When you hear the word strategy do you think, "Who has time for that? I'm too busy running my business to think about my business!"
Or, are you the entrepreneur who states, "Strategy is worthless. All it does is add time and cost to my business."
You might even be the entrepreneur who longingly dreams, "I know a strategic plan would help me, but I don't know how to pick a strategy that is right for me."
Or, the entrepreneur who laughs and says, "Strategy is a big business necessity because there are so many people involved in running the business. I'm a one man show, I don't need a strategy to know what to do."
And, you know what? You're right with whatever you think. If you think strategy is for big business only, you're right. If strategy is worthless, you're right. If you know strategy would help your business, you're right. And, if strategy is a pipe dream because you're too busy working in your business, instead of on your business, you're right again.
Thinking strategically about your business may not seem like a crucial key to success, but it is. And, I'm not just saying this because I'm a strategist. I'm saying it because it's true. In the business world strategy helps you connect your activities to your goals. Strategy forces you to plan. And, if you don't think you need to plan, try taking a long distance trip without one!
You may not even be thinking about strategy because you're too busy going from tactic to tactic trying to make something work for you. Strategy helps you figure out what's working, and what's not working. Strategy helps you identify gaps and challenges. Strategy gets you out of your day-to-day thinking and gets you thinking about what ifs. Remember, when you first started your business, you probably thought about a bigger vision. Strategy gets you back to those thoughts.
Strategy is not designed to waste your time, money or resources. It's sole purpose is to help you determine a course of action for your business so you can align activities to goals, and maximize time, money and effort. Working a strategic plan of action gives you permission to "check the program" and decide whether a course of action makes sense, or not. It allows you to see your activities as steps towards a greater end. Using a strategy means you are weaving your activities together so at the end of the month, your focused effort translates to success.
Every business owner has many strategies they can employ to build their business, but focusing on one or two will give you clarity of purpose, and help you stay focused on the bigger picture. Most entrepreneurs love what they do, but every entrepreneur has tasks they must do to run their business successfully that aren't a lot of fun. When you stay focused on the bigger picture you realize these tasks are a part of the process. The goal in this case is not the journey, but the destination.
So how does the "Chief cook and bottle washer" of your business (you) add yet another "task" to the running of your business? Like everything else important to the success of your business you carve out time. The good news is that a little planning goes a long way, and strategy planning can be done in as little as two hours a month. Below are steps that will get you thinking strategically about your business.
1. Schedule a day and time for your strategy session. Make sure you have at least sixty minutes of uninterrupted time.
2. Assess where you are now by knowing your current:
3. Review and reflect. Look at the information before you. Imagine you're telling it to someone who supports your success. How would they respond?
4. Identify potential strategies you can employ to align your actions to your goals. Select one specific strategy and outline a plan of action to achieve that goal. Do you see gaps? Do you know how to get those gaps addressed so nothing stands in your way?
5. Commit. To your goal. To your strategy. To your plan.
6. Take action. Be prepared for hiccups. Be prepared for your sabotage patterns to show up. Be confident in your ability to address them.
7. Schedule your next strategy session.
So, now when you hear the question, "Which entrepreneur are you?" You'll answer, "One that uses strategy, because it works."
To your SWEET success!
Abigail Tiefenthaler is the founder of Sweetspot Strategies, Inc. She works with small and mid-sized companies helping them clarify, prioritize and organize their marketing and income producing activities for greater success. She can be reached at abigail@sweetspotstrategies, or 954-804-9413. Connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sweetspotstrategies, and Twitter at www.twitter.com/mysweetstrategy.
Do you know the difference between a goal, a strategy, and a tactic? If you do, congratulations! You are probably running your business like a business. If you don't, that's okay too. It's an area of confusion for many business owners, and maybe something here will be that "Aha" moment where you see the missing piece of your business puzzle!
A goal is your destination. It's your end-game. It's your target. Maybe it's written down. Maybe it's broken into segments. Regardless of the size of your goal, or how it's been created, everything you do is measured against it so you know whether you're on track and moving in the right direction, or not.
Now, you need to get there. How do you do that? To start, knowing this difference between a strategy, and a tactic, is your first critical step.
Developing both strategies and tactics to help you reach your goal is necessary because having both is what separates a business owner who loves their business from one who is continually overwhelmed and frustrated with their business. Creating strategies and tactics for your business gets you thinking, outlining, prioritizing, and planning for your business success, and then, implementing those plans with purpose and intention. Creating both strategies and tactics usually indicates that you're a business owner focused on growing your business, and not a hobbyist working a business. Make sense?
Many business experts interchange the two words, which doesn't help. A tactic is never a strategy, and a strategy is never a tactic. Most business owners want to simply run their business, and seek out processes and templates to get them on track. The idea of thinking about their business sounds tiresome and overwhelming because thinking isn't doing. And, if you're not doing, you're not moving your business forward. But, a little bit of upfront thinking can do more to get you moving toward success than all the processes and templates combined!
Consider this, you wake up and say, "I want to brighten up my room (GOAL). I think I'll change the color (STRATEGY)." You go to the paint store to select a new color. But, you don't end up with just paint and a brush, right? You need sandpaper, spackle, tape, caulk...the things that will prepare the wall for painting.
Creating both strategies and tactics for your business is the foundational and fundamental layer that will prepare your business for success. Just like the painting example, most of the work and steps involved in transforming a room comes during the prep stage. And, the prep is different based on the strategy you're employing. Having a strategy keeps you focused on the end-game. For instance, if you wanted to brighten the room by changing the accent pieces, or by putting up different window treatments, the steps you would take to reach your goal (brighter room) would be different, right?
Strategies and tactics have different roles to play, and it helps if the business owner really understands this idea, because this understanding is what can minimize the overwhelm and frustration so many business owners experience when running their business.
Simply put, strategies get you working ON your business. Strategies get business owners thinking, planning, and outlining business activities (TACTICS) that need to be done. Strategies require identifying, prioritizing, and outlining a multi-step plan that will move a business owner from where they are now to their end-game (GOAL). So now, instead of thinking processes and templates, you're thinking processes and templates to help you reach your specific goal.
So what is a strategy? It is a plan of action. It's not THE plan - business, marketing, operational, etc. It is a broad stroke, what-are-we-going-to-focus-our-effort-on-now plan.
Every day business owners need to do things in, and for, their business. Overwhelm and frustration creeps in when business owners start doing things that are not in alignment with their goal. Creating strategies for your business helps you align and direct activities so that they're working together, and creating forward motion. A strategy helps you aim your efforts in the right direction.
While there are a lot of different tactics a business owner can implement in their business (I offer a FREE "99 Highly Effective Marketing Tactics" list that shares the different marketing tactics available on my website), there are fewer strategies, so determining a strategy should be an easier place to get started. A strategy addresses the issue of how you want to reach your goal? Some possible questions you would consider include:
You might want to do everything above, but even the most seasoned marketing-savvy business owner cannot. And, if they did? They would end up all over the place, confusing their customers. And remember, a confused mind usually says "No."
The great news about approaching your marketing with a strategy first is that the strategy actually helps you determine which tactics will help you best reach your goal. The strategy determines the tactics. Isn't that freeing?
For instance, creating a strategy that focuses on increasing sales can be accomplished by getting current customers to buy more, or by getting new customers to try your product. The activities you will do to target current customers versus new customers are different. Increasing usage, from having a customer purchase once a month to twice a month, will be different than bringing in new customers to increase your usage stats.
If a goal is your vision, strategies are your focus. A strategy helps you determine how you're going to reach a goal. It is NOT the steps you take to reach your goal.
Tactics are the steps you take to reach a goal. Effective tactics are always defined by a strategy. They are the activities you do to grow sales, build distribution, increase awareness, etc. Tactics are the stuff... social media posts, advertising, networking, promotion, etc. And, the types of activities you can do to build your business and reach your goals are many. They require specificity, intention and purpose. They are actionable. And, they are measurable. The strategy helps align the tactics to give you the best chance of reaching your goal.
You need to do things for your business. Knowing which things will work best to reach your goals, comes from determining a strategy for your goal, and aligning your tactics to that strategy. And note, activities can overlap strategies so making sure you have a well defined strategy helps you execute actions that are aligned with the right combination of content, media and frequency.
Strategies without tactics are maps to nowhere. Tactics without strategies are driving all over the place and getting nowhere. Strategies and tactics combined are a plan with action. Destination in mind...with a clear strategy and tactics to support it, will get you there faster and happier. The strategy is the yellow brick road of marketing!
Easier decision making. For a small business owner, that alone can be the success tip of the day!
Go to www.sweetspotstrategies.com for your "99 Highly Effective Marketing Tactics to Explode Your Business Visibility" Idea Sheet. And please, connect with me on Twitter @mysweetstrategy.
Abigail's goal is simple, build a brand that positions a business as different and unique, then simplify marketing so it can attract the right prospects.