Three Ways to Avoid the Dread in Strategic Planning

If you are on a January-December fiscal calendar then you are entering the dreaded strategic planning cycle. Why is it dreaded? Usually it's because reams of data are poured over by strategic planners who create organizational thrusts and send them up the chain for review--only to be asked for a different slice or direction by senior leadership. I often hear organizations refer to the early stages of strategic planning as "analysis by paralysis." There is lots of great data, but no real compass to direct the analysis.

Where do you fit in this cycle? Are you the frustrated executive or the frustrated planner? Where is your presentation or binder from the past year? Please say it's not sitting on the shelf.

Materials on shelves are good for reference, not for day-to-day execution. The best strategic plans live within the organization.

  1. They are created from the outside-in based on the voice of the customer
  2. They are well understood by employees
  3. They are integrated into your management systems


A CMO told me the other day, "I know which customers are strategic to my company. My challenge is making my company strategic to those customers."

His comment demonstrates the shift in marketing that is currently occurring within high-tech and service companies. In these organizations the marketing function is no longer about awareness, brand or feel-good programs. It is a results-oriented entity enabling the relationships and market position necessary to increase customer value and drive revenue.

As a result of this shift, ITSMA research shows an increase in the following tactics as part of marketing strategies: 

  • Thought leadership development
  • References and testimonials
  • Senior level relationship management programs, customer advisory boards, councils

...and a decline in: 


  • Collateral (brochures, datasheets, etc.)
  • Hospitality
  • Sponsorships of sports/Cultural events
  • Print-based direct marketing
  • Traditional print/media advertising
  • Public trade shows


Source: ITSMA, Budget Allocations and Trends: Key Metrics Survey, 2010

Has your company made the shift? If not, what's holding you back?


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