Do you want to decrease customer churn by 10% this year or increase the efficiency of each of your locations or subsidiaries? You’ll need a plan of action to get there.
Strategy planning is when an organization’s management team, team managers, or other company leaders come together to set priorities and goals that strengthen the organization, team, and team members. These goals focus the organization’s energy and resources. Strategic planning will create new strategies or shift current ones to meet the priorities set so an organization can move forward in a unified effort.
Ultimately, a strategic plan answers the 6 Ws and the how. These are discovered and hashed out at the beginning of the strategic planning process as the management teams meet together.
A strategic plan organizes the questions asked into a cohesive document that is used to communicate and coordinate to the organization the goals that have been set, what actions must be taken to get there, and an explanation of other critical elements.
The 5 Ws:
Each organization’s strategic planning meeting will have varying processes depending on the business and the management team, but most will have the same basic elements.
The Seven Steps of Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is worthless without the right data. You need to correctly view the past to get a glimpse into the future. But often there’s so much data to go through, it can be hard to filter it and focus on what will carry your organization into the future you’re envisioning. Having data on the past performance of your company is good and needed, but you’re not going to get a holistic view of why the data is the way it is without customer data, particularly customer behavior data.
In the past, one of the most beneficial, yet difficult ways of gathering customer behavior data was ethnographic research. This type of research allowed a company to get a glimpse into the everyday life of their customer. A researcher would observe a customer for several days or weeks, sometimes even months, to gather the data. While this method often produced great data with very little bias, it was difficult and time consuming to obtain.
Today, performing ethnographic research can be much easier. With the emergence of the Internet, online and digital shopping has become a common element of business and commerce. While brick and mortar is still essential, they are enhanced with digital marketing and technology, in general. E-commerce itself has made a serious impact on the business world. You really don’t have to look further than Amazon to see that. But even with all this technology, it’s hard to track customer touchpoints before they go onto an online shop’s site or walk into the physical story. That’s why social media is and should be such a big deal for organizations.
Social media is the place ethnographic research should primarily take place in today. Social listening gives organizations the whole social media picture of its audience. They’ll be able to see customer interests and behavior patterns on social media. These insights will inform an organization’s key performance indicators, so the strategic planning process can create the best strategic approach to reaching an organization’s goals.
Nuvi’s data warehouse, Nuvi Hub, enriches data lake and Business Intelligence tools with social media data analytics. This enrichment will give more comprehensive insights of customer and target audience behavior as well as unsolicited feedback on products or services. Nuvi Hub maximizes the benefit of your data analytics and Business Intelligence tools with more accurate insights that will inform and enhance strategic planning.
The executing part of the strategic planning process will be unique, again, according to the organization, but also to the type of plan and the customer base. Let’s take a look at 5 different strategies.
Let’s say you’re in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry and your strategy is to improve sales in both women’s grooming and baby products. Before strategic planning can take place, this organization would need to understand the customer’s purchasing those products.
Data shows this company that mothers tend to buy baby products more than fathers and women are generally buying their own grooming products. Let’s say this CPG company wants to find a new way to connect with these two demographics. This organization could run a social media ad test of women, baby shampoo, and music against women, Forever Roll, and music.
This data set would target women with babies and young children, while the other would be more likely to target single women. With music thrown into the mix, this CPG company could learn what type of music these two types of women might listen to. The data, for example, might show that women with babies tend to like punk rock music, while single women prefer pop. With this data, the CPG company could then use social listening to dive deeper. These social listening monitors would be highly focused with the digital data already acquired so the company could see any correlation between its brand and the music these women are interested in.
With the data and social media insights from social listening, strategic planning for marketing managers could discuss various strategies through digital, content, social and other marketing efforts that would associate their products with the women’s music interest while staying on brand.
For example, mothers that enjoy rock music probably don’t get to listen to it much since rock music tends to be loud and babies tend to sleep a lot. This CPG organization could create a video promoting baby shampoo that shows a mother giving their child a bath and using the shampoo to give the child a punk rock hair style while the mother sings a punk rock song.
Whatever strategy is implemented organizations can then use social listening to track customer sentiment and conversations to reassess and refine the strategy.
For this strategy let’s use Costco as an example. Costco’s management observed that sales of physically larger items were decreasing. Wondering why, they dove into the data. They quickly discovered that many potential customers simply either weren’t willing or able to transport larger items between the warehouse and their residence.
To address this challenge, they partnered with Nuvi. With Nuvi’s suite of social customer experience tools, Costco was able to develop and enact a real-time outreach strategy to promote online orders at costco.com and home delivery for large items. With Nuvi Plan and Publish, Costco promoted a social coupon campaign that generated 132,000 new email list subscribers, redeemed 30,600 coupons of which 17.6% were by new members, and generated $14.0 million in sales over an 8 week promotion period.
This strategic plan utilized the data to pinpoint an element of the customer journey that needed improvement, then created the strategy, and executed it. As a result, customers and potential customers alike had more confidence in the organization. Costco had addressed an issue very few had voiced and many were impressed by how in tune the organization seemed to be with customer concerns.
For other companies, the data may have shown that a product wasn’t solving customer needs like the organization wanted. With data and customer’s unsolicited feedback from social listening, an organization could monitor the conversation around a newly launched product, adjust products that aren’t doing well, or create a new product that better meets consumer needs. If changes are required, customers will talk about it. Listen, strategize, and delight customers by surprising them with what they need.
Strategic planning for a product development strategy would benefit greatly from direct feedback as well. With social listening, companies can pinpoint where the conversations around their brand are taking place and reach out. They’ll be able to find influencers that could share their audience's perspective on a product as well as push surveys or other forms of direct feedback out. Some direct feedback may come organically in the form of reviews or ratings. Monitoring those and even asking the authors for more information could greatly improve the strategic plan.
Strategies that focus on placing your organization in a specific place in the industry will differ from market research and product development strategies. Let’s take Heartland Financial as an example.
Heartland Financial, a holding company of 12 regional consumer banks, was previously doing no social publishing. Company executives understood that they were surrendering a fast-growing marketing medium to national competitors that had active social media accounts. Heartland had the challenge of coordinating social media publishing for 12 different brands, each with their own separate social media accounts, operating in different regions of the country, and serving different demographics.
Additionally, they needed critical elements for this strategy: central oversight from their national headquarters in Dubuque, IA and an attorney review needed to be implemented into the creative workflow to ensure regulatory compliance. Starting at 0, Heartland was able to achieve 5.1 million social impressions and 108,000 engagements over 22 months!
To accomplish this, Nuvi provided them with the software to streamline their processes. 50 marketing employees across Heartland’s 12 bank brands started using our proprietary publishing platform (Nuvi Plan & Publish) for team collaboration, content management, scheduling, analytics, and management oversight. Nuvi’s software platform allowed regulatory compliance associates to be integrated smoothly and efficiently into the publishing workflow.
For Heartland, their strategic planning goal was to better leverage themselves in the market by implementing a social media strategy. With this strategy, they were able to make an impressive number of impressions and engagements. Now that they’re in the social media game, what would their next steps be?
Well, they’d already started it. With the impressions and engagement they received, they could pretty easily tell how many of those interactions were positive or negative. With that insight, they could better know their audience’s perception of their brand and how to address or utilize it. Their next session of strategic planning should heavily focus on developing a positive online reputation.
With an earned media and PR strategy, companies are generally trying to either better establish themselves among the competition, build up their brand reputation in customer’s mind, or, more often, both.
A few years ago, Bridgestone wanted to raise their online review averages, improve their brand reputation on social media, and use social media to drive sales leads and appointments at their 7,000 retail tire store locations. The problem that highlighted the need for this improvement was Bridgestone’s network of retail stores. Each are independently owned and operated franchises, which added complexity to combating bad online reviews and negative sentiment on social media (over 80% negative sentiment at the time).
To meet their goals, they decided to take an earned media approach by implementing a Community Management program using a machine learning AI algorithm to automatically identify social media messages about “flat tires” or other messages from people likely in the market for new tires.
The algorithm was set up using Nuvi Listen. With Nuvi Listen, they were able to focus on tire conversation at each of their 7,000 locations. After identifying appropriate social media conversations, the second part of the strategy was to reach out and offer assistance, a coupon for a discount on a set of tires, and an offer to book an appointment over social media.
The steps to this strategic plan consisted of leveraging Nuvi’s proprietary retail franchise-centric functionality to provide each independent owner-operator with their own access to Bridgestone’s social media action dashboard. Bridgestone’s corporate marketing team used Nuvi’s creative workflow management— Nuvi Plan and Publish— to create a library of social posts that each store manager could opt to publish on their local store page.
Using the Nuvi platform, Bridgestone was able to empower their independent owner operators to publish high-quality, high-engagement social media content while allowing them each full independence to manage their own social media pages. With this strategic plan, Bridgestone drove over $14 Million in new revenue through social appointment booking.
Strategic planning with a focus on earned media or PR efforts can help organizations find creative, unique ways to reach their audience. Oftentimes, customers are so used to traditional marketing and PR efforts that they ignore them, which makes organizations unsatisfied with those traditional efforts. The strategic planning process can highlight not only the problems that need to be addressed, but the appropriate and, sometimes, untraditional steps to get there.
With strategic planning that focuses on the customers, organizations can greatly eliminate most guesswork when it comes to where resources should be allocated. With a complete set of data from an organization's data lake and social listening to back up any of the strategies above, organization will generally be off to a solid start. They’ll see the major steps that need to take place in order to reach the organization’s goal, and allocate resources according to the needs they see each team will need through the whole process. However, strategic planning isn’t perfect. Resources will need to be shifted. The question is whether you’re moving them to the right places.
Throughout the course of strategic planning, monitoring your customers with social listening will give the best insights into how to best allocate or reallocate resources. Organizations will see what marketing, digital, earned media, or PR campaigns are working and which aren’t. Adjusting and refining those strategies will either demand more resources or less depending on the data.
Let’s say an organization is trying to create and push a new product. Diving into what customers do and don’t like about current products will indicate if a current offering simply needs to be adjusted or if a new line does need to be created. If a new product needs to be made, then more resources will be allocated to the product team, but if it’s an adjustment, the marketing and sales teams will likely be allocated more than in the previous case.
All strategic planning will fall short if the customer is not at the center of it. Customers should drive every action and strategy. Social customer experience is a strategy that should be part of every strategic planning process. Social customer experience assists organizations in making sure that internal and external goals are met.
For a marketing metric, a strategic plan might outline that customer engagement should increase by 20%. A strategic plan that utilizes social customer experience will expand that goal to customer engagement focused on generating the loyalty behavior of word of mouth through the sharing of social posts will increase by 20%.
Strategic planning enhanced with social customer experience will make goals more focused and more customer-centric. Sometimes management in strategic planning meetings get so excited or enraptured by the data or the overarching organization’s goal that they can forget that it’s customers that make the goal possible. Customers will indicate what they need and want. Strategic planning processes that include social customer experience will be tuned into those needs and have the flexibility to make the necessary adjustments as needed. Ensure that your customers are moving forward with you through the strategic plan by utilizing social customer experience.