When creating or growing a business, every entrepreneur comes across the same inevitable challenge – strategising. It is undoubtedly one of the most overwhelming activities to address, especially if you’re already knee deep in the operations and management of your venture.
In the majority of cases, a business starts with a good idea and a basic action plan. As it progresses forward and gains traction, the day to day management can often take over pretty quickly. Let’s face it – addressing the daily demands of your business is daunting enough. Starting small and with limited resources, MDs often end up carrying the lion’s share of the responsibility and workload - representing the business, promoting it, driving sales, networking, marketing, motivating and managing the team. There are rarely enough hours in the day to cover every challenge that needs tackling. Therefore, the last thing any entrepreneur wants to hear from a mentor/investor is ‘Do you have a strategy, and more importantly, do you actually use it to govern your business activity?’.
The secret to a successful strategy is to establish a foundation from the very beginning instead of backtracking two years in, once the business is in full swing. This way you would end up writing a plan about solving already existing problems instead of addressing the coming challenges. It is also important to understand, that your strategy is a live document that needs to be revisited periodically and amended accordingly to your current position, targets and KIPs. If you get into a habit of using your strategy and the anchor and the main reference tool to measure the success of your activities - you will always have clarity and share a unified vision with all of the stakeholders of your brand.
If you ever attended any of entrepreneurship or business development programmes, you are already aware that everyone believes in the importance of a strategy document in theory, but not many know how to apply it in practise. It is often perceived as an unnecessary, time-consuming exercise that’s put to one side as soon as it’s written.
Let’s look into the value of strategic plannning.
Firstly, when developing any strategy for your venture, set yourself core goals and objectives that outline the direction of the business. It is paramount that your vision is aligned with the resources and time available to you in order to be achievable. This sets a basis for fair communication and realistic expectations between all of the company’s stakeholders and its management team.
Forming a strategy document also helps secure and grow sales sustainably with the return you desire. With a rapidly expanding market and new and emerging technologies, being strategic in securing and maintaining your customer base is the cornerstone of your success.
Strategic planning requires you to align your business offering and objectives with the audiences you seek to connect with. In order to understand your consumer, it is not enough to identify whether they want to buy what you are trying to sell. Such relationships are doomed to expire right after someone new and shiny comes along.
In order to build long-lasting connections, the business owner has to address the deeper needs of individuals, such as a need to relate, to participate and ultimately to belong to a greater community that shares similar ideas and values.
Your strategy may not necessarily encompass all this knowledge straight away, but it can help you determine the necessary tools and methodologies to understand and address changing consumer needs and expectations.
For example, while the sales strategy is based primarily on numbers, there is also a science in understanding customer demands and behaviours. Therefore, your selling strategy not only gives you a blueprint of actions to take, but it also guides you on how to measure your success and predict behaviours which would educate you while adapting to changing consumer trends to maximise ROI.
It is important to note that achievements in sales directly inform your future marketing objectives and KPIs. Whether it is a digital journey that your customers take by interacting with your company’s website or exchange an opinion on a social media platform, it all contributes towards the longevity of your brand and builds loyalty with your customers.
To summarise, strategic planning is a beneficial activity that can ensure the longevity and sustainable growth of your venture. It is how you develop a pragmatic approach and clear direction in order to achieve your commercial goals while making a positive impact by creating a mutually fulfilling brand experience for all involved.