What is “strategic planning” – and how does it work?
While the phrases is used often (and often misused) Strategic Planning is critical to the success of any exercise. Bringing multiple perspectives into focus with an eye on defined objectives, it is the process an organization goes through to envision and achieve its future—identifying the steps and means necessary to leverage existing strengths and overcome identified weaknesses.
The benefits from a business point-of-view are clear. What are our revenue, growth and sales targets? What competitive and market forces can affect our future, for better or worse? What should (and what must) we do to achieve these goals?
While the level of involvement in creating the plan may vary depending on your product or service, timing and market situation, we believe that at a minimum you should ask for input from current customers, prospects and your in-house sales and marketing teams. Representatives from anticipated support functions (customer service, installation, and maintenance) should also be an integral part of the planning process.
The value of strategic planning for brand, marketing and customer experience.
Since both the value and revenue for virtually all organizations is driven by its customers, planning is critical when thinking about ways to connect with them. When it comes to meeting these business goals, your ability effectively market, relevantly brand and deliver customer experiences that drive customers closer are a few of core competencies required for business success.
Whether your objectives are to inform, persuade, sell, or reassure, you need a clear understanding of where you are, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there. In this context, Strategic Planning serves as your road map, guiding and connecting every aspect of interacting with key audiences from awareness of your company, product or service to the creation and nurturing of loyal customer advocates through your many touchpoints.
It provides a framework for examining your customers, prospects and competition. It helps to drive innovation in products and services, and service levels, that allow you to pinpoint your brand, improve customer experiences, and focus marketing and related investments on the right customers, with the right offerings and the right messages.
Within the context of brand, marketing and customer experience, the strategic planning process can drive myriad positive end results. Among other benefits, the research-based definition and articulation of strategies and tactics will help your organization to:
- Determine and respond to shifts in customer wants and needs;
- Understand levels of current market awareness and position;
- Uncover competitive strategies and market trends, and evaluate the opportunities and threats they create;
- Refine relevant metrics to track ROI on your investments in all related areas, and improve that return over time;
- Understand target market perceptions of your strengths and weaknesses, and determine which to reinforce or address;
- Evaluate new product/service opportunities and the potential impact of external threats;
- Improve communications with your audiences, both internally and externally;
- Establish ongoing internal, market and competitive information-gathering procedures;
- Identify ways to accelerate and manage growth;
- And many others…
Establishing specific, measurable objectives and timelines against your plan also allows you to continually track—and adjust if necessary—your marketing, brand, and touchpoint strategies, tactics, and investments. This creates appropriate expectations, accountability, and an effective means of measuring progress towards your goals.