Editor’s note: This post was originally a three-part series called Strategic Planning 101 published in November and December 2014. It has since been combined, condensed and updated.
Your company is only as successful as your business strategy. Having a strategic plan gives your organization focus and direction, ensuring you’re actively working toward achieving your goals. Without that roadmap for success, you run the risk of missing key opportunities and losing potential customers to competitors. In this blog post we’ll look at how you can leverage three core components of your company’s identity—your mission, vision and values—to develop a plan for success.
Why You Need a Strategic Plan
A strategic plan outlines where your organization is going, how you’ll get there and how you’ll know when you get where you wanted to go. Think of your plan like the guardrails on the side of the road; you may not think about them on a regular basis, but they ultimately help you stay on the road and heading in the right direction. That’s exactly what your strategic plan is – guidelines for your business.
Here are five reasons why you should have a strategic plan (if you don’t already):
- Set direction and priorities. Why are you in business? What do you want to achieve? The answers to these questions are key drivers for your organization. If they aren’t evident to your team, particularly management and senior leadership, there’s a good chance you won’t achieve your goals.
- Get everyone on the same page. Does everyone in your organization know what your overall goals are? If not, the lack of focus could be undermining your team’s productivity and their ability to do their jobs effectively.
- Simplify decision-making processes. With everyone on the same page and working consistently toward clear objectives, your team can make better business decisions that ultimately get you closer to achieving your strategic goals.
- Drive overall alignment within your organization. Having clear objectives will inform everything from allocating resources and determining your budget to day-to-day operations. Without this alignment, your team may not have what they need to succeed in their roles, be it tools and resources or clear KPIs.
- Effectively communicate your message. Defining your goals and developing a plan to achieve them will provide a useful framework for communicating effectively to multiple stakeholders.
The last reason is particularly important because messaging can be used internally as well as externally to ensure your team and your customers know who you are and why you’re invested in what you do. There are three key components of your company’s identity that inform and reinforce this message: your mission, your vision and your values. Before we look at how to develop clear and concise mission and vision statements, let’s look at the strategic planning cycle.
The Strategic Planning Cycle
How and when do you come up with your strategic plan? This will depend on the structure of your organization, leadership, company culture and the complexity of your business or industry. Regardless of how you approach the planning process, you should be going through the strategic planning cycle on a regular basis.
Whether it’s once every six months or once every two years, you should set up a regular strategic planning cycle to review performance metrics from the previous period and use this information, as well as other sources like market research, to develop a plan for the future.
During your planning sessions, you should look to answer the following questions:
- Goals. Where do you want to go?
- Desired outcomes. What does success look like?
- Strategies. How will we get where we want to go?
- Measures and targets. How do we measure the success of our efforts?
- Results. How did we do? How can we improve? What changes can we make in the future to ensure we meet our goals?
More often than not, organizations have a good idea of what should or will be included in their strategic plan. Assumptions about what your company should be focused on can lead to alignment and communication issues, though. You should always have your strategic plan documented to codify your goals and objectives so your team knows what you are working towards and why.
Mission, Vision & Values
This is where your mission, vision and values come in. Who you are is as important as what you do. In today’s increasingly competitive markets, people want to spend money on more than just a product or solution; they are looking for quality brands that provide value beyond what they sell. Defining your mission, vision and values will help you build your brand, foster strategic alignment and show your value.
A memorable brand is something every successful business should have but many struggle to cultivate. In the strictest sense of the word, brand is defined as a name, term, design or symbol that identifies and distinguishes you from your competitors. More generally, your brand is the set of expectations customers have, the stories you tell and the relationships you build. These key aspects of your brand contribute to your company’s identity, how you are perceived and whether someone chooses your solution over a competitor’s.
Brand building begins with three things: your mission, vision and values. Together, these make up the message that engages and motivates your audience. It should tell them who you are, what you have to offer and how you will help them solve their business challenges. Here are some questions to consider when developing your statements.
Your mission statement describes the overall purpose of your organization. It is a constant reminder to your team, existing customers and future customers of why your organization exists. It should capture and communicate the original vision of the organization.
- Why are you in business?
- Who are your customers?
- What image of your organization do you want to convey?
Your vision statement is an aspirational description of your organization as it effectively carries out its operations. Think of it as an ideal representation of your company.
- What does your organization look like?
- How big is your organization?
- What are you known for?
Your value statement is a description of your organization’s core principles and beliefs. Value statements can include both general and specific examples of how your organization will put its beliefs into practice.
- What are your priorities when it comes to your company’s culture?
- What is important to your team, personally and professionally?
- What motivates your team and drives your priorities?
Your mission, vision and values help bridge the gap between business priorities and digital marketing initiatives. Using these as your messaging framework, you can turn random acts of marketing into comprehensive campaigns with clear goals and KPIs. This information can be used to build out a host of marketing content from collateral like brochures and product videos to blog posts and social media.
Download our free Digital Marketing Field Guide to learn more about building your brand and developing a marketing plan that generates leads and delights customers! In the eBook you’ll get worksheets for your value proposition, buyer personas and more.
For additional marketing resources, check out the following blog posts: