In a video interview with the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), Nick Leighton, bestselling author of Exactly Where You Want to Be explains why it is so important for business owners to have a both a personal and business vision that is aligned…
Although every strategic planning session is different depending on the needs of each organization, most strategic planning agendas have a similar structure.
We share a sample strategic planning agenda that you can use and customize to your needs. We recommend including your team in the planning process as early as possible to increase company wide buy-in and implementation after the session.
A company’s strategic plan is only as effective as the process that goes into creating it. If the approach is too rigid, hierarchical or only serves as an empty exercise, it’s unlikely the business will in any way benefit from the process.
Here are suggestions on how best to mold the strategic planning process to get the most from your expenditure of time and resources…
Nowhere is the celebrated “buyer’s journey” more relevant than with B2B companies and their customers. With the vast array of digital resources at their command, these customers embark on the journey by conducting extensive research, comparing companies and exploring social media—sometimes well before they make direct contact with the business they’re most interested in.
As a result, B2B companies need to “up” their marketing game, in order to be ready when the buyer’s journey leads to them.
Here are tips for key elements and action steps for a marketing plan that keeps your business “top of mind” for current and prospective customers:
Focus on your core audience. Some businesses try—and generally, fail—to be all things to all customers. An effective marketing plan should focus on a clearly defined customer segment, so as to avoid diluting the appeal and effectiveness of a company’s key products or services.
Tailor content to meet that audience’s needs. The type of content you offer to customers (website, blog posts, articles, white papers, etc.) is a crucial element of any marketing plan. This, in turn, means thoroughly understanding what drives your customers—their needs, desires, pain points, etc.
“You need to know how your buyers like to buy and what they respond to,” notes Forbes contributor AJ Agrawal. “This will put you in the best possible position to sway them to making a purchase.”
Creating a comprehensive buyer’s persona to help with both marketing and sales leads is one highly effective way to ensure you’re hitting the right note in your content efforts.
Refresh the content and design of your website. Remember, the buyer’s journey almost always includes a visit to your B2B website. It’s in your company’s best interests to ensure that a consistent and appealing marketing message is built into virtually every page on that site. Don’t let old material or an unchanging homepage discourage potential interest.
As always, your site must also be user-friendly and informative (meaning, little or no fluff!), with a focus on how your products or services benefit the customer, as opposed to making your company look good.
Commit to a strong social media presence. Buyers will usually check out your company’s presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other industry-specific social networking sites. If you’re not already doing so, 2018 is the right time to commit to an in-depth social media marketing strategy. This can include:
- Using social media to gather data on customer preferences
- Becoming an industry thought leader through high-quality, customer-focused content
- Engaging in two-way communications with customers and prospects
- Monitoring online discussions of your industry
Your B2B marketing plan should specify the kinds of social media initiatives and activities planned for the new year and, ideally, assign this key responsibility to an individual or team with experience in this area.
Write a plan that’s clear and accessible throughout the company. While assembling the B2B marketing plan, keep in mind that shifting industry conditions may require a re-examination of basic ideas and strategies throughout the coming year. Consider assigning a knowledgeable team member with the responsibility to review the plan on a regular basis—identifying those elements and marketing goals that still make sense to pursue and refining other strategies that may have been rendered irrelevant by new market conditions.
The “marketing environment is always dynamic,” notes marketing technology expert Anita Brearton. “Create your strategy and plans in a way so you can adjust quickly to changing marketing conditions and customer requirements.”
Want to learn more about marketing and planning for your business? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
So, your boss has come to you (well, actually they sent an email), with this crazy idea that you need to set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and SMART goals. Is this a passing trend and do you need to act upon it? After a quick internet search, you get the general idea, but the thought of sitting down and writing these out seems a little bit like too much hassle.
Don’t worry, we’re here for you
1 – What’s the big idea.
Actually, it’s a good one. Up until now, either your work has not been measured at all, it has been measured in a subjective manner or your measurement only comes in a negative way (i.e. you get reprimanded/complained-to if something is not done).
Good news, KPI’s are going to help. Oh, and in addition, do you ever get your boss coming to you and complaining in a subjective manner (it’s not what I had in mind… I ‘like’ it this way…) and does that conversation occasionally last a long time, when frankly you could be getting on with more work or doing something else far more productive (even if that involves Facebook)? Well KPIs help with this too.
So, KPI’s are a way of putting at a high level, what you think the top 4 or 5 achievements should be for yourself over the next (normally) quarter. By writing this out – each KPI as one sentence - you are indicating what is important, and your boss can then either agree or not, but once agreed to, both of you should be in agreement as to what is happening in the next quarter/time period.
2 – So, how do you work out what your KPIs should be?
These shouldn’t be plucked from thin air. In fact, you probably have access to a number of documents that can help you. See if you can get your hands on:
- Your job description
- The previous job reviews your boss has given you
- Vision, objectives or goals of your company or department
- Sales goals
- Important emails that your boss sent out about strategy or big projects
A typical KPI could be along the lines of:
- Delivering market-leading consulting services
- Ensuring we have the best team in the industry
- Addressing flaws in our delivery across North American operations
- Making sure we send out invoices and collect payments in a timely manner
3 – Now make them SMART
Next up we need to rationalize your KPIs. I am sure the KPI’s you came up with are awesome at the high level, but now we need to make these ‘real’. How are we going to measure success?
Each KPI needs one or a number of SMART goals.
What is a SMART goal?
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. It is true that not all are in universal agreement, but if the letters stand for something else, it is generally with the same definition.
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Attainable/Assignable – is it really possible, and who’s doing this.
- Relevant/Realistic – is it relevant for the business and what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-based – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Let’s take an example. From our KPI above, “Making sure we send out invoices and collect payments in a timely manner” we need to set at least two SMART goals – one for invoices and one for the collection of payments. Let’s take the first one – invoicing in a timely manner
- Specific – Invoices
- Measurable – send out within 24-hours of order being fulfilled, in 98% of the cases over an average week.
- Attainable/Assignable – Brenda’s doing this, and as right now 70% of invoices are already sent out within 24-hours, so this does seem possible
- Relevant/Realistic – this is relevant for the business, as debtors pay invoices quicker if they receive the invoice closer to the order fulfillment, so if we achieve this realistic goal, we are making a sizable difference to the business
- Time-based – we’ll achieve this measurable goal by the end of this quarter
In summary, if your goal can be measured and you can define a timeline to hitting a desirable measure, then you’re getting the hang of this.
4 – Get them approved
Now you have SMART goals that represent your KPIs. You should show them to your manager, who needs to agree on them. They will be looking for three things:
- are the priorities of your job role addressed by the KPIs
- are they meaningful to the organization (will you be making a difference)
- are they SMART (now you’re an expert in this, it should be a breeze)
5 – Get on and do the work
Once you have agreed your KPIs and SMART goals with your manager, the easy stuff happens. You get on and do your job for the quarter.
You can expect that your manager (if they are any good) will be coming to you during the quarter to see how you’re doing. When they do, then reiterate your SMART goals, reaffirm if they are still achievable (according to the metrics and timeline), and if there is any doubt, speak to your manager about what they can do to help you hit the goal.
These can now be objective discussions. If you are halfway through the time period, and you are half way to your desired goal, then (all things being linear) you’re in a good place.
6 – What happens at the quarter end?
Firstly, you report back to your manager with the results for each SMART goal. If the goal was realistic, you are good at your job, and nothing unforeseen occurred, then the goal should be met and your manager should be very happy (as should you be). If the goal was not met, then you can expect to discuss this to work out where improvements can be made.
At this time, you’ll be also submitting your next goals. Some may be repeated, and some may be new – that all depends on your job role and responsibilities.
What we love about KPI’s and SMART goals is that they are simple, they are relevant for all organizations, are applicable for all level of workers, and they really do work to keep team members happier.
Are you hoping to invest more time into growing your business instead of getting bogged down by day-to-day business challenges? Maybe you are thinking you would like more time away of the business in 2017? More sales? Better profitability? More efficiencies with your team?
The most important tool for refocusing your energies on your company’s core goals is your strategic plan. There is hard evidence from the Small Business Pulse Survey showing the real-world advantages of the strategic planning process.
I’m going to assume you love what you do – check out this video.
Here, we’re focusing on a strategic planning template that will help you to craft your own strategic business plan. TAB’s Strategic Business Leadership® (SBL) process provides an effective framework for transforming your personal vision of your company into a clear and concise road map that will help to guide your organization’s response to every new challenge and opportunity. The SBL strategic planning process is designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop practical strategic plans with attainable, measurable goals. Use your “big picture” focal points to meet today’s business challenges with SBL’s five-step strategic planning template:
- Align organizational vision with your personal vision.
- Turn a critical eye toward your business.
- Develop the plans needed to meet your goals.
- Carry out your plans.
- Continually evaluate and adjust your plans as business conditions change.
The Five-Step SBL Strategic Planning Template
- Vision. To develop a truly effective strategic plan, you’ll first need to take an honest look at what you want to get out of your business. Develop a written Personal Vision Statement, one that details what you’d like to see your business strive towards and how that connects with your goals for your personal life. This isn’t a statement you need to share with employees, investors or customers, so be honest with yourself: are you hoping to sell the business? Bring in new management? Turn the company over to your son or daughter? After you answer these questions, you can develop a Company Vision that will ensure your management team and employees understand your team’s common goal. I have a couple of videos to help you write your personal and business vision.
- Analysis. Next, you’ll need to detail the features of your company and the business challenges that loom on the horizon. One proven method for accomplishing this is the SWOT analysis for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Assess the things your company does best, and consider the areas where you fall short. Ask yourself about the characteristics that make your company unique, and describe the way your customers truly view your organization. Then identify emerging technologies or markets that might provide new opportunities going forward. Finally, make note of external factors that could cause trouble in the future, such as new regulations or competitors.
- Plan. You’ll need to detail critical success factors, goals, strategies and action plans as part of the SBL strategic planning template.
- Critical Success Factors. Identify your organization’s most important large-scale objectives to help direct your efforts.
- Goals. Set up concrete goals that can be achieved within one to three years. If your Critical Success Factor is expanding your product line, for example, you could set a goal of developing two new products within the next 18 months.
- Strategies. Develop guidelines that will help you to meet your goals. In the above example, that might include allocating more resources to your R&D department to facilitate product development.
- Action Plans. Produce a plan of action that meets SBL’s “S.M.A.R.T.” criteria: your plan must be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, assigned to a Responsible party, and fit within a set Timeline
- Take action. A plan won’t do you much good if you and your team let it sit idle. Focus on effective communication to make sure you meet your goals. Your whole organization needs to understand the direction you’re heading and the role they’ll play in making sure you reach your destination. You’ll also need to review and modify your plan as often as possible (preferably weekly), which will allow you to factor in new and unforeseen developments. Also, remember that growing your business will require your full participation. As the business owner, you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring that your company moves towards your objectives.
- Turn the Wheel. The last factor in the SBL strategic planning template is what we refer to as “Turning the Wheel.” You didn’t become a business leader because you wanted to stick with the status quo or let others guide your fate. Take ownership over your company’s progress. If things are veering off course, review your plan and revise it. If you need to change course to respond to the loss of a major client or because of difficulties acquiring capital, you’ll need to embrace your role as a leader. If you remember that your strategic plans will need to be dynamic and malleable, you’ll be better prepared to respond to the unexpected and to chart a new path forward.
The strategic planning process is an essential part of any company’s decision-making process. Regardless of your level of experience, and no matter how large or successful your organization is, TAB’s SBL strategic planning template can help you to excel when faced with tomorrow’s business challenges.
You’ve got a finite supply of business resources, and you’ll use them best when you move forward with purpose and conviction.
Start the strategic planning process today.
What would you consider the most important aspect of a cogent business strategy? Comment below to let us know what you’d need to include in your strategic plan.