s well worth it.
As with any business exercise that can be undertaken it can be as simple or as complex as needed, but I must say that the more complex the strategy the more difficult it will be to maintain and less likely to be fully implemented. The system I’ve found that works best for me is five simple steps. One of the great things about this system is that once the first two steps are completed they will not need to be reworked for a few years.
Step 1: Know Your Brand
This step really has nothing to do with strategy execution, but has everything to do with strategic direction. Knowing your brand will act as a guide. It will be the foundation of all your strategy and messaging to your employees and your customers. It is the essence of what defines the business.
Step 2: Make an Assessment
The situation assessment, as I like to call it, is the state of your industry, the economy and market in your city, region or even national and international. This quick assessment should give you a good idea of how things fare. What and how your competition is doing and what their plans might be. This is also a great time to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. I like to use the popular SWOT tool – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
Step 3: Define and Develop Objectives
Objectives are the meat of the strategy, but they are nothing more than goals with a number and date attached. When thinking about objectives think both short and long term. Short term could be 6 months to a year. Long term goals might be 3 to 5 years out or longer. Remember, the purpose of an objective is to move toward the overall vision of the business. When selecting an objective make sure that it is measureable and select a specific metric to measure it against. Also, select only 3 to 5 objectives, any more and it’s easy to loose focus.
Step 4: Strategic Activities
If vision is the destination, then strategy is the plan to get there. The essence of strategy is making trade-offs. We can’t do it all, nor should we. Part of making trade-offs is understanding your target audience so you can maximize your product and marketing activities. Communicating the correct message at the correct time to the correct audience is critical to achieving success in your marketing efforts. Knowing the target audiences behaviors, wants, and needs will help to speak the same language and in places that it will be heard.
Step 5: Measuring Performance
The first step to measuring marketing performance is to develop a scorecard. Remember those objectives and metrics that were developed in Step 3? Write them down and track them on a monthly basis. Use an Excel file or other means to keep track of the performance. Assuming you got your strategy correct you can adjust your activities and metrics accordingly.
Do you have a simple formula for developing your own strategy? I’d love to hear it.
For a more detailed guide download the Guide to Developing a Strategy Framework