Strategic Imperative

It’s October, which means budget time. This is the month where we combine the last drive to deliver the the current year target with the drafting of strategies for the coming year.

Most established businesses have their templates and formats. But as heads bend to the task it’s surprising to note how small some ambitions can be. If you’re business has incremental objectives based on last year, you are already in the trap. The trap that predicates eventual disappointment.

You see, great strides are never made without bold thinking. Some business gurus advise you to practise ‘disruption’ – to have the determination to break category norms. McDonald’s was an early disruptive brand. Long before Ronald, the business made the decision to feed customers without cutlery. This allowed for significant cost reductions in service delivery.  McDonalds exploited this by presenting customers with a new kind of behaviour: eating food quickly and without frills. It took some time to take root. But these days High Court judges, clergymen, businesswomen and members of the the disciplined forces are all equally at home ordering food standing up; eating it sitting (briefly) down; then clearing their waste into the bins provided.

Yes, disruption is a great thing.  But be careful that it doesn’t become an end in itself.Many brands enjoy success simply by being very clear about their intentions. We call this having a Brand Purpose. And it’s most important that this is based on consensus. Business owners and senior managers must agree the direction. Then find a motivating way of communicating it to employees. Failure to do this properly means that the strategy will not be operationalised. The brand won’t deliver on its promises. This happens far more often that we like to admit. And it’s around this time of year that the dread realisation occurs.

I believe that a good strategy starts with a winning ambition. You should decide what your brand is going to win at next year. Think through what this will mean for your customers before you rush to the bottom line. If winning brings customer benefit, money will follow.

Next review your playing field. Where will you operate? Which competitors will you unsettle? What channels will you use to talk to the market? Here, you should learn from past mistakes and successes.

This prepares you to think about how you will win. What is the unique combination of product and service delivery that will power you to success? What new things will you offer; and which will you discard?

Remember, business is both about choosing what to do and what not to do.

 

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside in Africa

 

www.thebrandinside.com

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