It’s hard to accomplish anything without a plan. Whether you are coaching a football team, planning a dinner party or running a business, a strategic plan is key.
For most businesses, the fourth quarter is a time for reassessing goals and objectives before the start of the next year. A carefully crafted strategic plan can serve as a road map to achieving targeted goals.
The process of formulating a strategic plan can be overwhelming, but the task becomes less daunting when you take it one step at a time.
- Know where you stand. Ask yourself some questions:
Who are you, and what makes your brand unique?
What is your origin, and has your market changed over time?
Are you positioned for growth – how will you continue to compete?
- Take a look at your goals. Identify which goals you have achieved, as well as which ones you fell short of reaching. Make certain your objectives are still aligned with the overall mission of your brand.
- Define what matters most. Once you know where you are, you can better define where you want to go. After you identify your top objectives, it’s time to prioritize these goals. As the saying goes, “If everything is important, nothing is important.” Including your employees in this discussion helps them see how their work contributes to the company’s overall growth.
- Know who you are up against. Now that you have defined who you are and what you want to achieve, it’s time to identify competitors. But just knowing who your competitors are isn’t enough – a competitive marketing strategy goes further to analyze your audience and discover how they prefer to engage with your brand.
- Make sure your resources are being used effectively. John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Options for marketing your business are almost limitless – it’s often difficult to know if your marketing is on-target. A clearly defined marketing plan is crucial for ensuring your dollars are being spent effectively.
- Set a timeline. Your strategic plan must have an established starting and ending date. Within this plan, each individual tactic also needs a timeframe. Setting a timeline for each step of your plan gives you something to measure against when it’s time to evaluate your achievements. Being able to quantify your success over time is critical to continuing the strategic planning process for the next year.
In today’s marketplace, the only constant we can depend on is change. To keep up with the ongoing fluctuations of the business world, we must plan for those things we do have control over. Strategic planning is not a one-size-fits-all process. Each plan must be customized to the individual business or organization. If properly formulated and executed, a strategic plan can help turn vision into reality and bring your brand to life.