Do you Dread Strategy Planning? Let’s make Strategy Simpler.

What strikes fear into the hearts of even the most hardened businessmen?

How about strategic planning. And the strategy plan that emerges from it? All two hundred pages of it. And that’s just the Executive Summary.

Does your heart sink when you hear “strategy” or “strategic plan”?

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m stuck in a strategic planning meeting for the next three days?” No doubt there’s a distinct tone of despair in their voices. And a pleading look in their eyes.

Strategy is so important for any business large or small. So why do so many people dread strategy planning?

Strategy Photo

Is it because many companies make it complex. They let the strategic planning process become all-consuming and forget about the “actual strategy”.

Perhaps it’s because strategy is often inextricably woven into the annual planning cycle. Inevitably we divert conversations about the strategic intent of the business to talk about budgets, cost cutting, staff numbers and pouring over the financials of the previous and the coming years.

As the plan grows in size, the accountants will want constant readjustments to the business projections and revisions of the costs. Planners want to draft and rewrite project plans try to save a week here and a day there. They stick millions of post it notes on walls and then spend days re-arranging them.

And everyone wants absolute certainty over the amount of future revenue that the plan will deliver. The problem is that costs, people and premises are totally under the businesses control, where as future revenue depends mainly on the will of the customer. How can there be absolute certainly over future revenues? There can’t.

The resultant strategic plan is often hundreds of pages long and extremely detailed and yet during this process the “actual strategy” of the business is often glossed over because  planning and budgetary cycle complexity swamps this most important part.

It’s the “actual strategy” that makes the customer want to spend their money with you that creates the revenue.

Of course budget planning is important.

Of course detailed product launches and systems development plans are crucial.

Of course cost control is required.

Of course controlling staff numbers is necessary.

But these need to come once you’ve developed and agreed the strategy. Because the strategy is the most important thing that will drive revenue in the future. Get the strategy nailed first and then commit to the detailed plans.

Yes a company strategy needs a mission statement, a vision and a goal (often a revenue amount for the equivalent expressed as market share), but strategy needs to drive these.

And the best thing to do is to keep it simple.

Customers will spend their money with you if your value proposition is superior to your competitors. You only need to do two things:

  • Decide which specific customers to target – who are they and what are their key characteristics?
  • Create a compelling value proposition for those customers – what will you offer them and what won’t you offer them and what sets you apart from your competitors? How will you price it? Where you will sell it? And how will you promote it.

That’s it.

Don’t get bogged down with planning, cost control and many iterations of strategic plans to guarantee success. Don’t overwhelm simply finding the core strategic intent. Deal with all that once you know where you are going.

Now it’s your turn: I’m sure as many people will disagree with my opinion as will agree with it. What is your experience of creating strategy within a business? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or, even better, share a link to your own articles or blogs.

Are you going through a strategic review or do you know anyone who is? Why not share this post with them.

Get in touch if you want to talk about simplicity in strategy!

12 Twitter Search Tips to build your business

You can build your followers and find ideas for your business website content using Twitter search.

This week you can download my free Twitter Search Tips crib sheet.

Twitter search is a powerful tool which you can customise to shine a spotlight on potential customers in your area. Or you can use it to find out what people are saying about certain topics. Or what questions they are asking about companies and products. Most of us just enter single words into search – when in fact it’s easy to be more specific and targeted.

In the Twitter Search Tips crib sheet below I’ve set out the most powerful search methods you can use. Please feel free to RIGHT CLICK on the image to download it to use later.

Twitter Search Tips

My two favourites are as follows:

Firstly, location specific searches. Say you are an adviser in Manchester and you want to find out who is talking about ISAs. Simply type in:

ISAs near:Manchester

In the list of results you will obviously find competitors and providers, but you’ll also find potential clients to follow. If they follow you back then you could engage them and potentially turn them into clients.

And secondly, questions. Find out what questions people are asking about companies and their products. Type in:

“life insurance” ?

You’ll find a whole list of questions which you could use to create articles or blogs for your website – each answer is one article.

Here’s a tongue in cheek question I particularly liked using this search.

Now it’s Your Turn: If you like my Twitter Search Tips crib sheet, please share this post by clicking the buttons below. I’d love to hear your own ideas, tips and hacks. Please leave a comment below or share a link to your own material.

Pop Quiz! A Heart Attack. Can you describe EXACTLY what it is?

On my recent First Aid refresher course, the tutor asked our group to describe what a heart attack is. Having been in the protection industry for many years I was ready to trot out a paraphrased version of the ABI heart attack critical illness definition.

If she’d asked me.

She didn’t.

But only 1 out of the 8 the tutor did ask got it right.

My latest article for Financial Reporter asks what this means for customers and how they see critical illness products. Please click on the picture to read!

Heart Attack

(Click here to Tweet this Article)

And when I say we need simplification, I don’t necessarily mean fewer conditions covered. But what about simpler definitions?

“Diagnosis of a heart attack by a consultant cardiologist.” Full stop.

From a pricing point of view that might not be possible but it would certainly be easier to understand than the full ABI technical definition.

Now it’s your turn: What could we do to make critical illness products easier for consumers to understand? Will we ever be able to move away from the complicated, technical definitions that we use today? Please share your views. Leave a comment or a link to your own articles.