It's All About Strategy

By Tom McDermott

Just exactly what is strategy? By definition, strategy is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. It has always amazed me that many businesses do not have a clear operating strategy. They exist on what has worked in the past, and that’s good enough. That may be a strategy, but definitely a weak one. A simplified definition of strategy is simply doing what your competitors do, just doing it better.

Too often, great businesses suffer because the leaders at the top fail to develop a clear strategy. Sometimes strategies are developed but not communicated effectively to the stakeholders (employees). When a strategy is developed, it is imperative that it is clearly communicated to everyone in the organization.

The first step in developing a strategic plan is to define the desired results and then build a plan around it. If you want to gain more customers, analyze all of the components that affect customers’ buying habits, and come up with a plan. Whatever the target is, analyze it first. Sadly, many decisions are made by overreacting to an issue. Knee-jerk reactions are never wise and usually end up in failure.

Let’s say you own a coffee shop; your sales are slow, and you are wondering why you can’t get your profits where you thought they should be. Coffee shops are highly competitive. Brand recognition brings many customers in the doors of major chains such as Starbucks and The Coffee Bean. If you want more customers, then you have to do one of two things: create more coffee drinkers, which would be a very difficult task, or steal market share from the competition.

Capturing a bigger piece of the pie is impossible without a clear strategy. Just because you open a new business doesn’t mean customers will show up. You need a strategy to break customers’ current habits, and then get them to form new habits by coming to your business. This process takes time and a clear strategy.

How do you create a clear strategy that builds your top line? It starts with a vision. Businesses provide products and services that customers want to consume. Your target is to get the consumers to spend their money with you. In order to increase market share, you will need to change customers’ habits, and offer products and services that surpass their expectations. Start by analyzing the quality of your product, and how well your employees are trained to provide exceptional customer service. Analyze your marketing campaigns and promotions. Talking to your employees to get feedback about customer feelings is a great way to gather information that could be very useful. Conduct a customer survey to find out how they feel about doing business with you.

The only way to change customers’ habits is to give them a reason to change. I have conducted extensive market research over the years, studying the habits of consumers. One compelling fact I discovered was that consumers are willing to drive farther, passing a business that offers similar products or services, if the customer has a higher perceived value of the business that is located farther away. Creating a higher perceived value takes planning, leadership and clear communication as to what your strategic expectations are.

Empower your employees with knowledge of what you, as a leader, expect. Give them the tools that allow them to execute your strategic plan. Provide training on how to make customers come back again and again.

The main components of any business are, first and foremost, leadership. Without strong leadership, the company will falter. Employees, location, facility and product are the remaining components that are essential in strategy execution. Is the leadership in the business leading the team, or is the leader a dictator, barking out orders? Is the facility clean and modern or is it dirty and old? Is your product or service? Is it better than the competition? Are you offering enough unique and better choices? Are your employees well-trained and serving the needs of the customers, or are they moody and driving business away?

Is your business performing like you want it to? If not, you may be lacking a strategy for growth.

All of these questions are the essence behind developing a winning strategy.

We offer online and in-person classes to help you develop a winning strategy. Check our website for details.

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