A clear and well-defined strategy enables an organization to focus its resources and energy in the most impactful areas while playing to the organization's strengths. The strategy sets a course for how the company wants to get ahead, or stay ahead, of its competitors. A strategic plan ensures that all the elements of the company are working together as a coherent whole to achieve goals and objectives. Executing a strategic plan isn't something that can be done by the marketing department or the company's owners alone: it must be a whole company effort.
Whether you have a small business or a large corporation, the principles of a strategic plan are the same. However, small- and medium-sized companies will have fewer moving parts and people involved. They may also have less data to work with, but digital tools and platforms are available to help SMBs gather the necessary information.
Strategic plans versus operational plans
The key difference between your operational plan and strategic plan is that the operational plan focuses on making your company efficient and effective, whereas your strategic plan focuses on making it competitive.
Operational plans cover daily tasks, processes, and procedures to create systems that make them streamlined and efficient. An operational plan for a small business might include methods for working remotely or how employees can transmit information to the intended coworker. Operational plans use historical facts to create detailed procedures that can be put into practice quickly.
Strategic plans require insight and depend on the inspiration of new ideas, incorporating different proposals for attracting top talent or creative product changes. A good strategic plan may include innovative ways to improve customer service and respond to customer demands or new features that appeal to a broader market. Strategic plans analyze the company's strengths and weaknesses compared to the competitive landscape. The goal isn't to create stringent procedures but a fluid system measuring company growth.
How to create a strategic plan
You need to have a clear understanding of your customers and your competitors to be successful. Only then can the company develop a strategy that will enable it to achieve its objectives. It isn't necessary to know everything about your customers and competitors. Still, you need to know enough to establish a solid foundation to work from – the more you know, the stronger the foundation.
First, write down the company's mission statement and core values to establish what your goals are as a company and how you want to provide quality service or products to your customers. Then, honestly identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats so the business can zoom in on what processes need adjustment or growth.
You may need customer or employee feedback to gain the complete picture. Be sure to include the right people in your planning stages, such as representation from IT, HR, and those on your company's front line, including your sales and customer service departments.
As you put together your 12-month plan, be certain to establish quarterly, monthly, or weekly milestones. Each milestone is an opportunity to meet and re-evaluate how the company is progressing.
Have you learned something new that requires a change in the strategic plan? Have there been economic or social changes outside of your control that require the business to pivot? If so, then the strategic plan will need to be updated to reflect the new circumstances.
How to implement a strategic plan
The action steps in your strategic plan should focus on increasing revenue and bottom-line results. While all employees are accountable, the plan should name the key people responsible for driving results. Your plan should include:
- A description of your customers and how you attract them
- The benefits of your products or services in relation to your competitors
- Sales history and ideas for growth
- Your core processes and procedures and how they help or hinder growth
- Employees' goals and tracking of their personal progress
- Opportunities for adjustments
3 Results of Strategic Planning
1. Updated and correct data
Tracking sales and customer acquisition for the strategic plan encourages accurate and regularly updated data. Numbers never lie – having a clear picture of what is working and what needs to be changed allows your organization to make the appropriate adjustments and move forward with its goals. The entire team is working toward the same company goals. The data provides insights into what the customers are looking for, which creates a better customer experience. Data lays the groundwork for strategic growth when it comes to customer service and internal communication.
2. Refined sales techniques
As your organization learns the effectiveness of its sales techniques, it can refine tactics for optimum results. Pinpointing where sales efforts have fallen flat or when customer’s didn’t respond to the product as intended is the only way to solve a problem.
Additionally, your company can use the knowledge gained from sales to improve other areas of the business. For example, if the sales team finds that a certain type of customer is more likely to purchase a particular product, the marketing team can target that type of customer more effectively.
3. Better communication
When your staff is working towards the same, clearly defined goals, communication among team members is focused and streamlined. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are more transparent and more defined. Communication is easier because there is less confusion. It becomes easier to make decisions and move forward.
A work in progress
The strategic planning process helps create a system for how your organization's leaders and key employees will work toward the company's goals and help the business grow. As a result, the company becomes more intentional about where the business is headed.
A strategic plan is a fluid plan that will evolve as the company grows and responds to changing customer needs. There will likely be interruptions, failures, and setbacks. Don’t let this derail you. Remember, you put everything you could into your strategic plan, but it is impossible to predict the future state of affairs. However, with a plan in place, the staff knows what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the company's success.
Your Omaha IT service provider can help you develop solutions that fit your strategy and business goals. CoreTech assists small- and medium-sized businesses with planning, budgeting, and technology, which give you a competitive advantage. Contact us to see how we can help you.