Whether you bring in extra help with your strategic planning or tackle it internally, winning strategies require homework on the front end. Skip the homework and it's like building a house on Jell-O. You'll have some wiggling, you'll have some jiggling, it may be a little sticky, some people will even enjoy it; but, in the end, the house will collapse and you're gonna have a mess to clean up.
So, whether you go outside for help or take it on in-house, here are your assignments:
#1 - Look at last year's numbers.
- Analyze the previous year's Sales and revenue numbers for trends.
- Identify and analyze marketing trends (online, offline results, leads, conversion, rate of return).
#2 - Define your vision and goals for the coming year.[This will be your hardest, most contentious, and time-consuming homework assignment -- in the spirit of #TipTuesday I have two words for you: GET HELP!]
- Align your vision with the organization's mission.
- Describe what your organization will look like at the end of the year.
- What do you need to accomplish to realize the vision?
- What are the obstacles?
- How will you know how your results are tracking to your goals?
- Document it.
#3 - Review & Revise Customer Profiles
- Who needs to buy from you to ensure your vision, goals and objectives are met?
- Who are your best customers and why?
- What are your segments?
- Create detailed personas for each segment.
#4 - What's up with those pesky competitors?
- Do your differentiators hold up? Why or why not? Adjust strategy accordingly.
- Review and analyze their strategy and tactics -- don't emulate it, just learn from it.
#5 - Review and analyze your past year's marketing and materials
- Make sure everything is aligned to a target market segment -- adjust for gaps.
- This means everything from your Style Guide, to collateral, to content, slideshows, to website, to social postings and platforms.
- Update accordingly.
#6 - Analyze your Sales and CRM processes.
- Review and document.
- Align marketing to Sales milestones.
- Make careful note of any gaps in alignment.
#7 - Plan and Document.
- Review the results of your homework and identify gaps, changing trends, and new challenges.
- Prioritize issues identified.
- Build your plan around two things: keeping what works and developing new tactics to address the gaps, changes and new areas.
- Document the tactical and logistical elements required in a logical, operational fashion -- including how you will track, measure and analyze results against clear, reasonable criteria.
#8 - Make it a team effort.
- Make your team part of process -- don't leave anyone out and make sure they all have an assignment that fits with their areas of interest and expertise.
- Include colleagues from other functional areas (especially Sales, but don't leave Finance, IT, R&D, and HR out).
- Publish and present the strategic plan to the company in functional groups to address their roles, relationships and input to its success.
- Solicit, document, and acknowledge feedback and input.
[#TipTuesday: Be prepared for what you hear. Everyone is an armchair marketer, and a minimum of 50% are sure they can do it better than you and your team.]
It never ceases to amaze me how many younger, smaller companies are out there making it up as they go along. No research. No measurement. No plan at all -- strategic, operational or otherwise. But I guess that's what accounts for the staggering fail rate among entrepreneurs and small businesses.
I, personally and professionally, hate to see innovation go belly up. Hope you take these tips to heart and, if you need help, ask for it.
Have more tips? Leave your best advice and personal experience in our comments.
Have a great #TipTuesday.
Today's blogger is Melissa Macaulay Federico, holding forth on a topic that is near and dear to her heart. Founder and CEO of The B2B Branding Company, Melissa is never happier than when she is working with business-to-business innovators to build strong, relevant, well-differentiated brands; or helping entrepreneurs stuck in start-up mode realize their long-delayed vision. A force majeure in the brand marketing industry, she is an entertaining and compelling teacher, mentor and advisor -- probably because she absolutely loves what she does for a living.