Updating your strategy is no small task.
In fact, it’s not really a task at all — it’s a journey. It’s more than a to-do item on a weekly agenda.
Creating a strategy is a process of discovering who you are as a company and how to best serve your customers.
If you want to update your strategy the right way, you need to answer these six questions about yourself and your organization before you get started:
1. When am I most happy or satisfied with my business?
Whether you’re the owner, employee, or senior executive of your business, I hope you’re happy and satisfied with the work you do at some point each day. Sit back, close your eyes, and really think, “What’s happening when I feel this way?”
What are you working on when you feel most fulfilled?
The last time I had a “real job,” I realized I was happiest when I was working on a project. There were days I hopped out of bed, barely ate breakfast, and got to my desk by 7 am. There was something I wanted to do — these projects motivated me and made me feel like I was doing something useful.
What task makes you feel this way in your business?
2. When do I feel frustrated or anxious?
We all have frustrated and anxious moments. Frustrated moments are usually easy to identify.
Most of us feel frustrated when someone doesn’t do their job. When I get a phone call with someone asking, “Tom, how do you hold people accountable?” I know I’m dealing with someone who had a frustrating day.
Anxiety is more difficult to pinpoint. We often don’t know what’s creating our anxiety. Think hard about it — when you feel anxious, what’s going on around you?
A former client always felt anxious when he dealt with the numbers, but his numbers weren’t bad. Eventually, we figured out the anxiety came because he didn’t understand what the numbers meant and what he was supposed to do with them.
He knew they were important, but he didn’t know how. He knew managing the finances was his responsibility, but he didn’t have the knowledge to fulfill his duty. So, numbers made him anxious.
Once we figured out the source of the problem, we began to make progress towards our real goal: to figure out the strategy.
What’s causing your anxiety? Once you identify it, you’ll free up some mental space so you can focus on the other things… like developing a strategy.
3. Who are my most loyal customers?
Before you embark on strategic planning, think about your customers. Who are your most loyal customers? Your best customers or most appreciative customers are not necessarily your most loyal customers.
Loyalty has a deeper root. Loyal customers are the ones who forgive a mistake and give you another opportunity. Often, you’ve had these customers for years but haven’t recognized them for their loyalty. When you recognize who your loyal customers are, you start to uncover information about who you are as an organization.
How does this tie into your strategy? You can’t have a strategy that isn’t based on something you already are. Strategy is not something we aspire to; strategy is something we build based on the essence of who we are now.
Loyal customers help us see the reality of who we are as an organization.
4. Who are my most profitable customers?
When people first attempt to identify their most profitable customers, they’re often wrong. Why? The most profitable customer isn’t always the person writing the biggest check.
I was working with a client on a building a strategy who faced this very issue. During our session on marketing, we got into a discussion about who their best customers were. We realized their best customers never actually wrote them a check. Their best customers were influencers and decision-makers within the organization.
The result of this discovery was to devise a marketing strategy that targeted people who were influencing the organization — not the people signing the checks. Once we understood that, we were able to clear out a lot of marketing noise and focus on who we needed to make happy and who we needed to convince to choose us.
Who is your most profitable customer? You have to know who they are before can form a marketing strategy to reach them.
5. What are you really good at?
This is a tough question — and it’s where many of us trip up. Most often, when I onboard a new client and start the discovery process, I find they’re not good at the things they think they’re good at. But, they are good at other important and valuable things — they just haven’t recognized the significance of those strengths.
Think about what your strengths from a customer’s perspective. Maybe you’re brilliant at detailed drawings, but is that why customers want to do business with you?
Identify what makes you valuable and unique in your industry. Knowing your true strengths gets you one step closer to being ready to talk strategy.
6. What are you willing to give up to be more successful?
Strategy is more about what we don’t do than what we choose to do. In order to execute a strategy, we have to let something go. What are you willing to give up in order to be successful?
Here’s a question I ask almost every business owner I meet: If you could give up 20% of your revenue but increase your net profit, would you do it?
Everyone says yes.
What are you willing to give up? If you define success by profit (as most owners do), then you would gladly give up revenue in order to be more successful in your profit.
Think of what’s really valuable to you in your business — and then evaluate what you’d be willing to stop in order to increase it.
Before you jump into strategy, take the time to get to know yourself and your organization a little better. Only then will you be ready to create a strategy that really works.