A business strategy is the means by which it sets out to achieve its desired ends (objectives). It can also be defined as long-term business planning that generally covers a period of about 3-5 years.
1. Identify Goals
Before you can start planning, you need to identify what your final objectives are. Establishing business goals involves devoting a fair amount of time to identify your business strengths, weaknesses and all the factors that differentiate your business from your competitors. You might ask yourself questions such as:
- What the business mission and vision are
- What the company is best at
- What type of customers would be interested in your product/service
After answering few questions regarding your business and your potential customer’s identity, you can identify priorities in order to set up goals and objectives, such as:
- Connect your business with the right crowd (potential customers)
- Strengthen what separates your business from your competitors (USP)
- Eliminate obstacles and hurdles that could prevent the business from being successful (keep cash flowing in, optimize the staff time etc…)
- Focus on business growth, customers’ perceived values
Long Term Goals
Long Term Goals should cover a period of 5 years and should include revenue, customer service, social outreach and even employee development.
- Customer Service
- Strengthen your customer service skills (communication, empathy, work ethic)
- Consider every touch-points (before-during-after purchase)
- Engage more (find out about your customers’ interests and problems)
- Better your services (solve problems promptly, answer FAQs, create communities)
- Make your employees engaged in their role
- Allow customers to provide feedback
- Social Outreach
- Increase number of likes and followers
- Increase number of leads and conversions
- Open company pages on additional social media sites
- Employee Development
- Employ professionals in support of the existing team
- Develop the leadership abilities and potential with courses and training
- Align incentives and staff rewards with performance
- Constantly encourage and support a culture of best practices
Short Term Goals
Short term goals should be a reflections of long term goals. For instance, to support long term goals, short term goals could be:
- Increase sales quota by growing the business and/or improving financial efficiency
- Increasing customer retention by promoting offers, new products, discounts to existing customers
- Find channel partners and pitch them. Choose few that could offer different types of advantages: sell your product (distributors), collaborate with you (partnerships) or even allow you to sell their product in combination with yours
- Set-up a launch strategy
- Customer service
- Train your team to get better in their job (for instance, how to tailor customer service)
- Brainstorm with your customer service team to get insights into customers’ feedback
- Create new channels for people to give feedback (phone, email, chat, online)
- Develop new channels to give customers a prompt reply (helplines, social media, website chats)
- Create a balance between work and free time for your employees
- Ensure that there is a way for customers to voice their feedback (online, via text message, on the phone, via mail)
- Social outreach
- Create content that people like to read and share
- Investigate using Google Analytics if people find obstacles in converting (like a poorly designed page)
- Consider new unexplored channels for customer engagement
- Employee Development
- Brain-storm with your team to find out about existing needs
- Consider what type of training your team needs to perform better
- Set-up a rewarding scheme based on performance such as gifts, bonuses and salary raises
- Train your team to learn management skills, anti-bullying practices etc…
No matter what type of goal you are setting up, they need to be SMART, that means that each goal needs to have a structure, been traceable and clear objectives.By setting SMART goals, people can track directions, set milestones and estimate goal’s attainability. Once the goal has been determined, a SMART checklist is a practicable method to evaluate objectives: It clarifies the way goals are achieved and the criteria their realization will conform to.
- Specific: Define what you want to achieve, the more specific your description, the bigger the chance you’ll get exactly that. How to set specific goals:
- The final goal you want to achieve
- The location and the time of the goal
- The methods implemented to achieve this goal
- The partners needed to achieve it
- Eventual obstacles and limitations
- Measurable: Define the physical manifestations of your goal or objective makes it clearer, and easier to reach. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements.
- Attainable: You weigh the effort, time and other costs your goal will take against the profits and the other obligations and priorities you have in life.
- Relevant: Define the reasons why the goal matters. Does the objective help to reach the goal?
- Time Bound: Keep the timeline realistic and flexible. Being too stringent on the timely aspect of your goal setting can have the perverse effect of making the learning path of achieving your goals and objectives into a hellish race against time – which is most likely not how you want to achieve anything.
2. Develop a Strategy
A strategy will help to increase the value of your business. Understanding the business is the first step in order to make those decisions that help the business become more valuable.Based on the long and short term goals, here are few ideas to help you create a better business plan.
- Effort Costs:
- Rate the average difficulty of performing a task (from new members to experienced staff) to deliver each service.
- Rate the skills/experiences needed to complete each service (from basic to complex).
- Rate the average time that each service requires to be completed.
- Consider if the task can be automated. It increases the profit margin as it takes less time to deliver it.
- Business Volume:
- Investigate if your sales follow a specific pathway.
- Investigate if these sales are limited to specific service.
- Identify the services that have:
- The highest margins.
- A growth positive trend in volume and margin.
- Services that can be automated (from previous analysis)
- Cash Flow:
- Make a list of all the unavoidable expenses.
- Make a list of discretionary expenses.
- Make a list of your permanent staff salary.
- Categorize your Customers:
- Identify who they are.
- Divide your customers into defined levels (Value-Loyalty, for instance).
- Assign a monetary return to each category.
- Focus on the customers who are high on both scales.
- Find ways to bring the customers who are low on both scales on a high scale.
- Standardize your Services:
- Identify your services. Provide catalogs and brochures to customers.
- Set up standard procedures so that even new staff can perform them.
- Consider if these services can be repeatable and set at fix costs overtime.
- Consider who long each service takes to be completed/delivered (labor) and how much it costs to the business (material): based on that evidence your final price should be “Cost” + “40-60% of cost”.
- Focus on the services with the highest Business Optimization Potential Score:
- The service price has a high margin.
- There are detailed procedures in place.
- These services can be easily automated.
- The service is considered good value by customers.
- Customer Outreach:
- Investigate if you are marketing the right crowd.
- Investigate if you are marketing your best products/services.
- Investigate if you have the skills/budget to target the right audience.
- Investigate from which channels your best customers come from.
- Investigate how much revenue comes from each channel.
- Allocation of tasks:
- Rate each task in terms of complexity.
- Rate each task in terms of time.
- Rate each tasks in terms of skill sets.
- Based on the results consider if:
- Each task is performed by the most appropriate team member.
- Some tasks can be outsourced.
- Some tasks require more experienced individuals.
- Some tasks can be performed by younger members.
- Your services prices and margins need to be reviewed.
- Consider outsourcing options and if they will save time, efforts and costs.
- Consider if the staff will be release of minor time-consuming tasks.
- Consider even virtual outsourcing options.
3. Conclusion and Future Plan
Based on the previous analysis, the final price of a single service/item should be based on the initial cost plus the average cost of the time spent by the staff delivering it. In order to make a profit, the Revenue should be the minimum amount a service/product should be charged after taking into consideration its total cost. In order to make the process more efficient, consider if:
- Your services can be charged more due to their constant demand
- The delivery process has become automated and therefore open for a cost reduction
This means that first-time assessed services might have become more or less profitable after this further analysis. Therefore, services that show an increase of sale volume (due to the constant demand) and sale margin (because they can be automated), are now those services your business should focus on. Consider if certain tasks could be outsourced to save you and your staff time and money. In order to make the service delivering system automated and more efficient, consider if you could find new ways to promote Employee Development. In specific, to avoid micro-managing your time, you should dedicate your energy only to those tasks that require your input, while leaving those tasks that could be perform by less experienced members to the junior staff. This could give you multiple advantages:
- Save yourself time to perform only the required tasks
- Save money by letting someone on a cheaper salary perform such tasks
- Give junior staff new opportunities of career advancement
Therefore the Customer Services that will deliver the most consistent revenue, are those that:
- Deliver the most consistent business flow in the long run (even if they are not the most expensive services or products that your business offers).
- Can be easily automated and/or outsourced saving time and energy to your staff.
- Have standard procedures in place making their performance easy even to new staff members.
- Have been optimized by a Social Outreach:
- Digital marketing effort provide a constant revenue
- Social media channels offer a more direct interaction with your customers
Based on the conclusion outlined, it is time to develop a business goal timeline, which identifies the things that the business wants to achieve in a specific time frame. For each goal, you need to write down all the steps that need to be taken and assign at each step a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly time-frame.This plan need to include the business owner and the primary staff members. Start by being more detailed when you assign the tasks to avoid people from drifting away from the set goal. Review your plan on a weekly with your staff members to make sure that everyone is on the same page and on a monthly basis to to plan ahead the objectives of the following month. Finally, review the entire plan every 6-12 months to make sure your plan is still optimized.