Launching a business without planning beforehand is like driving in the dark without headlights on.
Your business’ strategic plan will be your lighthouse on the voyage of building your brand and business.
A business plan helps you assess where you are right now so you can determine where you want to be and how you’ll get there.
Round up the key people in your team and outline your plan in black and white.
Go back to this plan on a regular basis to gauge your business’ performance and successfully implement your strategic plan.
Step 1: Know your competitive advantage
What makes your business better than any other business? This is what will attract potential customers and eventually retain current ones. For some companies, it is a distinct product feature, and for others it could be unparalleled service.
Focus on what your business is good at and build on this.
Step 2: Determine what the added value of your business is
What is it that you’d like to do for your customers? Why are you relevant to their lives? How can you make their lives better?
Understanding what your customers need will help you better assess where you are and improve on this to continually satisfy your customers in the best way possible.
Step 3: Focus on a target market
To meet the needs of your consumers better than other brands, you have to understand your target audience much better than the competition.
What are their fears and apprehensions about the category? What are their key drivers to trial? What are their tensions and desires?
The more colorful the portrait you have of your customers, the more you will understand how they feel, think, and act, about your product and the category you are in.
Step 4: Craft your business vision
Determine where you want your business to be in five years.
Do you want to be market leader? Do you envision your business tying up with socially oriented organizations as you put a premium on corporate social responsibility?
Your vision is the direction in which you’d like your business to go.
Knowing the end-goal will help you and your team become more focused on choosing activities that are congruent to this vision you crafted together.
Step 5: Prepare a SWOT
Assess your Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats.
This exercise can help you identify not only what your best assets are but also what you and your team should improve on.
To assess strengths and weakness, you have to look into your company’s structure and processes: What is the best we can do? What are we capable of?
For opportunities and threats, you need to look outside your own business: What are the category trends? What is happening in business that can threaten our company?
Step 6: Write out your company objectives
With the SWOT, you can determine where your company stands.
With your vision, you have determined where you want your company to stand five years from now.
Defining your objectives are concrete ways of bringing that vision to life. These objectives are the action steps you take. They have to be measurable so you can gauge how close or far off you are in reaching the goals set.
Step 7: Manage resources
With your strategic plan in place, the next question is: are you equipped to carry this out?
The first reality check is budget. Given the financial resources you have, prioritize goals and review objectives. Do you have the right team to bring your plan to life? Is the plan feasible against the set budget?
Another reality check is time. When do you target to launch? Work backwards and create a timeline that enables you to realistically achieve your goals.
Step 8: Prepare an action plan
To meet your objectives, what are the jobs to be done? What are the obstacles that stand in your way and how do you challenge them?
Write these specific actions down, ensuring that each objective has its own set of actions.
To ensure that the actions are executed, look at your team and assign roles. Have them own the tasks they are assigned. Let them lead their action plans and build on them.
Ownership helps give assigned team members a more empowered sense of responsibility, helping ensure your objectives are met.
Image copyright Peshkova. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.