"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
This quote is so true in life AND in business. In business, your plan is your strategy. If you don't have a strategy for your business, then you are blindly headed in whatever direction the wind blows. A business needs direction, whether it's with finances, marketing, social media, leadership, or anything else.
You are likely doing a lot of things correctly in your business, otherwise you wouldn't even have a business. Or maybe you are in a situation where you are patching holes and problems with temporary solutions as they arise without a real long-term plan, I don't know. In order to do better, you have to expand your mind to new information. So if you don't know what your strategy is or some of the basics to think about, hopefully these points below will help you take the first steps in the right direction.
Mission. Leadership and employees function at a higher level with more motivation and higher productivity when the company has a mission that they believe in. Have you actually visualized the success of your business lately? If so, what does it look like? Okay, now that you've pictured it, you should be able to break down the steps that it takes to get to that future. However, in the event that you have trouble breaking long-term goals down into smaller, more manageable goals, then you might need a business consultant to help guide you in the direction of your mission.
Audience. I can tell you now that if you have not interacted at all with your target audience, then your chances of success are greatly diminished. If you don't understand what will bring your customers the most value, how could you possibly have any confidence in your customer acquisition strategy? When you understand your audience, you can target your marketing approach accordingly and possibly even reduce your customer acquisition costs. Also, the more you know about them, the more value you bring them, and that could translate into an increased customer lifetime value.
Marketing. There are so many ways to market your business product and/or service these days, but not all methods will work the same for each business. While webinar marketing and sales funnels may work well for consultants and coaches, it might not work as well for a hair stylist looking for new clients. Maybe you're a local business and it's best to reach your audience through advertisements on a specific radio station during an early morning talk show. It's highly important to evaluate the pros and cons of various strategies and then determine what would work best for your particular business in order to minimize marketing costs and maximize impact.
Online Presence. When the majority of customers first hear about a business or individual, they go online and do a web search for that company so what will they find when they search for your business? What kind of impression do you want to give off? Have you given any thought to what your online presence will be? Will you be only using a website? How about a Facebook page? Instagram? Twitter? Your business does not have to be a jack of all trades when it comes to social media presence, but selecting a medium and doing that one really well could have a big impact on how your customers perceive you and ultimately your growth.
Competition. You should know what your competitors are doing, especially if you are competing for shares of the same market. You do not have to mimic their strategy, but you should definitely "know thy enemy." You could implement a SWOT analysis or even your own modified version of it. Who is their target audience? What does their customer satisfaction look like? What are their weaknesses? What does their pricing strategy look like? If you're looking to differentiate yourself, possibly check out the book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Kim Chan and Renée Mauborgne and follow the frameworks to create value innovation in your business.
Cash. If you cannot properly manage your cash, then it's hard to be certain that all bills get paid on time. With such a high number of new businesses that don't last after 3-5 years, bankruptcy is a very real possibility when you're poor with cash flow management. Does your strategy involve potentially renegotiating contracts with any vendors or manufacturers that you have? Have you attempted to analyze your business and its processes in order to see where you might be able to cut costs? Should you sell any unused assets? Have you developed a payment strategy in order to rid yourself of debt or maybe pay back early investors?
These are just a fraction of the type of questions that should go through your mind when developing proper strategies. But the good thing is, that once you have the strategy in place, you will have more focus and direction for your business. It's important to realize that your strategy is not a static thing and will likely need to be updated as various factors change.
This post is not to overwhelm you with questions that you may (or may not) have considered prior to reading, but to demonstrate the necessity for developing a strategic plan of action for your business. Every business is not created equal and every business owner does not run their business in the same way. No matter where you are in your business journey, you can always improve by taking a step back and analyzing your business as though you are looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes.
So I ask you, do you actually have a business strategy or are you just making up steps as you go?
If you think that I missed anything or you have something to add, please leave a comment. I look forward to reading all that you have to share with me and any others who read this article.