By: R. Lynn Burkholder
A strategic plan is important to every business because it serves as a road map—determining the destination and anticipating opportunities, obstacles, and resources along the way. Without a clearly defined strategic plan, business owners likely are not able to share their vision with the people who are in a position to either help or hinder them from achieving that plan: their employees.
A strategic plan answers some fundamental questions, including:
- Why does the business exist?
- Who are its competitors?
- How it will remain competitive?
- How it will be financed?
- What will happen to the profits?
From a marketing standpoint, a strategic plan:
- Defines and assesses the market for its products.
- Identifies the value the business brings to customers.
- Determines how the business’ value should be communicated to current and prospective customers.
The strategic planning process, if done properly, results in a dynamic road map that answers all of the above questions. The process begins with a close look at the business, including a summary of the market for its products, its current status in the market, and how it got there. Based on this information, the plan then determines financial and other measurable objectives; its organizational structure and customer profiles; and the product, pricing, sales, and marketing strategies and tactics necessary to attract customers, build loyalty, and achieve company objectives. Finally, the plan includes an estimated budget that projects revenue and expenses and a timeline for implementation. Without these last two pieces, the plan may get filed away and never to see the light of day.
Once the plan is completed, it can then be shared with employees, investors, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
Strategic plans are not set in stone; they should be evaluated periodically and revised based on current and anticipated conditions. Revisiting the plan frequently results in a more focused, enlightened, and motivated team that is managing the business.
It is never too late to plan for the future. While it is an investment of time, strategic planning doesn’t have to be expensive and it can actually save money because it gives the business a viable tool that allows it to work more effectively and efficiently. It is an investment in the future—one that is too often overlooked.
R. Lynn Burkholder is president of RLB Marketing LLC, a business development firm specializing in strategic planning for the hospitality, entertainment, travel, and professional services industry.