As a business owner, it can be hard to step away from the busy multitasking of running your business to focus on the future. Long-term strategy planning might seem as if you’re ‘getting ahead of yourself’. But once you’ve set yourself goals that you want to achieve, you’ll find strategic planning simple for both long and short-term plans.
To show you how to create a long term business strategy plan, this article will look at the following areas:
- Write down your mission and what it will take to get there
- Set your goals
- Identify the tactics you can use
- Measure results frequently
Write down your mission and what it will take to get there
The first step for a long-term business strategy is to decide what your mission is. What is your business purpose? What is it working towards? Putting your mission on paper may sound like an unnecessary step but having them noted somewhere can be a motivational tool, and a constant reminder of your path in business.
When considering your mission don’t be afraid to be ambitious, after all, this strategy you’re going to create will be based on this purpose. Each step you take toward this will be carefully thought out and planned, so think big and be honest with yourself about what you want.
Write the mission in a couple of sentences, be specific about the areas you want to achieve and the timeframe you’d like to reach your goals by. For example, an artisan baker who runs a bakery from home and takes online orders might write:
‘I want to be the top-rated bakery in the area in three years. Within five years I want to be supplying the top venues in the area with occasion cakes.’
This indicates both customer-related goals (ratings via Tripadvisor or Google Business) and a business relationship goal (partnering with wedding or events venues in the area).
Set your goals
To achieve your mission, you will need to set some goals. Some goals should be financially focused in order to fund growth for achieving your mission.
Goals should always be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. This ensures that plans are rooted in the reality of your business, and working towards the mission.
Using our bakery example, some SMART goals would be:
- By the end of next year, half of all sales will be directly from social media.
- We will monitor reviews monthly to take feedback into account to be the best bakery for our local area and regular customers.
- We will have secured one valuable event partnership within two years.
- The bakery will have its own location, instead of being home-based in three years.
Setting milestones like these will help you focus on growth and what it will take financially to get there. In the above example, the goals show growth via social media and strategic partnerships that will be required to purchase a premises to operate from.
The time frame you choose for each goal will help you plot where to spend money. In the bakery example, for the next year, there will need to be an appropriate budget for the baker’s website, marketing and social media activity to achieve a strong following and boost sales via social channels.
Be flexible too, so if you achieve something quicker or slower than you first imagined, then change the goal to reflect your circumstances.
Identify the tactics you can use
You’ve chosen your mission and set some goals as stepping stones to achieve it — now you can start creating the long-term business strategy plan by choosing the tactics that will help you achieve the goals.
Depending on the type of business you run, your tactics can include:
- Marketing activity, to create brand awareness and generate sales.
- Attending events, if they are relevant to your industry and can help you achieve certain goals.
- Expanding your services or the range of products you offer.
- Building out your facility, or purchasing more equipment that allows you to scale your growth up.
- Securing finance to achieve certain areas of your plan or funding to help kickstart a growth period.
- Hiring your first employee to support administrative tasks that take a lot of time away from your work, or to help you on the business operation side of things so you have an extra set of hands to make more sales.
After you’ve identified the tactics that will work best to achieve your goals, you can then create an annual plan that encompasses the strategies you’ll use over the next 12 months. Always remember to look at the end goal (your mission and the smaller goals to get there) and work backwards, by putting steps in place to meet your aims.
Measure results frequently
You’ve established what your tactics will be for the following year, now you need to understand what ‘success’ looks like so you can measure your progress.
Choose benchmarks that will help you measure if the strategies you’re using are working. In our bakery example, it will be simple to measure how many sales are coming directly from social media by using Google Analytics, and if sales via social are going up every month while you’re using marketing techniques, then it’s working! The bakery also was going to monitor their online reviews and rating, and this is a measurable way to watch their customer satisfaction too.
Measure your progress against your benchmarks regularly, ideally monthly but at least every quarter so that you can adapt and change if things are going better or worse than you planned.
For example, the bakery might try some email marketing activity, but find that it costs them a lot and doesn’t generate many sales. If tactics aren’t cost-effective and haven’t produced the results you want then revisit your tactics and measurements so that you are being practical and realistic with your goals.
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