There is so much depth to strategy but I really just want to give you reason to consider strategy if you haven’t already. Not to go into the detail of strategy, just show how it all flows through business to achieve real outcomes.
Today I’ve found myself in a discussion with a young business owner that has been pushing down a path and continually finding disappointment with different consultants. She has engaged several but her expectations aren’t being met. I asked about her goals, the purpose and what she wants to achieve, what strategy is in place. The answer wasn’t specific at all, just to reach anyone that could buy her product.
This isn’t the first time this week I’ve heard someone without any clear direction. At least twice I’ve come across others that have what is a ‘shotgun’ scattered approach. And when strategy is mentioned, it’s just a fluffy business term without any meaning. Completely misunderstood and disregarded.
What Strategy can mean to you?
Strategy is about achieving a sustainable competitive advantage, that is, to have the best value offer to a market. Your product, how it is delivered, how it makes your customer feel is done better than any other but to a specific market. Your sales may go beyond this market but to really focus on what your goals are, your purpose and how it reaches and appeals to particular customer groups gives you direction. This direction means your effort and resources can be put to better use to achieve your goal and fulfill your purpose.
How Strategy impacts your business
The one most people seem to really want to worry about, sales and marketing. Without strategy, how do you market your business? What actions do you take, where and how? Have you done a customer segmentation where you’ve outlined and understood each section of your market, who they are and where and how they buy and what drives them? What audience do you target with your website, what content do you create and who are you appealing to and why? In having direction when you engage anyone in marketing or promotion they have a purpose. This gives you a voice, how to present your product and to whom. Sales and marketing is just the tip and other aspects of your business impact this. They should not be ignored if you want to be successful.
Your business operations, how is your product made or your service delivered? Do you focus on a more expensive product at a higher quality or is your market highly price sensitive where you invest in greater output and cost minimisation? Are you technology focused, on the edge of the latest or providing tried and proven product? How you invest in your offering is guided by your strategy, and keeping this aligned makes it much easier to succeed with sales and marketing.
Customer service, after sales service and support, do you provide an ongoing service to match your product or is the sale where it ends? Strategy isn’t just for managers but everyone in your business and working with you needs to understand what you are working to achieve. How else can they help you achieve it if they don’t know? The level of service you give and the methods it’s provided are determined by your strategy to ensure you’re employing enough of the right resources or not wasting resources where it doesn’t help you achieve your advantage.
Financial management, what does this mean without strategy? Although I’m sometimes engaged as CEO or COO, my core strength as CFO is not just simply reporting performance. It’s about what is being achieved, the direction the business is going and in financial terms, how is this relevant to the strategy, purpose and goals of the business. Is it all aligned and reflected in your performance? What is measured to show your success and where is that heading? What budget do you allocate to the different areas of your business?
Let’s not forget your human resources. When you recruit and engage others, do you look at a cultural fit? And consider how their personality, skills, experience can all work to achieve your objectives as shown through your strategy? Or do you just tick boxes that people meet a set criteria and see who you like best personally? Having a clear purpose and way to achieve it means you can form a team that delivers on this.
A lot of questions and working through your strategy doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. It’s something you can do in your own way to provide a plan that let’s you answer all of these questions. Don’t feel it’s set in stone. It isn’t. Be prepared to learn, adjust, pivot and change direction to obtain a competitive advantage within your market. You can simply then do better, more effective and efficient business with the resources you have available.