The point is to help you go beyond the day-to-day aspects of running your business and take a longer view. This might help you predict when you’ll need to expand your team, or figure out how to work toward a big expense.
There are a million ways to approach a strategic plan, but business consultant Andrea Dunathan recommends a two-pronged approach that separates strategy and planning into different phases.
Strategy starts with Research
Sounds obvious that strategy would be a part of this process, but many people struggle with what a strategy should contain and how to go about creating one.
It all starts with research. You may have heard of a SWOT analysis – an assessment technique designed to address: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. While going through a full analysis might be time consuming, the goal is to figure out what factors (internal and external) will impact your business.
I admit to taking an abbreviated route, but after 10 minutes of brainstorming I came up with:
- I’m great at marketing strategy
- I have some really good people on my team that can handle the tactical stuff
- I have a strong referral network
- I tend to be a bottleneck in the process
- I’m terrible at checking for details like typos
- I have several speaking engagements planned
- I have tons of content to work with – blogs and videos
- There are a million other people that do what I do
- There is so much “noise” out there, it’s hard to standout
Even though my analysis is simple, I can use it pull some goals out and identify what I need to focus on.
- Because I tend to be a bottleneck, I hold up projects and am likely leaving money on the table. To combat that I need to figure out a way to make things run more smoothly.
- Goal: have someone on my team that can act as a project manager
- I have speaking engagements planned that will expose me to a new audience and let me demonstrate my expertise.
- Goal: sign one new customer from every talk
- I’ve produced a lot of content with valuable information, but I don’t have a good content strategy to leverage it.
- Goal: Use my content to increase website traffic
Create a Plan
Now that I’ve got my basic goals it’s time to turn this into a plan with specific tasks.
Let’s take my last goal, using my content to increase website traffic. To accomplish that I’m going to create a social media project which breaks down to the following tasks:
- Create a benchmark of social media activity and website traffic, so I can understand if my efforts are successful.
- Take a look at some of my competitors and see what they are doing on social media to be successful.
- Evaluate my content to figure out if I can leverage it to have similar success.
- Decide which social networks to focus on, and what should go on where. This might mean putting one type of content on Facebook and another LinkedIn.
- Write five social media posts for each platform.
- Create a schedule for the five posts (i.e. post every Tuesday afternoon).
- Set up the posts on the applicable social networks.
- Evaluate my posts and compare them to my benchmarks.
- If there was no change, go back to step 3 and figure out how to approach things differently.
- If there was an increase, write more social posts in the new style.
On one hand this seems obvious – of course posts need to be written and created – do you really need to go to this much detail?
Yes, you do.
Why? Because once you identify all the different tasks, you’ll need to figure out who will do them, on what timeline and what it’s going to cost.
Assessing the plan
Perhaps you decide that this year you don’t actually have the time to focus on social media, nor do you have the money to hire someone that does. That brings you to a decision: how important is this goal to you? Is it just something that would be nice to do, or do you feel it’s important to growing your business?
If it’s important, than you’ve just found a new goal: carve out a budget to hire someone who can focus on social media.
If you decide it’s not actually important, this time has still been valuable because you’ve freed yourself. You can stop thinking that you really should be putting together some social media content, and instead focus on the things that are truly important.
In some ways, the plan that you come out with is less important than the time you spent thinking about it.
Thanks to Andrea Dunathan of Dunathan Consulting for letting me leverage her expertise on strategic planning to bring you this post! If you have more questions, I’d suggest reaching out to her on LinkedIn.