Business strategy may sound very fancy and impossibly difficult to understand, but as with any new thing you want to learn there is a bit of vocabulary to master, and we will explain the concepts below. Keep reading to get three tips how to get started with your own business strategy! We will also give you our version of the definitions of vision, mission and core values as well as what they have to do with strategy.
1. Start From Your Dream
A business doesn’t become successful without a well-implemented strategy. Or can you imagine someone fumbling in the dark, doing random stuff on Pinterest and Instagram, with no clear plan as to why something is marketed there but not in a newsletter, only to end up with lots of money in the bank? Maybe it happens sometimes, but we dare claim they are statistical outliers. Successful businesses know what they should do when and why.
Why. Why? What are you dreaming of? Why do you want to do your work and sell your stuff? What do you hope would happen?
What is your vision?
How do you picture the world, when someone mentions ‘a better future?’ How do you see your business fit in that image?
A vision statement can sound like Ikea’s: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
Regardless of business and industry, a vision statement is about picturing the future in a different way, declaring your role in it and how you can do your share to change things (for the better.)
An example would be to “be the best florist shop in Helsinki.” Your business strategy will look slightly different depending on whether you already have a shop or not. If you do, your goal most likely involves drumming up some noise to increase awareness among new people so they can go from prospect to customer soon.
Maybe you also need to broaden your inventory? Or cut down on the range of flowers in favour of a clearer expertise? The last thing you want to do is be all over the place, add to the confusion, implement many changes at once, and not measure the effect of any of your tested changes.
Have you conducted a competitor analysis yet? It could be as easy as to figure out where other florists have a shop in your same neighbourhood, whether they are online at all, what content they might be creating if they are, and how they rank on Google. And how about doing some late-night investigation of their storefront, too?
Maybe ‘the best shop’ is too wide? Perhaps you need to narrow down by adding something like ‘best medium-budget shop’ or ‘best everyday-bouquet shop?’ It’s still lovely flowers, but with a chance to actualise your vision.
2. Compare Yourself To Yourself, Not Others
Don’t compare your grass to your neighbour’s. You don’t know what their aspirations are, whether they plan to move the next month or close shop entirely, whether they are becoming a chain with branches elsewhere in the country, or something else. And since you don’t know, becoming a copycat inevitably causes you to lose your voice.
Focus on your own grass, water it and cut it to your own and your target audience’s liking. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to pretend to be a horse with those thingies in front of their eyes to create a one-track mind.
Going back to your dream above, let’s introduce mission. Where vision is about the future, a mission statement tells you how to get to that desired place.
Google’s mission is: “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Ambitious, no? Dream big. I wonder what their vision is as it wasn’t visible on their About page.
There’s a pizza chain here in Finland, which clearly got their mission—and business strategy as a result—mixed up in complete confusion. A niche pizzeria uses nautical elements as part of their name, brand identity and offerings, quite successfully at that. The chain decided to try the same tactics to gain new customers, but it seemed both out of place and a desperate move.
They actively gave up their own voice to try to become someone else. By doing so, they showed the public how they don’t know why they exist and what they are here to do. It’s never a good idea to let internal troubles within leadership and management seep out like that, so remember to take time to jump from everyday activities to the airplane perspective often enough.
3. Focus On Your Strengths
If you indeed are a pizzeria, why did you start in the first place? What was your dream then? Is it the same still, or have your tastes (literally) developed? And how have today’s marketing opportunities in social media added to your chance of attracting new customers?
If you notice how your business has weaknesses in some area, why not bring along a new team member with a particular skill such as Italian sauces to switch things up on the foundation of your pizzas? And if you are covered in the food-making area, what are you best at? Many restaurants make the mistake of having too wide a menu, when they could instead change it up from time to time to keep things fresh and interesting. Both your team and customers will thank you.
Have you thought of your core values? As a pizzeria owner, it could be to use only fresh ingredients instead of those from the jar. Savvy customers can tell the difference.
Letting values, also the moral ones, guide you, means you will less likely forget about the reason to exist, whom you serve and how.
We at Wemla have a few, but I’d like to mention one in particular: “do meticulous work.” I don’t have time to fix errors or stuff intentionally left undone to ‘do later sometime.’ When ‘later’ arrives, there are many other tasks on my to-do list. Better do things once and well, for my own sake and that of our customers’, because who wants to resend a corrected digital product when someone bought one with a typo? It is slow work, but when you have a good version 1.0 to build upon, there’s a real chance to create a version 2.0 in the future. I’d rather do that than remain stuck on version 1, and assume you think the same.
Why Care About Business Strategy?
The value and mission statements combined with values affect the overall strategy of a business. Business strategy is all the actions you need to take to get from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.
The business strategy informs from its high level other strategies such as the marketing strategy. How else would you know what to share with your audience? A business exists to provide value after all, and the marketing strategy is about attracting customers, after which sales take over to close the sale. To get money, you need to sell something, and for customers to know you offer this fantastic thing they need to know you exist.
On the other hand, there’s no use talking about the quality of the yarn you use in your knitted products, unless you remember to tell how this scarf is not just superior to others in its quality stitching, but how warm it will keep your customer and how easy it is to wash at home. But then again, how do you know it’s a financially better choice to knit scarfs instead of selling their patterns only?
It is all interconnected. Business strategy is the airplane level of strategy. Finance provides you with numbers so you can make informed decisions when drafting your strategy for the next year, five or ten years. Your marketing strategy is created and implemented after the business strategy is known.
By the way, it’s incredibly unfortunate how people mix vocabulary up. Marketing plan is not the same as marketing strategy. Plan is not the same as objectives, tactics or goals either, but we will get to all this! Do meticulous work, right :)
And now we would like to know whether this seems foggy to you still? Or have you implemented your own business strategy already? Please share tips and other thoughts in the comments!
This blog post is the second in our beginner-level series A Business Strategy Primer.
Photo credit, featured image: You X Ventures.