By WILLIAM BUIST, xTEN CLUB.
Every business needs a strategy, whether it’s a formal, written and generally agreed strategy or a more ad-hoc approach.
Strategy is about change, a plan of action to get there and a framework for taking that action. The key thing that a strategy does provide is a clear view, both of where you started from and where you are going to, and by reference to those two key points it’s possible to determine what course to take to make it through the journey.
There are 10 key activities every business should engage in if they want to have robust strategies for business development. These strategies must be clear about where you start from, and must focus on Marketing, Sales and Operational matters.
1) Have complete clarity about your starting position
Without knowing exactly where you are it’s not possible to plan a direction to where you want to be. Spend some time to map out clearly the current situation that you’re in; the state of the business, the business model and so on. Understand who your target market is, how you’re trying to reach them, through what channels and understand the problems that they have. That clarity provides you with certainty that you know where you are right now. From there, strategies that take you to where you want to go, will inevitably be more robust and more likely to succeed.
2) Marketing strategy, Part I
Identify the nature of the issues that your clients face, not in your language, but in theirs. For example, a business that doesn’t have enough sales may express that as a lack of revenue, reducing numbers of repeat sales, or how hard it is to get a message across to prospects. It’s really important to understand how your market expresses its problems so that you can speak directly to that conversation with your solution.
3) Marketing strategy, Part II
Having identified the problems that you solve in the language of your customers, demonstrate how your solution is a strategically robust one for them. In other words, one that will not just solve their problem, but embed the solution in their business so the problem does not recur. Drive directly to making their lives easier and meeting their needs precisely. Demonstrate where your knowledge, skills and experience sets you apart in the way that you deliver your products and services and you become the obvious choice.
4) Marketing strategy, Part III
Consider carefully how to measure and identify which elements of your marketing are working particularly well and which are working less well so that you can adapt, improve and test further.
5) Sales Strategy, Part I
Having attracted the prospect through great marketing your emphasis now shifts to sales. So, identify the triggers that identify when somebody has decided that they may wish to do business with you. Think about the behaviours that will be exhibited by a potential customer, how they will (re)act as a result of your marketing, and how your calls to action drive identifiable behaviour. For example, sharing articles on social media, commenting on blogs, or signing up for a newsletter all indicate greater attention on your business.
6) Sales Strategy, Part II
Don’t seek to sell to anybody who steps forward wanting your product, be selective, make sure that they are right, that the product will serve their purpose, solve their problem, and meet their need. Otherwise there is a risk that they will consider that your product or service was poor value and they’ll share that information with others, and that will damage your reputation. That takes us back to the early part of the marketing strategy; if you get the message right there and speak to the right types of people in the right way you’ll attract good customers.
7) Sales Strategy, Part III
Design the processes that transfer the customer to the operational element of the business. Often, (especially in entrepreneurial businesses), this activity is undertaken by the same people. The two different roles require a handover. Strategic sales handover means thinking through what are the steps that have to take place now that somebody has become a customer, sometimes referred to as ‘on-boarding’. Businesses that are seen as mediocre often fail to make the transition between the closing of the sale and the opening of the operating relationship between business. Expectations are high but delivery is poor and the customer immediately feels disappointed and let down.
8) Operational Strategy, Part I
The first element of an operational strategy should always reflect how customers will be handled within the business. That means being both transactional and building a relationship with your customers. At the point of sale, as the business starts delivering the service to the customer, the key thing is delivery – making sure that what you have promised arrives on time and delivers the value that you have promised, or more. This in turn enables the start of that deepening of the relationship. Trust builds quickly in an environment where that happens. The strategic delivery at the right time of the first product or service in that relationship is possibly the most important delivery that any company can make to any customer.
9) Operational Strategy, Part II
Think longer-term, about how to develop the relationship with the customer so that they will advocate your service and refer other business to you willingly, even delightedly. To do that, you need to think about what drives your customers to make recommendations to others, and design your service to make sure that that framework exists. It’s the design of the framework that is the strategic element of what you do. Get that right it will serve you for years; get it wrong and growth is very hard.
10) Operational Strategy, Part III
Think about suppliers and partners important to successful delivery. Automating where sensible, insourcing and outsourcing the relevant elements to drive the best possible service in the context of what is expected and the reaction that you seek is key.
Strategic design of a business is tough. Every element of every strategy is linked. If the marketing changes, the sales strategies need to change. If the sales strategy changes, the operational strategies need to change too to reflect what is now being promised.
Markets change, customers’ needs adapt and move, technology moves on, partner opportunities change over time. Most of the time it’s a matter of days before some elements of the strategy would benefit from adaption. It’s important to be both nimble and nuanced; nimble to change course when required quickly, nuanced by applying knowledge, skills and experience to do so brilliantly.
The most successful companies nuance the experience of their staff, leverage it to be adaptive and responsive to change, and deliver strategy as a core competence.
About the Author
William Buist is owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club – an annual programme of strategic activities for small, exclusive groups of business owners. xTEN helps accelerate growth, harness opportunity, build your business and develop ideas. William is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’.
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