No matter what industry you are in, it is vital that your small business sets strategic priorities. Any small business consultant will tell you that organizations tend to fall into two extreme categories: Either they set no goals, or they set far too many.
The first group is too scattered to see reliable business growth; they have no direction, no long-term vision, and no real marketing strategy planning. The second group sets too many unrealistic goals and is repeatedly disappointed when they can’t hit their targets. As Verne Harnish points out in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, “The organization with too many priorities has no priorities.”
Fortunately, there is a middle path: setting a realistic number of quantifiable goals to be achieved throughout the business year. Use the tips below to set strategic priorities for your small business. Consultant firms can provide additional strategic insights beyond the tips we’ve provided below.
Power of Five
Any small business marketing consultant can confirm that five is the magic number for setting priorities. If you set five priorities for your business, you will likely be able to achieve your goals without feeling overwhelmed or under-challenged. The first step for setting your organization’s top five priorities is to think about your long-term goals and how they flow within your company’s quarterly rhythm.
There are countless approaches for discovering long-term goals; Harnish, for example, recommends creating a one-page strategic plan that includes core beliefs, a main company purpose, 3- to 5-year targets and annual goals needed to meet those targets. Understanding the basic principles, you can play around with the format of your overall vision until it works for your organization. The point is that it’s essential to dedicate time to understanding your company’s main reasons for existing and using this background information to set strategic priorities moving forward.
Measurability and Scalability
When you construct your list of five priorities, make certain that each goal is quantifiable and obtainable by the end of the year. For example, “sell more” is too vague. This goal is completely open to interpretation – one person might say you’ve reached your priority if you sell a single dollar more than you did last year, even if your costs are higher. Another employee might argue that “more” should mean a significant boost in sales.
Set specific goals, which you can easily determine whether or not you’ve them. Here are a couple of examples of precise, quantifiable priorities:
-Launch our website.
-Complete a competitive analysis.
-Earn $400,000 in revenue.
Don’t fence yourself in too strictly. For instance, if all five of your priorities are aimed at one huge problem in the business, that’s fine. Let’s say your client base is dwindling – it’s completely appropriate for all of your priorities to be based around marketing strategy planning. The main thing is to choose five priorities that are measurable and attainable. Will your company be able to scale up if all five goals become reality? Make sure you’re prepared to actually launch into the future you imagine.
Timing is Essential
Avoid making assumptions about how quickly you’ll be able to achieve your priorities. Spread them out over the year, quarter or whatever timeline you’ve chosen. Remember that you and your employees will need to accomplish these special items in addition to your typical workload.
Regularly Review Strategic Priorities
The frequency with which you revisit your goals depends on your growth rate. For instance, a small business marketing consultant would recommend reviewing old goals and setting new goals on a quarterly basis if you are in a fast growth pattern. Harnish defines “fast growth” as 20-50 percent per year.) At minimum, your strategic goals should be reviewed annually.
Once your list of top five strategic priorities is solid, be sure to share it with everyone in your organization. Indeed, it may be helpful to have every employee create his or her own set of five priorities that can help the overall company meet its goals. Harnish refers to this approach as “alignment;” in a sense, it’s bringing integration to an entire firm by ensuring that everyone has their eyes on the same prize.
A small business consultant can be a priceless asset to your business as you set your priorities. A small business marketing consultant, for instance, can assess whether your target goals are attainable and provide recommendations on how each department or company can help boost your sales figures. Finally, when it comes to long-term marketing strategy planning, a small business consultant can provide an unbiased, outside analysis of how your firm is performing and what steps you can take to reach your business goals.
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