If you’ve worked in business for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard of (or experienced) a corporate retreat where managers get together to develop a “strategic plan”. But at the end of this, have they produced a plan with a strategy?
If you get a group of managers together and ask them to give you an example of a strategy, you’ll get a variety of answers, including initiatives (“optimize the production floor”), activities (“make more outbound calls”, “reduce unused inventory”), and goals (“grow our customer base by 20%”).
The problem is that none of these are actually a strategy.
I know that’s the question some of you are asking yourselves. Understanding what strategy is, and isn’t, makes a big difference in how we approach and plan what we need to reach our goals, and gives us a path to get there.
When managers think ‘strategy’ they tend to focus on what they do, but strategy is actually between goals (where you’re going) and objectives (what you do to get there). This makes strategy intangible and hard to relate to, but vital to understand since strategy saves you when tactics fail.
To make sure we’re all on the same page:
For a company that produces well-monitoring instrumentation it might break out like this:
Goal: Attain 50% market share in North America for well-monitoring instrumentation within the next 5 years
Strategy: Become the most recommended and best-supported brand by leveraging well-established distributors
Objectives: Establish distributor relationships with these 3 companies. Hire and train new staff to support distributors. Create higher engagement with existing distributors A, B, and C.
Tactics: Hire a new sales rep for distributor support by the end of the month. Set up a toll-free manned phone line for distributor support. Host monthly lunch and learns in key distribution areas. Start a meetup group for distribution professionals. Sponsor a golf tournament to get an ‘in’ with this company we’re trying to sign on as a distributor. Keynote at these 2 trade shows and then reach out to contacts from potential distributors at the show.
Now that you’ve got GSOT under your belt, I encourage you to take a look at what you’re doing/planning and how it fits into Goals, Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics. Often one of these areas will be underserved, and working out those pieces will help not only yourself but the team around you achieve clarity and direction.
Even if you’re not in management, there’s still a lot of value here. Ask yourself questions like “does this tactic support our overall strategy”, “which objectives can I help with”, and “which tactics am I participating in that really aren’t working”. These questions pull you out from your day-to-day tasks and turn you from a “getting my work done” employee to someone working towards the common good. Your manager will thank you for it.
Also published on Medium.
About Martha Boulianne
Martha manages marketing and sales at ActiveConversion. You'll find her behind much of the content, design, and social media efforts that continue to grow our online presence. She has spent her professional life developing skills in design and online marketing and spends her time not at work charging around after her family and making things.
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