March 15, 2017

Questions That Drive Strategy – How Will You Win in Your Market?

Having a strategy (how you are going to win in your market) is critical to business success.  Many people struggle with their strategy and often don’t even know where to begin.  The wrong thing to do is to begin by trying to write a strategy.

Building a strategy for your business begins with questions that need to be answered.  Knowing what these questions are is the first step.  Developing the answers is clearly essential.  The strategy will surface once the questions are honestly answered.  Some of the questions relate to strategy development, some relate to strategy communications and some relate to strategy execution.  But, the best place to begin is knowing the questions and honestly addressing them.

Below are some of these critical strategy questions that should be addressed in order to properly begin the strategy development, communications and execution process.

  1. What is the purpose of our company and what is our vision for the next 5 years?  The reason for these questions is that we want to know why we exist and what we want to become.  Our strategy should support our purpose and vision.
  2. What is our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? And in what time frame? (we want to be a $100M company by 2020).  It is critical to set financial or metrics based goals in a specific time frame.
  3. What is our current market situation analysis? (think of this as sort of a SWOT analysis).  Where are we? (also see 4 through 8 below).  What are the key dynamics of the market that we are trying to penetrate (growth versus no-growth, risk averse versus risk taking, technology savvy versus not)?
  4. What industry problems are we solving and for whom?
  5. What are we replacing and what is wrong with that solution?
  6. How are organizations buying today (what is the decision criteria)? What would we ideally like that decision criteria to be and how are we going to change the current decision criteria? (see numbers 9 and 10 below)
  7. What are the (market and other) obstacles to our success?
  8. What has to happen (that we can try to control) in order for us to achieve our BHAG?
  9. What is our four Blue Ocean Strategy quadrant analysis (raise, eliminate, create, reduce)
  10. What does our Blue Ocean Strategy canvas look like? (Defensible differentiation)
  11. What is our (no more than 10 point) plan (on a single page) to achieve success and overcome forecasted obstacles?
  12. What makes an ideal customer (criteria) and why?  (who fits our strategy?)
  13. Who would be ideal (distribution) partners for us and why?  (who needs our strategy to be successful?)
  14. What are the supporting financial, sales, marketing, client services and product plans to support the strategy?
  15. What is our communication plan for the strategy?  How will we ensure understanding, acceptance and ownership from stakeholders (employees, investors, customers, prospects, partners, industry influencers)?
  16. What are the cognitive, motivational, political, and resource objections that we are likely to get from the internal team, our customers and the market (prospective customers and partners) to our strategy?
  17. What quantitative metrics will we use to measure our success each week, month, quarter and year to ensure that the strategy is working and that we are going to achieve our BHAG?  What are the Key Performance Indicators and what are the Key Performance Drivers? (do you know the difference between indicators and drivers?)
  18. What is the likely competitive response? There will be a counter-punch from incumbent solution providers. (You could also ask “How would we compete with us?”)
  19. Are we making every decision in the company based on the strategy and the goal?
  20. How much time are we allowing to show that the strategy is working (as proven by the metrics)?

These are the critical questions that need to be addressed.  Once you have answers to these, you can begin to formulate your strategy and then begin the communication and execution phases.

If you need help in understanding these questions or answering them, or, if you want to schedule a full strategy development session, please contact us. Dakota has helped organizations develop, communicate and implement strategy that has driven strong growth and these companies have ranged in size from pre-revenue to $20m in annual sales.

Remember: Hope is not a strategy.