A Strategy isn't a Strategy Without Implementation

With organizations going through major inflection points in their business, one theme is consistent… companies can’t continue doing what they have always done. So it’s determined that the development of a new strategy is needed to align to the rapidly evolving business landscape. Your team convenes for a ‘planning session’. The end result is some form of a strategic roadmap with corresponding tactics. This gets summarized, socialized, and distributed to the respective teams to begin execution.

Fast forward a few months and management finds progress on the plan is either limited, or the execution isn’t meeting the intended outcomes. Why?

From our experience, this gap occurs when the current reality of the business is not fully mapped to the desired end state. It requires answering some fundamental questions to help assess what it would really take to operationalize these initiatives. Questions like:

  • People
    • What skills and knowledge are needed to reach your goals and do your current employees possess these capabilities?
    • Are additional resources needed? At what capacity are your existing resources and can they truly take on more?
  • Process
    • Are your internal policies, procedures, and processes flexible and agile enough to enable to you to move quickly?
  • Culture
    • Is the current organizational culture one that will embrace change? Will inertia or status quo be likely to limit forward movement?
    • Is cross-functional, cross-departmental collaboration and openness a challenge?
  • Technology
    • Will the existing systems enable your organization to achieve what the business needs?

Taking a holistic view to assess the level of effort in implementing your strategy is critical - because now more than ever, everything is a connected system. It means understanding the organizational, structural and procedural capabilities in order to effectively build the operational roadmap. It means identifying risks and tradeoffs to reach near term milestones and meetsr longer-term goals. It’s figuring out how to iterate and optimize as you execute while still staying true to the end objectives.

In the end, a strategy isn’t a strategy if it can’t be executed consistently and successfully. Bringing the strategy to life so that your customers and employees see and benefit from it is what really matters.

Building Your Brand - Be Emotional!

How do you start to differentiate your brand vs. your competition?  Think about what emotional end benefits your company can/does deliver. Your customers (or potential customers) now have more choices than ever and differences between the services that you and your competition may be less and less significant. This could ultimately result in a price war which isn’t where you want to go.

One of the best ways to avoid this scenario is to develop a lasting connection with your customers on an emotional level. When customers feel an emotional pull toward your company, they are less likely to spend time evaluating their options and more likely to complete the sale.

Most companies typically communicate “functional benefits” to get customers to engage or transact with them.  Functional benefits are ones that a customer directly associates with a feature/service that your business delivers such as “best quality”, “lowest price”, “greatest selection.”  While these statements are compelling they may not truly differentiate you because they are aspects that can be fulfilled by other providers as well.  Where functional benefits aren’t easily identifiable or differentiated, many times marketers rely on ‘emotional benefits’.  Think of an emotional benefit this way… “When I buy or use this brand, I feel ___.”

So you may be thinking how does this translate into someone taking action?  Well there is research that shows reasons (or in this case the “functional benefits”) and emotions drive different behavior. Reason generates conclusions but not necessarily actions, while emotions more frequently lead to actions. While you can educate customers on the features and services you have, there isn’t any emotional involvement tied to it which can be the one factor that helps garner the sale.

Here’s an example that will make my point more real.

Consider the Starbucks brand. Its functional benefit is caffeinated refreshment; its emotional benefit is indulgence.  When you enter into a Starbucks establishment, you see that the products and experience they sell is so much more than just selling coffee.  They pay off this emotional benefit in every facet of their experience. You’re more likely to want to buy more than just coffee and experience the other treats they have to offer.  And this is all with a smile from your friendly and knowledgeable barista.

What if I don’t know what my emotional benefits should be?

Well you can always do some market research with your target audience. And keep in mind research doesn’t have to be sophisticated.  The point is understanding your end customer with respect to what motivates them to come to your business?  What is it about your business that draws them in? Based on these conversations, you’re bound to get some insightful learnings that will lead you to defining what those emotional end benefits are.  Then you can integrate them into your messaging, positioning and even consider how your selling and service practices can deliver on this benefit.