Strategic planning is one of the most important responsibilities of the executive level of a business. While managers lower down the chain work day to day to reach the targets they set (or have set for them), CEOs and their most trusted executives set the direction for the whole business for multiple years at a time.
Expanding without a firm plan in place can lead to difficulties: ballooning staff levels, product lines that don’t serve a clear need for your customers, a brand that becomes unclear and hard to for customers to feel loyal to. The Lego business strategy since 2017 has been focused on pulling back from just such a precipice, and returning to their core offer.
Knowing Who You Are
The most important thing you can do is know who you are, or specifically, what customers think your brand is. If you know what customers value about your brand you can make plans that allow you to lean into that perception and strengthen it, or at least avoid weakening your brand with contradictory marketing or products.
A market research company can help you here. A brand tracker survey monitors the health of your brand and asks customers to rate it for the key qualities that define it (both in absolute terms and relative to your most important rivals). It’s important to let your customers tell you what your brand is: their perception is more important than yours because they’re the ones who will be persuaded by it to spend their money with you!
Make sure your plans – your direction of travel and your ultimate destination – are consistent with those values your customers see in your business. If you think you need to change those values to survive in the long run, then part of your planning needs to involve the careful changing of your brand to reflect where your inventory and pricing is going to end up.
It’s also vital to build quantifiable targets into your strategy, and systems to measure your performance so you can assess your level of progress and success with hard data.
Through internal monitoring you have access to your financial records: you know how much money you are taking, which products are performing well, and which services customers are less interested in, but this is only half the story. Using a market research firm can help you understand how your ongoing plans affect your brand, whether they’re making customers more or less likely to recommend your business and if you’re going to end up with a stronger or weaker brand.
If your business is consistently not hitting its targets, you know your plans might be in need of a change, rather than sticking to a strategy that’s harming your business.
Byron Simpson is a qualified business/finance writer expert in investment, debt, credit cards, Passive income, financial updates. He advises in his blog finance cent.