5 Steps for Strategic Planning: A Proven Guide to Successful Business Growth
22.03.2018

5 Steps for Strategic Planning: A Proven Guide to Successful Business Growth

Marketing
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It’s unlikely that there is a single business owner out there who doesn’t ponder over their business growth. It seems everything is running smoothly you have a great team, working efficiently and offering good ideas. All looks alright, but something is missing.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your business is close to making a breakthrough, but there’s just one more little step to be made? Have you ever been puzzled over what exactly the thing that your business needs is? More information, knowledge, or, maybe, ideas? None of them.

I’m sure that as a business owner, you already have an impressive bunch of “will-definitely-work-out” ideas and to-do lists, waiting for their turn to be applied. Most likely you have too many projects and ideas and only one problem - how to get them all done at the highest possible level. Right?

So, you have an impressive list of half-a-hundred development strategies. Kudos! But it’s clear as day that you ought to stop generating theoretical plans, finally choose one of them and implement it as efficiently as possible.  

Image source: QuoStar

As a company, Global Database had experienced sharp growth from 3 to 40+ people, then to the 130+ employees that we have now. As you can imagine, we faced a lot of problems in the process, like total confusion over strategy and time and money wasting with no return. It became apparent that it's all too easy to get distracted by a seemingly brilliant idea and enthusiastically recruit a bunch of people to implement it, but it’s so difficult to actually achieve the result that was expected… The main conclusion we made after overcoming all the mess:  no amount of money or talent will grow your business unless you have a good system in place; one based on wise prioritisation and efficient implementation.

Through our own struggles, we’ve worked out a set of guidelines to help focus on what is really important and efficiently implement the chosen strategy in  to prioritise business growth.
 

Step 1: Focus on a Single Goal

Focus on one goal at a time. Devote your team’s efforts to it and don’t touch the next target until you’re done with the first..Avoid simultaneous projects -make your team a single-tasking one. Once this is the case, you can expect decent results.

So why are consecutive goals much more efficient than doing things simultaneously? Well, when focusing on one project at a time you can devote 100% of your time and attention to it, while concurrent projects destroy concentration and cause prioritisation troubles. While multi-tasking might seem the most efficient way of doing things  in reality it’s not the case – studies show that multi-tasking can cause multiple errors and reduce productivity by as much as 40%.

Multitasking within a group of coworkers all too often leads to problems such as miscommunication, poor work quality and missed deadlines, dragging your business to the bottom. Trying to combine numerous tasks at a time takes a person three times longer to focus on each of them, thus wasting too much time to have grounds to expect good results.  

Don’t make the mistake of setting different goals for every team member. And when I say “goals” I don’t mean something visionary and big like "become the №1 company on the market", because, of course, the work of your entire company must be dedicated to this primary goal. I’m talking about realistic, small and clear tasks, achievable in adequate time, like increasing conversions, growing your email list or reducing client refunds.

The multitasking “ban” should involve the whole team. Thus you can avoid the mediocre results and in-fighting between employees, making different but interdependent tasks. After all, your major goal is to grow your business, so you have to eliminate such obstacles as competing agendas of your team members.

Guess what your business results are going to be when it’s driven by a team  torn between several simultaneous tasks? Hint: It’s not good. This is the main reason for the Scrum and Agile project management and working in sprints to increasingly gain popularity within teams of every size.

Image source: Claire Shi blog

They get their project completed faster and of a higher quality using it. And so does the Global Database team; otherwise, I wouldn’t be advising it to you.

 

Step 2: Watch Out for Good Ideas

Too many good ideas can lead your business to failure rather than one bad idea. This might sound weird, but you’ll see why it’s true in a moment.

It goes something like this: there are too many nice, interesting, brilliant ideas, be that a successful campaign, competitors’ insight or a performing tactic. And you’re chasing them, enchanted by their shiny potential results. You don’t want to ignore any of them, but you’re not able to implement them simultaneously.

The bad ideas can be regarded as a gift because when we try something that doesn’t work, we quickly abandon it and move forward with something else. Saves quite a lot of time, doesn’t it?

Remember what we talked about in the previous step? You should choose a single goal and focus on it: no multitasking, no multiple-projects race. This is a challenge for your determination to follow the sequential-tasks strategy of your business growth.

So don’t panic, there’s no need to give up the good ideas you have. You just need to correctly organise and prioritise them.

How to Systematize Your Ideas (only the good ones, remember? :))

A four-column table, containing the four primary “growth levers”, could be of use here. It has to be a centralised place for all your good ideas, available for the whole team, be that on a whiteboard or in a shared Google Sheet. See how it looks and what the meaning of each of the levers is:

Acquisition

(Getting new leads)

Activation

(Converting your existing leads into customers)

Monetization

(Increasing the average order value of your current customers)

Retention

(Reducing refunds and churn rate)

       

Now take your ideas one by one and put them into the appropriate columns, regardless of whether they apply to marketing, product, sales or any other aspect of your business.

Acquisition

Activation

Monetization

Retention

- Test Instagram Stories campaign

- Issue a press-release

- Test new landing page opt-in form

- Test free trial vs a product demo

- Platform “how-to” video guide

- Platform onboarding email campaign

- Launch new feature

- Test new cold-calling script

- Upsell unclaimed services

- Test fixed vs individually tailored price

- Company decline audit

- Hire a person to work with declines and cancellations

- Decline recovery series

There are two major benefits of writing all of your ideas down in one place:

  1. Organising and prioritising your ideas in a way that makes it easy to focus on each of them from a growth perspective.

  1. Keeping track of the ideas that randomly occur in your head, preventing you from becoming overwhelmed. This helps free up some mental space, getting the whole bunch of thoughts out of your head and down on paper.

Focus on a single column for a certain period

You can significantly influence your business growth when making a massive improvement in one part of it, not improving 1-2% in a dozen different areas.

For example, say you decided to focus on the Acquisition column for the next quarter. Ensure there’s 100% concentration on it and ignore the Activation, Monetization and Retention ideas for a certain period of time.

Acquisition

- Test Instagram Stories campaign

- Issue a press-release

- Test new landing page opt-in form

Go on with the next step - prioritise the ideas from the Activation tab using the ICE score, where:

I is for Impact:

If the idea will minimally impact your business, you should rate it 1, while one that could potentially boost growth in a big way should be rated 10.

 

C is for Confidence:

How sure are you that the idea will lead to improvement? If it’s worked well before, give it a score of 9-10. If this is just your assumption, not supported by any facts, the score shouldn’t be more than 2.

 

E is for Ease:

Would it be easy to implement this idea, given the time and effort that should be spent on it? The harder the implementation, the lower the score.

You should measure these 3 indicators on a 1-10 scale together with your whole team; everyone should have an input.   

The ICE Framework has a huge team-building advantage here: nobody feels like his ideas are neglected, due to the full transparency of the process of ideas selection and implementation.
 

Step 3: Prefer Sprints to Marathons.

It has long been proven that both individuals and teams and entire companies are more efficient when the work is organised in the form of short periods of full intensive immersion into a project, followed by periods of rest. This is based on the fact that evolutionally a human body isn’t designed for long, exhausting marathons, and neither are our minds.

Organising your work in sprints can have a significant positive influence on your business growth. So gather your team, choose an idea for implementation during the next week sprint, clear the calendar and schedule your actions in this particular project context.

Image source: Design Sprint School

 

5 Important Sprints Outcomes

1. Give you a push to start.

When you encounter a big problem, you don’t really know how to approach it, or where to begin. Sprints can serve as an excellent commitment tool. When you discuss the specific project with your team, perform market research, map the most important steps and introduce them in your calendar, you commit to the progress of your cause. Thus you make a start that gives an understanding of the direction and the pace you will follow.

2.  Move you from hypothetical to tangible.

Avoid the most common mistake of many projects - don’t get carried away with abstract theories and extended discussions of unnecessary details. If an abstract question causes you anxiety, run a sprint on it, dividing it into more concrete parts and answer them one by one quickly to get your solution. The process of performing the sprint itself systemises the information you have, your thoughts and ideas and gets you to the result.

3. Keep you concentrated on the essential things.

It’s so easy to get distracted by the external noise, colleagues’ small talk and minor events happening around you, that you can easily lose sight of really important issues. This is the reason for sprints to start with a day, entirely devoted to identifying the problem and determine its components. Thus your team will get an overall understanding of the challenge and be able to choose the right thing to turn their attention to.

4. Fuel the precise decision-making.

Unfortunately, the decision-making process in most businesses is quite long and hard, indecisive and lacking in transparency about how choices are made. Here’s an example of how a sprint can solve this problem...

The Slack management pondered between two radically different marketing strategies. The CEO preferred a more unique approach, that was hard to implement. The other one was opposed to his choice - wanting something more traditional, but easier to realise. The Slack team had two apparent options: get bogged down by endless discussions of the pros and cons of both approaches, or just give in to the CEO’s opinion. However, there was a third option that ensured they didn’t lose out: they made a one-week sprint to create and test both strategies. The customers’ test, performed on Friday, showed that the conventional marketing had a much better result.  

5. Facilitate rapid follow-up.

Besides the many achievements during each sprint, your team will get the most important thing - the confidence that you are on the right track. This feeling is an inexhaustible resource of inspiration and motivation.

Sprints work for teams of any size and help you get started, stay focused and make quick and precise decisions. They perfectly match with the consecutive goals style of project management and together form one successive cycle after another.

Step 4: Organize your work in cycles

This way of work is the most natural one. The whole life is organised in cycles: seasons that are repeated from year to year, 5 working and 2 recovery days per week, constant change of the times of the day and, respectively, from sleepy to vigorous and productive, and back to sleepy…

So it looks like the cycle approach to the project implementation makes sense for business growth. When we’re talking about launching a project, there are

5 cycles of project implementation

  1. Learn

  2. This cycle is intended for you to learn the basics to direct your project implementation correctly. Since you already know what your challenge is, you’re going to dig for precisely the knowledge you need for its realisation. This is much more productive than learning everything in one go, in the hope that something will come in handy at some point.

  3. Implement

  4. It’s time to act. After all the manuals read, webinars attended, and white papers collected, you have to put all the knowledge gathered during the first cycle into action and start implementing it for the good of your cause.

  5. Celebrate

  6. In this cycle we’re not talking about celebrating the results, it’s too early. But a human psychologically needs encouragement for his or her efforts. So after you implement your project, just take a moment to praise yourself and your team for the work you’ve done, the things you’ve learned, and the actions you’ve taken to grow your business.

  7. Optimize

  8. Relatively fast implementation has its gaps that need to be covered and bugs to be fixed. This cycle is the ideal time to take a couple of steps back and improve what you’ve already implemented, according to the clients’ and team feedback and other tests results. In the end, you’ll get a product, perfectly adjusted to your customers’ needs and the situation on the market.

  9. Rest / Repeat

  10. The last cycle is crucial for each implementation process. This is the time for you to take some rest, recharge your batteries and prepare for the next project. You have to gather some strength for an energetic future start.

The well-known digital marketing agency and academy DigitalMarketer finds the 12-week cycles really productive for two reasons:

Here’s what the DigitalMarketer 12-week cycle looks like:

The DigitalMarketer 12-Week Season

 

Step 5: Use Marketing Automation

Generally, marketing automation is about optimisation not only for marketing purposes but for all aspects of a business; from your staff’s time to your sales team focus.  

So what’s in marketing automation for business?

Reduce your costs for staff.

When correctly tuned, marketing automation software can empower a single employee to compete with a 50-person marketing and sales department. Sounds too good to be true? If you run automatically triggered lead nurturing and marketing campaigns, based on certain criteria, for a few months, you’ll be able to send thousands of personalised emails every day.

But remember, it’s essential to set up the campaigns correctly, choose the right targets and think over everything in detail, or else this will just end up being a waste of time and money.

Increase revenue and average check

Your customer lifetime value can be increased by automating up-sells, cross-sells and customer follow-ups. Your ROI in turn can be improved when you use a combination of these actions with better lead management and prioritisation.

Boost the transparency of your marketing and sales processes

Marketing automation helps you easily detect the bottlenecks of your business processes, clearly defining them and giving an overall view of the sales and marketing pipeline.Marketing funnel

Image source: Venture Harbour

 

When the marketing department cannot get at least a few dozen sales-qualified prospects from thousands of potential leads, it will immediately receive feedback that it has to improve its lead-nurturing campaigns.

The system of feedback reduces touch discussions and improves the accountability of each company departments.

Improve your efficiency

Your resources to grow the business are always limited, no matter the size of the team. Marketing automation allows you get the most out of what you have.

Become more creative.

The less repetitive work you have, the more open your mind is to new ideas and creative tasks. Leave the routine to the automation and focus on creation. Thus you’ll prevent your staff from losing motivation.

If the lead qualification process and marketing automation software set up, necessary for productive marketing campaigns, looks too complicated and time-consuming, there is another option. You can always use a service that makes your life easier and your campaigns more efficient. The Global Database business directory fuels your sales and marketing pipeline with handpicked and humanly qualified leads, one step ahead of becoming your clients.
 

To sum up...

It’s evident that a business owner needs to make a clear, thought-out plan and follow it  carefully to grow the business. We at Global Database crafted the above described 5-steps plan from the variety of methods and strategies, that exist out there, to grow our project, and we did it. Now we can advise you to do the same, using a proven approach that will help with its implementation.

To see the Global Database platform in action and learn how it can boost your business growth, visit us at www.GlobalDatabase.com     

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