We too often focus on delivering solutions and not enough time discovering and defining the right problem to solve. Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” Einstein realized that the answer often lies within the question asked– if you are asking the right question, that is.
Strategic planning involves two main components: first, you must get the right idea; second, you must get the idea right.
We’ll cover how to get the right idea through:
1) Discovering the problem
2) Defining the problem
Then we will take a look at getting the idea right by:
1) Developing the solution
2) Delivering the solution
We will take a look at company-level strategic planning. It’s within this top-level framework that all departments and individual roles can be strategically addressed. With that said, let’s dive in!
Step 1: Discover the Problem
Of all the problems in the world to solve, which one are you choosing to solve? Just like Einstein, discovering and defining the problem to solve is where you will spend the majority of your time. And who doesn’t want to be a little more like that guy?
So where do you start? Inscribed in the Greek Temple of Apollo is a phrase that holds the key to strategic planning step one. Originally uttered by the philosopher Plato, the phrase reads, “Know Thyself.”
If you were to backtrack through a strategic plan by incessantly asking “why?” You will eventually arrive at the simple acknowledgment, “because that’s who we are.”
But what comprises who you are? How do you get there? And what does that look like?
One simple word. Brand. We like to throw that word around a lot, but seriously, what does it mean? Here’s a wonderful example adapted from Chris Do.
I’m a great cook. That’s marketing
Rrring Rrring. Hello? Who is this? I’m Brian and I’m a great cook. That’s telemarketing.
I’m a great cook. I’m a great cook. I’m a great cook! That’s advertising.
Trust me. He’s a great cook. That’s public relations.
I understand you’re a great cook. That’s branding.
It’s definitely a process to have someone say what you want them to say from their own point of belief. Marty Neumeier, who wrote the Brand Gap said, “While we can’t control the process, we can influence it.”
So how do you influence it?
We break the foundation of a brand (aka knowing who you are) into 3 distinct areas that converge to form the basis of belief, both for your employees and for your customers.
They are the 3 P’s:
1) your Purpose
2) your Promise
3) your Position
These 3 P’s work together to form the foundation of a solid brand that can deliver its message consistently and cohesively. And there is a difference in those words. Consistency answers the question, “Does it appear the same?” whereas cohesion answers the question, “Does it belong?” By defining these 3 key points, you can step beyond mere consistency and venture into delivering a cohesive, strategic and intentional plan.
This is your why. Why do you exist? What change are you trying to affect in the world? You can also look at defining your purpose by seeing it in terms of relationships or commitments.
Hannah Arendt put it beautifully when she said, “Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises, we would never be able to achieve the amount of identity and continuity which together produces a ‘person’ about whom a story can be told.” Feel free to substitute ‘person’ for ‘company.’
Identity is never formed alone, but always as a committed relationship to something or someone we serve.
In David Brooks book The Second Mountain, he reports that in 2007 Gallup performed a survey asking people from around the world if they felt they were living meaningful lives. The results were not what you might expect. He wrote,
“It turns out that Liberia was the country where the most people felt a sense of meaning and purpose, while the Netherlands was the place where the lowest percentage of people did... This is not because life was necessarily sweeter in Liberia. On the contrary. But Liberians possessed what Paul Froese calls ‘existential urgency.’ They were willing to risk their lives for one another. And these fierce commitments gave their lives a sense of meaning...In a crisis, we are compelled to hold closely to one another in ways that actually meet our deepest needs.”
We are not living in times of privilege currently. These questions should be at the core of how we are defining ourselves, our purpose, and our strategies moving forward.
Your company statement or vision
A company mission statement is a great way to convey your purpose. If you have one, revisit it. If you don’t, ask the questions posed in this article to begin discovering your purpose. Consider how your company vision relates to the vision of your department. Do you have a department vision? How does your department vision relate to each role in it? Everyone in your organization should have a clear purpose for being there.
Typically, a company statement is an action-oriented vision of the goals an organization has in relation to its audience. It will include the company’s purpose, description, and goals and is the framework through which all strategies are born. We’ve seen good ones; we’ve seen not so good ones, but all should be aimed at providing a reason for your audience to believe.
Keep in mind that every company has at least 2 audiences: your external audience (aka your customers) and your internal audience (your employees). Do both of these audiences understand your vision and how you approach it? Do they know their place in your mission statement? Do you have the tools to understand what they are saying and feeling? And do they believe?
As Simon Sinek put it:
We agree with Simon. Just as we observe in nature, a sunflower doesn’t produce a rose. An unbelieving employee doesn’t produce a believing customer.
At Nuvi, our purpose is to close the gap between enterprise companies and their audience. It’s up to every leader to convey that vision after first believing in it.
Your promise is easily derived from your purpose. What will your audience come to expect from you in every interaction? In other words, we’re talking about customer experience. How will your customers experience your brand? Just as your purpose is understood in terms of relationships and commitments, your promise is understood by whether that commitment is fulfilled. Here’s a great formula for determining that.
Consistency over time breeds trust. Trust over time breeds loyalty. Are you experiencing a lack of customer loyalty in your brand? Lower customer loyalty is merely a byproduct of a lack of trust or poor reputation, which is really the result of inconsistently delivering on your brand promise.
The question now is how do you fulfill your purpose and deliver your brand promise consistently?
Step 2: Define the Problem
In essence, your position is how you approach your purpose. Your position refers to how you stand out in your chosen market you compete in. Think of this as your strengths or what makes you unique among those around you. Again, you are thinking in terms of relationships here. For your position, you are interested in how you relate to the competition not only in your offering, but also in how customers view you versus others in your market.
There are two types of research involved with defining your position:
- Unsolicited (potential customers)
- Solicited (current customers)
Think about this research as tapping into your potential customer audience. Unsolicited feedback is where you’ll find great insights about yourself and your competitors because, remember, brand is what people say about you.
For example, our client 24 Fingers recently posted a blog article entitled The 10 Best Collaboration Tools in which they mentioned us (Thanks 24 Fingers!) The way they formatted the article is a great example to show how a brand promise is interpreted from the client perspective.
Here’s what they said:
They say: Listen, Plan, Publish, Engage, Analyze, Locate, Review, and Capture to create better experiences for your audience.
We say: You know that software you wanted that told you what was trending on social media and it showed you the movers and shakers in your industry and what platform they’re on, and when they post, and what day, and what hashtags they use and all that? Yeah, that. Speak to Dan Haslam and tell him we sent you.
We have a lot of messaging in our brand just like you do. However, we can trace how our customers feel about us to our brand promise to guide our clients to a source of truth which allows them to innovate their customer’s experience.
As you learn these insights, consider them in your strategy planning. If people say they love something about you that you weren’t expecting, pay attention. That means there is relevance for someone. And nothing will put you out of business faster than being irrelevant.
Tools like social listening should be central to your strategy making efforts as they reveal a landscape larger than your immediate audience for competitive analysis and market research.
Our social listening solution is built on the Nuvi Language Engine, our industry-leading proprietary natural language processor. It’s built to listen for 11 different factors including sentiment, gender detection, noun phrase extraction (trending phrases), industry category tagging, vulgarity detection, future/present/past tense detection, and author intent among others.
Solicited feedback is a great way to conduct primary market research. Typically, you are talking to your current or past customers in this phase. To reach your customers, both current and past, you’ll need effective review or survey tools.
Soliciting feedback through Reviews
Nuvi Review is a powerful, yet intuitive solution that allows you to easily ask for feedback. It’s built with multi-location businesses in mind as it gives you visibility and control over each location and the customers that interact with each location.
Soliciting feedback through Social Listening
Remember, it’s important to look at the reviews of your competitors as well as they reveal potential customers' experiences and expectations. Again, social listening can help in this phase. Companies can use social listening to identify groups of customers that would be respective to marketing research surveys. They can then send the survey to the group or find an influencer for the audience to pass along the survey to eliminate as much bias as possible. Companies can then use social engagement tools like Nuvi Engage to talk directly with customers about the survey. Even more interesting would be to compare survey results to what the participants actually say on social media to gain more insight!
Step 3: Develop the Solution
Now that you have discovered and defined the right problem to solve for your audience, you are able to diverge in your thinking again as to how you will deliver it. You’re answering the question, “Of all the ways we can solve problem ‘x’, which one will we choose?” This is where you can really let your inner explorer shine and create unique experiences for your audience. The possibilities are literally endless.
As you develop a solution, consider how you will collaborate with your team to generate ideas and take them from start to finish.
Nuvi Plan and Publish are powerful Kanban-style products that allow teams to stay aligned through the creation phase. You can make assignments to team members.
Tag teammates and get alerted when you need to collaborate.
And stay on top of what is being created at any time
Today’s world does not behave like we learned from Field of Dreams–“If you build it, they will come.” Kevin Costner lucked out there. Unfortunately, we need to be more intentional where we meet our audience. It’s important to know the end from the beginning in many cases. The way we create for them will be affected by this knowledge
It’s best before you deliver your solution to do some quick prototyping. Kevin Proudfoot, Exec. Creative Director at Google Creative Lab said that prototyping “allows us to try-on the future for size.”
Prototyping would have prevented this…
Prototyping helps prevent a situation like this as well…
You want to live right here in the middle of these two circles. That’s called product-market fit and it’s a beautiful, sustainable place your strategies should lead to.
Step 4: Deliver the Solution
There is no magical way to ensure every strategy will work. And between every strategy and positive outcome lives a lot of testing and iterating.
Now that you’ve “gotten the right idea”, and developed a solution, it’s time to converge in your thinking as to how you will deliver it. If steps 1-3 were designed to help you know what and how you need to communicate with your audience, then step 4 is the strategy behind where you need to say it.
Referring to the movie Field of Dreams again, if that movie were strategically correct, it would have said, “If they will come, then build it.”
Consider tools that will help you meet your customers where they are.
Nuvi Publish, for example, is integrated into Nuvi Plan and makes it easy to deliver content on multiple channels at once.
Nuvi Engage allows you to connect with your audience through real-time conversations over social media. Create tags to field certain topics around your brand or related subjects. Then tag teammates to respond if needed.
Nuvi Analyze allows you to track results and compare your findings. Generate automated reports delivering key metrics to help you perfect your strategy.
So how will you keep up with an ever-evolving audience? That is always the question. Strategies have expirations dates and must be revisited frequently if you want to remain relevant. Strategic planning is a constant effort that must begin with discovery in order to create a solid framework through which all decisions can be measured. Through your discovery, define the direction you wish to travel through research and feedback. Develop solutions through ideation and iterative prototyping.
Consider this approach in macro and micro views, from company level all the way down to the individual roles you hire for. If you first get the right idea and get that idea right, then you’ve got the right idea about how to make a strategic plan.
To learn more about how our products can help you identify, form, and deliver strategies, request a demo.