December 2017 - TAB Corporate

6 Ways to Ensure Strategic Planning Success

strategic planning

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.

If on the other hand, a company approaches the strategic planning process as a way to explore the opportunities (and challenges) facing it and its industry in the years to come, the results can be genuinely beneficial to everyone involved—from senior management to employees and anyone else affected by the eventual outcome.

Here are suggestions on how best to mold the strategic planning process to get the most from your expenditure of time and resources:

Make a top-level commitment to the process. The most effective way to guarantee a favorable experience is by signaling the CEO or business owner’s full commitment to the process. Find an opportunity for the business leader to describe the value of strategic planning to everyone within the organization and to talk about how each employee contributes to its eventual success. This sends the message that planning is key to the company’s future growth.

Review and refine your personal vision statement. Strategic planning represents a prime opportunity to review and change your personal vision statement. As we’ve noted elsewhere, “In a privately-owned business, the strategic plan for a company is not based solely on the assumption that the company’s goals and vision are to maximize profit. The strategic plan for your company must begin with your personal goals and vision.” As times and circumstances change, your vision might change as well.

Put together a great team. The more diverse your planning team is, the more diverse perspectives the process will generate. Ideally, says strategist Michael Girdler, “the team should include representation from anyone that can impact the plan or be impacted by the plan: in short all employees.” Enlist the efforts of “various departments of your organization—marketing, sales, and operations [and] evaluate the inclusion of vendors” as well.

Find a comfortable off-site venue. Regardless of the savings, you might find in staying onsite, generally speaking, strategic planning sessions are more effective when set away from the workplace. It’s not just getting away everyday office distractions; a fresh, different location helps participants stay focused on the purpose behind your efforts—thinking in an intensive manner about where the business is going and how you plan to get there.

“Test-drive” challenging scenarios. As part of the process, roll out five or six scenarios (both those likely to happen and those less likely to occur), based on how your business will probably fare in the coming year. Are you prepared for a sudden acceleration in sales? What if, conversely, you lose a major customer or two? Devise contingency plans so you’re better prepared for the unexpected.

With a plan in place, invite feedback. To truly succeed, your strategic plan must be embraced by the entire organization. Remember, your front-line staff—as well as those in other departments—often have valuable insights into product quality, customer service, etc. By gathering employee input, the final document will be richer and more effective in the long run.

“Consistent communication can keep everyone on the same page,” notes strategist Cara Ong, “and prevent conflicts from occurring before the official strategic and operational plan cascades down from senior management.”

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What to Include in Your B2B Marketing Plan

B2B Marketing Plan

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 for 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!