In a challenging landscape of rising customer demands, uncertain economic outlooks and fierce competitor activity, it can be tempting for businesses to make knee jerk reactive decisions. Over time these decisions can see the business move away from their original strategy. In the day to day, your overall strategy can seem distant; created and then forgotten about and revisited once a year. But the reality is, as we approach a new financial year, ensuring your strategy is robust and that every decision aligns to the overall objectives you are trying to reach is more critical than ever.
What makes a great strategy?
At its most basic level, strategy is simple. It is the activity of effectively diagnosing the problem, being clear about the macro and microenvironment in which you operate, understanding the long-term goals/outcomes to solve the problem, and then creating a roadmap to get there.
A great strategy should be:
- Built on strong-foundations – a well thought through strategy should last 3-5 years and within that time the overall ambition/goal should remain the same.
- Evidence based – Use external support to get an outside view of the environment you’re operating in. Direction should be based on research and insight, not opinions or hypotheses.
- Ambitious: A great strategy is bold and ambitious. If we’re not reaching for the stars then it isn’t worth doing.
- Clear and concise: It should be easy to understand and communicate across the entire business. The core components and elements of the strategy should be memorable and easy to distil into a one pager.
- Firm but flexible: Whereas the strategy and overall goal should stay firm, the activities and tactics within should be able to adapt to changing circumstances.
- Measurable: The strategy should contain clear KPI’s and a vision of what success will look like. It is crucial that there are metrics in place to track progress.
- Invested in: Financially it’s important to do the due diligence upfront and ensure all your inputs in creating the strategy have been covered. Investment is also key to fund the initiatives that will ultimately deliver the strategy. A key point of investment is also colleague investment – everyone should know the direction of travel and their role in helping to deliver the strategic outcomes.
Having a well-developed strategy is an important part of growing a business or brand to ensure all activities across teams and departments align towards that goal.
Now we’ve defined what a strategy is, it’s time to consider whether now is time for a sense check of that strategy to ensure all tactics and business activities are working together towards your goals. Asking yourself these questions can be a great starting point to defining whether now is the right time to sense check your strategy with a fresh pair of eyes:
Do you know what the strategy is and do team members understand it?
This may seem obvious, but it’s important that all key stakeholders and team members within the business know what the strategy is. Your strategy should run throughout the fibres of your business. If there are team members who are not bought in, do not understand the strategy – or worse – do not know what it is, you could come into trouble. If that is the case, then the strategy may need re-engaging within your business.
Do you have all strategy elements?
A full strategy combines three core verticals: Business, brand and marketing. Just like a tripod needs three legs to be able to stand, a successful strategy works like a three tier hierarchy.
Your business strategy should be set with clear commercial objectives, followed by the role of a positioning and growth plan for your brand with a brand strategy, and with a more channel and tactics driven mindset follows your marketing strategy. All should be aligned to each other and ladder back up to the business strategy.
If you’re missing any of the above elements, this can lead to dangerous territory. A business strategy without a brand or marketing strategy means that whilst you might be clear on where your business plans to go, you don’t have clarity on the role of marketing in reaching that destination, or the right channels and messaging framework you should deploy. No brand strategy means that you might be unclear about who your brand is, the role of and positioning of the brand in the mind of the customer. Brands are not visual elements like a logo, they are living, breathing entities that sit in the mind of your customer, and need to be nurtured as such for your brand to effectively grow.
Is your strategy aligned to business/commercial objectives?
This goes without saying, but your strategy must be aligned to your business and commercial objectives. If these objectives have altered due to internal or external factors, now is a great time to re-account for that within your strategy tactics.
Is your strategy based on recent customer data?
Customer data is key for creating your strategy, however if the data is out of date you may be focusing on the wrong things. For example, if you commissioned customer research in January 2020, but didn’t get around to completing your strategy until late 2022 with the same data, it is very likely that the data is still reliable.
Was your strategy completed internally?
When a strategy has been completed by only internal stakeholders, politics and bias can come in to play. Bringing in an external strategy expert is key; they will have fresh eyes to see areas of opportunity within the business and be able to step back and consider the external environment with a fresh perspective as well.
Was your strategy created completely externally?
Just like having only internal stakeholders involved in the creation of your strategy, having your strategy created entirely externally can also come with problems. If your strategy has been delivered with only an external perspective, you may not have the buy in from the internal team and insights from their experience. The sweet spot is a strategy led externally but collaboratively with a team of internal stakeholders.
Our strategy process
A strategy provides a clear roadmap of how you will go from where you are now, to where you want to be. Aligned to the wider business and commercial vision, our job at Low&Behold is to bring the two together to create a long-term strategy for your business.
Our process is centred around uniting business strategic initiatives with the customer-facing brand – ensuring we are always doing the right thing commercially for your business, and for the customer.
We start with an Immersion workshop with internal stakeholders -, where we understand you and your business with a group of cross-functional stakeholders – we understand the journey to date, the vision and what the key problems are we need to solve.
We utilise the expertise of your company stakeholders to understand a 360 view of the business – not just the view of your marketing department.
The next stage is where we move to a research and discovery phase – where we take what we don’t know, and work out how to fill those knowledge gaps. We also overlay your business challenges to the wider challenges of the market, the competitive landscape, and your audience. We audit everything we do to date and how your brand shows up to the customer. Most importantly, we seek to understand your customer and their attitudes, motivations and behaviours. We then work out how your brand shows up in meeting the customer needs. Where we need additional information, we’ll conduct primary research and speak to audiences in more detail.
We then move to strategy development where we bring together everything that we know. For a brand strategy this includes brand values, brand positioning, and a brand growth roadmap to get from A to B. We explore several different strategic territories and work with you and your customers to ensure we get the right fit for the brand and direction of travel. From this comes a brand growth roadmap where we set out how we will take the brand from A to B. Finally proposition development is where we make your brand meaningful to the customer with a clear reason to believe of why the customer should choose your brand.
We then create a marketing strategy which showcases within years 1-3 what the objective should be and based on your industry and customers the best channels to deploy, alongside a messaging framework.
Get in touch
We’re passionate about strategy here at Low&Behold, so we’d love to help you define or sense check yours with a fresh pair of eyes. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for a chat about strategy.