What’s In a Strategic Plan?

What is “strategic” business planning?

In order to start or grow your business, it’s best to plan ahead by setting your goals and creating a method to achieve them. However, if you want the best chance of success, you have to be strategic about it.

What does being “strategic” mean in this context?

For business owners, being strategic means that you consider all aspects of your business before taking action. You’re not simply making decisions based on your gut instinct. There has to be a vital reason behind what you’re doing, and it needs to have a positive influence on your business years into the future. 

Contents of a strategic plan

When you create your business plan for starting up, scaling up, or planning for exit, you can make it strategic by including the following:

Business overview

You have to know your business like the back of your hand. If you don’t understand your business, it would be difficult to know what you have to do to make it thrive. Making an overview puts into words your identity and purpose. 

You can start off by determining your business’s mission and vision. A mission summarises what you’re doing to serve your customers. A vision, on the other hand, is what you want your business to become in the future. Both of these can already give you and your members a sense of direction. 

Dedicate some time to talk about your products and services too. Fully grasping its features and benefits will prove to be helpful when you’re comparing them with competitors or thinking of ways to market them later on. 

Don’t forget to include a value proposition as well. This statement encapsulates the unique selling point of your business and what it’s all about. When you have one early into planning, you can create campaigns that highlight your value proposition to customers directly. 

Situational review and analysis

An in-depth review and analysis are the bulk of what makes your plan strategic. Gathering relevant data and information will allow you to study your business environment comprehensively. You’ll also be able to make smarter calls when it comes to your goals and strategies. 

The key to this is conducting internal and external research for different aspects of your business. Getting a strategic review done with the support of business experts can help speed up the process. Utilising tools such as SWOT Analysis and PESTEL Analysis will also come in handy for this part. 

SWOT Analysis asks you to list your business’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as your external opportunities and threats. When you see all of these plotted side-by-side, you’ll be able to analyse your situation better. You might be able to identify opportunities you can turn into strengths or weaknesses and threats you could minimise. 

PESTEL Analysis studies the external environment more while considering how it affects your business and its industry. PESTEL stands for political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal. For each one, you have to list relevant factors that could potentially have a positive or negative impact on your business. 

You should also do market research and competitor analysis to get a more detailed understanding of your customers and the competition out there. When you know how you stand in your customers’ eyes and against other brands, you’ll be able to develop better targeted marketing strategies and tactics.

Strategic direction and objectives

After a thorough study, you’ll be equipped with the necessary information to figure out your next steps — the first one being your strategic direction

Given your knowledge now of your business and industry, what’s the best way for you to move forward? Asking this question will help you shape your strategic direction. It’s crucial to commit to a clear path, as this gives your plan a structure and foundation for your objectives, strategies, and tactics

Speaking of objectives, these should be next on your to-do list. While you may have a strategic direction, you still have to ensure you’re on the right track the rest of the way. Setting specific and achievable targets is an effective way for you to progress and get closer to your business goal. 

Action plans

Many different teams will help you run your company and implement the business plan. You’ll have people in charge of finances, product development, manpower, and many more. It’ll be confusing if you only have one action plan that everyone should follow.

In order to be strategic with your overall execution, create detailed action plans for each department. This means creating a marketing plan for your marketing team, a sales plan for your sales team, and so on. This way, you customise your objectives and strategies to their respective functions accordingly. 

Monitoring guide and metrics

Being strategic doesn’t stop in the planning stage. It’s a continuous process so that your business remains efficient and competitive.

When you create your plan, include a guide on how you’ll monitor your business performance later on. What are the signs that you’re meeting the standards or falling below expectations? Who are the people responsible for the different key performance indicators you’ve set?

It’s also important to already determine how you’ll measure performance. Will you be looking at the number of sales generated or the profit earned within a period? What metrics will you look at to determine your business growth after finishing a project?

Top tips

Answer the questions “where,” “how,” and “why”.

A strategic plan has a vision, a plan, and a reason. You can check this by asking these simple questions: 

  • Where do you want your business to go?
  • How will you get there?
  • Why is that the best direction and way to go?

If you can give substantial answers to these, then you’re on your way to developing a strong business plan.

Data and tools are keys to success

If you look at the contents of a strategic plan again, there’s significance in using data and tools. They can provide you with facts and evidence to support your decisions. It can also minimise risks and mistakes along the way.   

A number of tools were mentioned above to help you get started. However, don’t limit yourself to just those. There are several other strategy analysis tools that can help you grow and understand your business. 

Work with your team and experts

It’s a good move to involve your team members during strategic growth planning. They have their own perspective of the business, so they can make meaningful insights and suggestions. It also makes your strategy more holistic with all the insights coming from various departments. 

You can also consider working with experts to ensure that you’re crafting the best possible plan for your business. Boardroom Advisors has Fractional Directors who can work part-time for your business and provide the strategic advice you need. They also have tried-and-tested knowledge from their experience in growing several businesses before.

Contact your Regional Director of Boardroom Advisors

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran seven of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.