Archive for the ‘Strategic Planning’ Category

Planning for Certain Uncertainty

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
© Solarseven | Dreamstime.com

© Solarseven | Dreamstime.com

You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect, where the beating of a butterfly’s wings sets off a chain of countless small reactions until you’ve got a hurricane on your hands. That’s the economy for you – an incredibly complex web of tiny causes and huge effects. It’s difficult to predict what the world will look like three, six, or twelve months out.

Given all that uncertainty, any minute-to-minute plan you carve in stone is doomed to fail. The move from Step 5 to Step 6 that seemed so logical and inevitable in January may be suicide in July, once the economy has shaken the ground beneath your feet a few times. What you need is a constant reassessment and reorientation to the end results you want, coupled with the skills to adapt and adjust your strategies as the world turns. And churns.

So when you meet later this year to plan your company’s strategic direction, put away that chisel. Instead, define the targets you intend to keep in your sights and build the shared commitment to reach them.

Be strategic. Speaking of your strategic plan, you might just want to put some…you know…strategies in it. You think I’m kidding? The fact is, if you were severely allergic to strategies, I could fill a swimming pool with the strategic plans of typical banks and throw you in, and you wouldn’t get so much as a SNIFFLE. Why? Because most strategic plans are scoured clean of strategies.

They might have goals—yes, lots of them seem to have goals. There may be some initiatives, too, or tactics. And fonts, and margins. But without strategies, world-class results will be something you read about in headlines about the other guy.

Be specific. Vague wandering in the general direction of results will get you vague and general results. Instead, create a plan that zeroes in on the results you expect with glistening, crackling clarity, and build in follow-through templates, making sure that everyone is aligned through weekly check-ins.

Be systematic. Good intentions are swell. A good start on your plan of action is peachy. But you will never connect the dots between Point A and Point Z unless you put a system in place. Not a system that is written up and forgotten, but one that you return to every week for realignment and one that is integrated into every employee’s quarterly plan.

These elements of a successful plan—strategies, precision, and a drum-tight system—are all optional. So is success. But if you choose to follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to the kind of success that will have your old-school competitors running for their silver bullets. Let ‘em run—you’ve got things to do—and an uncertain world in which to do them. Best to have a flexible, dynamic plan to meet that challenge.

It’s Self-Evident: All USPs are NOT Created Equal

Saturday, December 12th, 2009
© Juliafreeman | Dreamstime.com

© Juliafreeman | Dreamstime.com

So you’ve got the message.  You know that marketing today is not about blending in to some industry norm—it’s about standing out.  You’re looking for a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, something that will get the customers flocking your way.

Unique is important, but is unique the only thing that counts?  Are all USPs created equal?  Not by a long shot.

A USP can be based on almost anything if it makes you visible and appealing:  location, hours, price, product approach, celebrity endorsements, delivery approach, you name it.  But go back and read that IF clause.  If it doesn’t make you visible AND appealing, it may be unique, but it ain’t a USP.

So what makes for a good USP?

It matters to the customer.  Maybe yours is the only bank in town whose president is a Capricorn.  Maybe you’ve got the only rotary-dial phones in the Tri-State area.  Bully for you.  But does it make you visible?  Does it make you appealing?  If not, keep looking.  Find out what matters to your customers, and be that thing.  “Open ’til 10 p.m. on weekends” might sound like a snoozer—until you find out that’s just what your customers were waiting for.  Then it’s a USP.

It’s dramatic.  Not all USPs are dramatic, but if you can find one that is, you’re home free.  Learn what your customers hope for, yearn for, ache for—and give it to them.  The slogan “Federal Express—when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” spoke directly to the desperate hopes of sweating middle managers everywhere.  When Club Med called itself “the antidote for civilization,” countless millions sighed and reached for air margaritas.

It’s definable, explicit, and absolutely free of fluff.  I’ve never met a fluffy USP that was worth a nickel.  Say something REAL.  Say something CLEAR.  When Dominos promised “fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed,” they had themselves an explicit, clear USP that put millions of pizzas into millions of Americans.  Don’t tell me about your 24 years in the business.  Don’t bother me with “competitive rates.”  I don’t sit up nights yearning to give my business to a company with a few more years of experience or (please!) rates that are (pfft!) “competitive.”  Give me something solid and I just might bite.

Bottom line:  The best USPs solve real problems that real people have.  I remember the first time I saw an ad for a toothbrush with that ridged rubber grip on it.  Is this a real problem?  I thought.  Are people everywhere struggling with the problem of toothbrushes flying across the room in mid-stroke?  I somehow doubt it.  Listen carefully to you current clients.  Listen even more carefully to your prospective clients.  And when you find out what they really need, what they dream of, what they yearn for, you’ll have your marching orders—and you’ll have your USP.

TGIM e-Zine: May 4, 2009

Monday, May 4th, 2009

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Issue 24 Topics Include: READ NOW

  • Formula for a Successful Implementation
  • Kick-Butt Implementation Plans
  • A Suitcase Full of Faith – Roxanne Recommends

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Just Say NO to “YES” Men

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Ever dream of being surrounded by people who always tell you just what you want to hear?  Think that would be a pretty sweet deal, do ya?

If so, President Kennedy would like a word with you. (more…)

Moments of Truth: Measuring Where it Matters Most

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

You can’t monitor and audit every tiny facet of your business, or you won’t have time to run the business.  So where does execution matter most?  It matters most in the critical moments I call Moments of Truth—the moments where execution can mean the difference between success and failure.

Moments of Truth are those critical times when a customer forms an impression of you, deciding whether your offerings and their standards see eye-to-eye.  Though they vary from industry to industry and business to business, every business has them. (more…)