In the final week of 2009, we will undoubtedly do a lot of looking back and looking ahead. I wanted to take this final Monday to look ahead and share a few things that I learned from reviewing the 2010-2015 strategic plans of other businesses. Read this information and consider how:
- You can apply it in your career to become more valuable in your organization
- Your own strategic plans compare
- You can leverage it to win new business and serve your market in the coming year
I will not share any confidential or proprietary information, but am simply sharing trends and thought patterns that I noted after reviewing strategic plans from several small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). The companies represent a wide spectrum of industries.
Without surprise, the economy of the past several years played a factor in all plans. However, not in ways you may expect. All plans reflected a shift in thinking about business processes, and customer engagement. The paradigm shift is driven in large part by increased competition (fewer established competitors fiercely fighting for market share) and the change in consumer behavior and mindset.
Every single plan drives back to the bottom line of growing / protecting market share and profits. All roads to ROI lead through the customer and in all plans the customer was king.
Two common words could be found in each plan – “customer relationship.” Businesses are interested in building and sustaining relationships with customers. They are shifting their internal processes to better discover and deliver on their customers’ long-term needs. There is a move from transaction based selling to relationships. In the past, companies sought relationship as a way to boost lifetime customer value. While that remains a benefit, the motivation as presented in these 2010 plans is to have the customer truly believe in the business as a trusted partner.
Each company wanted to be a resource for its customers. Planned investments include technology and training that would support collecting better customer information and managing it to provide information and education that was timely and valuable.
As companies look to shift their external relationships they also want to improve internal relationships. There is a desire to change internal communication structures with more real time, collaborative communication throughout the organization. Executives and front line managers are expected to communicate with teams more frequently, providing feedback and updates about progress against goals. Technology that addresses these needs will be welcomed.
None of the plans contained buzzwords like “behavioral marketing” or “social media” but all described a need for exactly what new media offers. Businesses want to improve how they target, talk to and engage their customers. If you are selling to business customers, you will do well to present the benefits and eliminate the jargon. Don’t talk to them about platforms and methodologies but show them how those things help them to achieve their bottom line goals.
All plans included increased funding for training, technology and new hires but there was a decided uncertainty about the ability to fund these investments in 2010. There were contingencies that extended plans into later years. This was an area that differed from plans I reviewed in past years. All will make the investments needed to drive their bottom line goals but investments may happen at a slower pace. If you sell to businesses, consider phased approaches that would help them invest and realize a return before moving to the next step.
Marketing departments are stretched thin and as always are subject to rule changes in the middle of the game. While vendor budgets have been decreased, and will not increase in 2010, there is room for outsourced help. The majority of the plans stated a renewed focus on holding marketing to budget based goals. Nothing new here but in light of the economy, be prepared to show the executive suite the money when it comes to campaigns and communications. The smart internal or external marketer will tie marketing to customer engagement initiatives with a focus of driving bottom line results.
Business at its core has not changed. Companies want and need to make money. What has changed is the approach, processes and people that will help them with that longstanding goal. Whether you are an employee, business owner or business provider, understanding this will put you ahead in 2010 and beyond.
What trends are you seeing as we near the new year? How can we all do better and serve better in the coming year?