Many organizations treat strategic planning either as a necessary evil or as a financial exercise that’s done once a year. This presents an opportunity for all marketers who may or may not have a seat at the planning table today.
Strategic planning should be a never-ending process, not a single event. If a muscle doesn’t get exercised regularly, it gets weak and flabby, and the planning muscle is no different.
I like to think of strategic planning as a year long effort that starts in January or February, and finishes when the executive team involves the board in November or December. It should start out broadly at the beginning of the year, with executives and managers carefully assessing the environment for challenges, opportunities and new ideas. You want to both look in the rearview mirror and peer as far as you can through the windshield. The year should also begin with a healthy dose of looking in the mirror, or self-assessment. As the year unfolds, the planning process narrows gradually like a funnel, and by late summer and early fall, executives and management are working together to determine what the strategic priorities will be, and what programs and tactics will be implemented to achieve them.
If your organization doesn’t start planning until later in the year, that presents a unique opportunity for you to insert yourself in the process and create a significant role for yourself. Peter Drucker’s Five Questions provides an excellent framework for looking in the mirror, and I’ve had success using it to link marketing to strategic planning in the eyes of the CEO and CFO. How? Just look at the questions!
- What is our mission?
- Who is our customer?
- What does the customer value?
- What are our results?
- What is our plan?
The first three questions are in essence marketing questions. Your mission is your organization’s purpose and reason for being. Marketing already plays a key role in communicating it, and it should be intertwined with your brand purpose and internal and external brand position, all of which you drive.
The decision of who your target customer(s) is and understanding what they value is the bullseye of what your marketing team does. That’s what drives your ability to come up with unique, relevant and differentiating products and value propositions that win in the market. Having anyone but you leading the charge to answer those questions is sheer marketing heresy!
While these questions seem beguilingly simple, I guarantee they will generate hours of heated debate among your executive team. They will also give you and your team ample opportunity to introduce customer research and “Voice of The Customer” into the discussion, which empowers the executive team to gravitate from the “sample size of one” debate, where no common ground is found, to a customer insight-led discussion where true insight and action can flow.
Now is the time to begin this discussion with your executive team. Let me know how it goes! Schedule a consultation with Mark today by clicking on the link below.