The Misconception of Strategic Planning & The Outcomes You Should Actually Expect
Strategic planning is often confused with other business processes like goal setting, or project management. However, strategic planning is its own unique process that goes beyond simply setting objectives and providing a framework for making decisions. Strategic planning involves looking holistically at all possible options in order to create an actionable plan for the future of your small business or SMB. With careful consideration, it can provide clarity on everything from strategies and tactics to organizational vision and decision-making authority – ensuring you’re working smarter rather than harder.
A strategic plan is essential for businesses of all sizes; think of it as your business’s roadmap that guides important decisions made down the line. But many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) hesitate to create this roadmap due to misconstrued conceptions: either they believe they don’t have time or resources, don’t consider strategic planning necessary, or are uncertain where to begin.
Drawing on decades of experience consulting with SMBs like yours and crafting viable strategies during uncertain times, we’ll explore the misconception of strategic planning, what outcomes you should actually expect from it, and why investing the time into proper strategic thinking could be critical for your company’s long term success.
Why strategic planning is often misunderstood
Strategic planning can feel like a real chore because most of the time it is hugely misunderstood, but in actuality it is a really cool tool that will help you turn the wild ambitions of your dreams into feasible goals with actionable objectives. Your strategic plan can be more than a one-time, step-by-step set of instructions on how to achieve objectives or find solutions. These plans serve you better as living roadmaps that can yield distinctly different outcomes each time the planning and reviewing takes place.
It’s easy to overlook strategic planning because it seems like it’s all about box-ticking, spreadsheets and strategic jargon–but when done correctly, strategic planning is actually an incredibly valuable tool to help get you further with your goals. Think of strategic planning like an adventure – if you want your journey to be successful and not risky, strategic planning is key!
The primary purpose of a strategic plan is to identify overarching missions and goals by holistically evaluating where you are and where you want to go, as well as uncovering the areas of improvement needed in order to reach those goals. By understanding its true purpose, we can more effectively use strategic planning and maximize its potential for yielding results that benefit our business and organization in the long run.
Avoiding misconceptions of strategic planning
Strategic planning is prone to misconceptions which can lead to ineffective outcomes. The most important thing to understand is that your strategic plan does NOT need to be complicated! Over complication of your plan will leave you with a fancy-schmancy over priced paper weight or binder that sits on the shelf never to be looked at again. To avoid this, ensure that all key stakeholders (aka your team) are involved throughout the strategic planning process. Making sure to gain necessary feedback from the entire group to help build consensus and ensure that plans take into account the perspectives of various parts of the company.
When strategic planning and team work come together, achieving what you set out for becomes so much easier! Through collective effort and key stakeholder buy in, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll reach your goals sooner than if everyone was rowing the boat in their own direction. After all, banding together will give you that extra push which takes you from where you are to where you want to be.
Once you’ve got your entire team on board, it’s best to focus on long-term strategic thinking rather than short-term performance metrics aimed at quick wins that may create false impressions in the future; focus on activities and initiatives with tangible results in order to maximize the value of your strategies over time.
Challenges of the strategic planning process
A strategic planning session can be a complex process that is difficult to get right. Overlooking topics that need to be included in your plan my keep you from seeing success. Here are challenges that our clients have faced:
No clear vision or COMMON goal
Without a clear vision or goal, it is hard to know what the plan should aim to accomplish and how those goals will be met.
Strategic plans need strong leadership and focus on strategic thinking, implementation and accountability
Continuous reassessment of objectives and strategies is necessary and requires careful monitoring of progress in order to update the plan and adjust any necessary resources.
Expecting too much
You will never see success if you anticipating outcomes that can’t be achieved. Remember what we said above… focus on activities and initiatives with tangible results in order to maximize the value of your strategies over time.
Successful strategic planning requires extensive communication, coordination, and cooperation throughout all involved parties in order to ensure desired results are achieved in an efficient manner.
The different types of outcomes you can achieve with a strategic plan
When developing a strategic plan for your organization, knowing what outcomes you want to achieve is critical in order to ensure success. There are many types of outcomes that can be accomplished through strategic planning, such as increased efficiency, improved performance, more customer-focused approach to services and operations, enhanced stakeholder confidence, and more. Depending on the motivated reasons behind creating your plan, some of these outcomes might not be possible to reach or may not fit within your scope. Most importantly, without a focus on ensuring you have a strong foundation, none of these outcomes are possible.
By taking a step back and considering all the potential options available to you ahead of time, you can form a focused strategy and make sure all expectations are realistic and achievable. Additionally, taking the time out for regular check-ins along the way can give you insight into early successes or areas needing adjustment in order to ensure an ultimate successful outcome.
Strategic marketing planning
Strategic marketing planning is one of the most effective practices for leading a business to success. When done correctly, strategic planning can be a key driver of improved productivity and profitability, allowing businesses to outshine their competitors in the marketplace. Additionally, strategic marketing has proven effective in creating internal organizational alignment and maintaining strong customer relationships. Ultimately, strategic marketing seeks to create plans that prioritize effectiveness over efficiency, outlining achievable objectives as well as achieving them through effective implementation.
How to create a strategic plan that works for your business
Creating a business strategy that works for your business requires strategic leadership, effective and thorough strategic planning, and an understanding of common challenges business owners face. Researching the business environment and industry trends helps business owners develop strategies in areas such as marketing initiatives, product development, financial forecasting and resource needs. Taking the time to consider these factors will ensure the business strategy takes into account current business imperatives while also leaving room to accommodate potential growth opportunities. Investing in a comprehensive strategic plan that takes into account short-term needs, while projecting long-term goals, is key to helping business owners succeed in today’s competitive market.
Implementing your strategic plan and making sure it succeeds
Implementing a successful strategic plan involves thorough planning from the start. Beginning with company goals, planning sessions should be used to formulate and build business strategies that drive these goals. This planning process should encompass all areas of operations in order for the strategy to be effective. Creating a sound roadmap for attaining objectives requires an organization to critically examine its existing strengths, value proposition and competitive advantage as well as possible risks. Doing this helps establish strategies to optimize effectiveness, improve efficiency and increase impact of strategic planning. And taking this approach enables businesses to effectively implement their strategic plan and drive desired results.
A well thought-out strategic marketing plan can be a game-changer for any business. Follow these steps to start building a successful plan:
- Evaluate and identify marketing objectives.
- Define a target audience, understand their needs and find out how they prefer to engage with content
- Establish budget, resources and timeline
- Engage your team
- Determine key activities such as social media campaigns or influencer outreach
- Execute your plan and track results
- Revise plans and modify objectives as needed
Benefits of having a successful strategic plan in place
It’s no surprise that strategic planning is essential to success in business — after all, you wouldn’t attempt to drive cross-country without consulting a map first! A strategic plan sets the stage for a roadmap to achieving your organization’s goals by providing structure around decision-making. This can include evaluating resources, setting timelines for achieving milestones and analyzing potential risks and rewards. Strategic plans are not only wise from a strategic perspective but also keep everyone on the same page and working towards the same objectives — building a strong foundation; after all, nobody wants to build a road leading nowhere! So make sure your business doesn’t take any wrong turns by taking the time to create an effective strategic plan.
Avoiding pitfalls in strategic planning
Strategic planning is an essential part of success for any business, and it must be done carefully and efficiently to roll out successful projects. However, if too much time is dedicated to strategic planning, it can slow the progress of a successful implementation, so it’s important to make sure that during the strategic planning process, the focus remains on getting projects completed rather than getting bogged down in details.
Understanding how strategic planning works and setting reasonable expectations are two keys to avoiding wasting time with strategic planning.
Our approach to avoid wasting precious time is:
- to determine the challenge you want to solve right away — goals for the year
- evaluate your current state to uncover gaps
- identify objectives that will get you there — the roadmap
- get buy-in from all stakeholders
- focus on implementation rather than perfecting the strategic planning process
This approach has enabled our clients to carry out successful strategic implementations while avoiding an endless cycle of strategic planning or creation of a plan that is never used.
Using outside resources such as strategic advisors and consultants may put you in a better position to reach your goals faster and see success with your strategic action. When strategic planning is done right, it can lead to great results!
Working with experienced strategic planners who can keep things simple and guide your team can be an essential component in the success of your organization. Strategy-minded consultants can help provide strategic leadership and strategic thinking that is creative yet informed, and adaptive yet persistent. Through skills and experience, we’ve helped clients identify key drivers to excelling in competitive markets and identify relevant frameworks for successful implementation of their strategic plans.
Tomato Fish Marketing is an Indianapolis marketing consulting firm that offers end-to-end marketing strategy evaluation with our innovative redMAP process.