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Have You Ever? Series:
Strategic Planning Challenges

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Crafting a strategic plan that not only stands the test of time but also aligns seamlessly with your business’s growth objectives is akin to navigating a ship through uncharted waters.

The challenge lies in marrying the ambitious vision of your business with the ground realities of the market. It’s about striking a balance between aspiration and attainability, innovation and feasibility. This is where many businesses find themselves at a crossroads – grappling with how to translate their big-picture ideas into tangible strategies that yield measurable results.

Remember, a well-conceived strategic plan is your business’s compass, guiding you through both calm and stormy seas. It’s about foresight, flexibility, and a deep understanding of your unique business dynamics.

Imagine for a moment

You’re at the helm of a thriving business. You’ve navigated through the initial hurdles of setting up your business, and you’ve seen success in your projects and client relationships. But as you look towards the future, a larger question looms: “Where do we go from here?”

You’ve always believed in the power of strategic planning, but the challenge now is creating a plan that’s not just a collection of lofty goals and wishful thinking. It’s about crafting a strategy that is as dynamic and forward-thinking as the business landscape itself.

You sit down with your team, armed with whiteboards, markers, and endless cups of coffee, ready to chart out your business’s future. The brainstorming sessions are invigorating, filled with innovative ideas and bold visions. However, as you delve deeper, you realise that aligning these ideas with realistic market expectations and your business’s operational capabilities is not as straightforward as you thought.

Have you ever…

?- …found yourself envisioning a bold new direction for your business, only to feel overwhelmed by the practicalities of actually implementing it?

?- …looked back at your strategic plans from previous years and wondered why certain objectives were never achieved, despite being seemingly realistic at the time?

?- …questioned whether your current marketing strategy truly aligns with your core values and long-term objectives?

?- …felt that your business is capable of achieving more, but you’re unsure of what steps to take next to unlock its full potential?


?- …there ever been a moment when you realised your business’s growth has plateaued, despite having a strategy that seemed foolproof at its inception?

?- …it ever occurred that a new market trend or technological advancement significantly impacted your long-term strategy, forcing you to rethink or overhaul your approach?

?- …your team ever experienced conflict or confusion due to unclear or misaligned strategic objectives, impacting the overall morale and productivity of your business?

?- …you ever faced a situation where your business missed out on a significant growth opportunity because your existing strategy didn’t allow for enough flexibility or adaptability?

If any of this resonates, maybe the below might be helpful…

In the below section, I’ll try to offer some ideas, areas to look into, and tools that might help you out.

Vision Vision Vision

A clear distinction to make is that your business’s vision should not be a marketing mission statement. It should be something that helps you to align your personal, professional, and business aspirations into something that can be articulated internally so that it can be understood in relation to strategic changes/plans/work.

Having a clear 3-year vision statement empowers a business owner to focus on the essential aspects of their business. It enables them to prioritise activities, make informed decisions, and rally their team around a shared purpose. With this focus, the business can work towards achieving its long-term goals and create a pathway to success. 

Internal to Leadership Example: 

We will achieve: By the end of Year 3, our business aims to achieve a revenue of Β£3 million with a net profit margin of 25% through our specialised expertise in technical SEO for ecommerce brands. 

We will do this by: We will invest in continuous learning and development programs to ensure our team stays ahead of industry trends and can provide cutting-edge solutions to our clients. 

We will measure this by: Our financial management systems will enable us to monitor key performance indicators and make data-driven decisions to optimise revenue and profitability.  

External to Leadership but Internal to The Business Example: 

We will achieve: By the end of Year 3, our business aims to be recognised as the leading authority in ecommerce tech SEO in the UK. Our expertise will be sought after by brands, and we will be invited to pitch for projects with prominent ecommerce brands. 

We will do this by: We will actively engage in industry events, sharing our knowledge and insights through speaking opportunities, panel discussions, and workshops. 

We will measure this by: Our business’s reputation as industry leaders will be evident through invitations to contribute to industry publications and collaborations with other respected professionals in the field. 

You’ll see that the internal leadership example directly relates to the external one, just without the reference to money etc. This makes it easier to ‘understand’ across all levels of the business.

Ok now what?

It’s SUPER IMPORTANT that you make a clear distinction between an action plan or to-do list and a real strategy. I recommend you have a read through this article entirely. If you’re lazy though, see the below πŸ˜‚.


πŸ“Œ – Strategy is essential for business success.

πŸ“Œ – A good strategy includes growth, sales, marketing, financial, hiring, and retention strategies.

πŸ“Œ – A strategy should have a clear end result, measurable goals, and accountable stakeholders.

πŸ“Œ – Goal setting, listing tactics, or filling out a template is not a strategy.

πŸ“Œ – A good strategy includes knowing the end result, researching challenges, creating tactics, setting goals, and maintaining traction.

πŸ“Œ – Traction is crucial for strategy success and involves creating a RACI matrix to hold everyone accountable and remind them of the big picture.

πŸ“Œ – Strategies may need to be adapted and revised as circumstances change.

πŸ“Œ – Having an excellent project manager is crucial for strategy success, and costly software may not always be necessary.

You got the vision and plan but you don’t got the traction…

I get it, I think we all do. You spend ages working through a strategy (a proper one), proudly present it to your team, and get things added to your operations system only for it to slow down over time with the BAU of business life taking priority. Eventually, the “doing” part of the strategy becomes a second thought or checklist, or worse, you win a few big clients right after delivering the strategy internally and then throw it in the bin… you know, because you clearly don’t need a growth strategy since you’re awesome enough to win big before you start it. Think long-term people…

A good friend of mine once said to me when I’d developed a comprehensive strategy and the semi-inevitable “oh God, there is so much to get done, it’s complicated and we’re already busy, lets leave it for a while” thoughts (AKA traction be damned).

“Chris, how do you eat an Elephant?… One bite at a time mate.”

It sounds silly but this is something that I think about EVERY TIME there is a big task to complete, especially a strategy.

  • I thought about it when I first started the OMG Podcast with so many tasks to complete to get one episode live. I’ve now recorded and published over 200.
  • I thought about it when I launched The OMG Center and needed to deliver the marketing strategy. We now see over 1 million impressions a month and tens of thousands of clicks etc 🀯.

The moral of the story, break things up into managable bite-sized pieces and ensure there are measures of success AND measures of overall completion so that you A) can get your Elephant bites in without getting full up and B) don’t stop eating because you got indigestion πŸ€ͺ.

My strategies seem awesome at the time but we never hit the mark…

You’ve undoubtedly experienced the rigours and rewards of strategic planning. Each year, you set out with a fresh vision, charting a course for growth and success. But as you look back on these plans, a puzzling question arises: why did some objectives, which once seemed entirely achievable, remain unfulfilled?

It’s a scenario that many business leaders encounter. Despite careful planning and genuine enthusiasm, certain goals slip through the cracks. Understanding why this happens is not just an exercise in hindsight; it’s a crucial step towards smarter, more effective planning in the future.

In this journey of reflection, you’re not alone!

Common Reasons for Unmet Goals:

When revisiting past strategic plans, it’s crucial to identify why certain objectives weren’t achieved. Understanding these reasons can prevent similar issues in the future. Here are some typical factors that contribute to unmet goals:

πŸ‘‰ – Unrealistic Goal Setting:

  • Setting overly ambitious targets without considering practical limitations.
  • Lack of a clear roadmap or incremental milestones to achieve the goals.

Overcome in future by: Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals and breaking them down into smaller, manageable milestones.

πŸ‘‰ – Lack of Adequate Resources:

  • Underestimating the financial, human, or technological resources required.
  • Failing to allocate resources efficiently across different objectives.

Overcome in future by: Conducting a thorough resource audit before setting goals and reallocating resources as needed to ensure adequate support for key objectives.

πŸ‘‰ – Changes in Market Conditions:

  • Not adapting to new trends, technological advancements, or shifts in consumer behaviour.
  • Overlooking competitive actions that may affect your market position.

Overcome in future by: Regularly reviewing and adjusting strategies to stay aligned with market trends and customer demands. Encourage agility and flexibility in response to market shifts.

πŸ‘‰ – Inadequate Follow-Through:

  • Inconsistent execution of the strategic plan.
  • Lack of regular monitoring and adjustment of strategies.

Overcome in future by: Implementing a robust project management system, regular progress reviews, and making adjustments as necessary to stay on track.

πŸ‘‰ – Misalignment with Business Capabilities:

Overcome in future by: Conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to ensure goals are in line with the business’s strengths and opportunities for growth.

πŸ‘‰ – Poor Internal Communication:

Overcome in future by: Establishing clear communication channels, regular team meetings, and ensuring that every team member understands their role in achieving the strategic objectives.

πŸ‘‰ – External Factors:

  • Economic downturns, regulatory changes, or other unforeseen external influences.
  • Not having a contingency plan to address these external challenges.

Overcome in future by: Developing contingency plans and being prepared to pivot strategies in response to external changes or challenges.

πŸ‘‰ – Lack of Client Alignment:

  • Goals not aligning with current or potential client needs and expectations.
  • Failure to evolve strategies based on client feedback or market research.

Overcome in future by: Regularly engaging with clients to gather feedback, conducting market research, and aligning goals with evolving client needs and industry standards.

Got potential, and resource but not sure where to point it?

It’s a common sentiment among business leaders: the belief that your business has untapped potential. You sense the possibilities, but the roadmap to actualising this potential isn’t always clear.

The best way to look at this is to create a simple matrix of all the people you have in your team, their skills, and their capacity for more on an individual level. Using this matrix you need to look at reasonable options for your growth and then work them into the strategy. Unreasonable would be to offer 10 new services just because Dave in the SEO team is clever and can learn them. Reasonable might be to look at new regional areas or industries for new clients because Mary works remotely in a good area outside your usual client catchment and had experience in the [different industry] previously.

Be sure not to add/change so much that service delivery suffers and client churn increases of course.

Build the matrix and ask yourself questions like the below:

πŸ€” – Are There New Geographical Areas We Can Target?

Reflect on whether there are unexplored regions where team members, like Mary, have a presence or local knowledge that could be leveraged.

πŸ€” – Can We Utilise Our Team’s Diverse Industry Experience More Effectively?

Consider how the varied industry backgrounds of your team members could open doors to new client sectors and unique marketing strategies.

πŸ€” – What New Services Align with Our Team’s Skills Without Overreaching?

Evaluate if there are specific skills within your team that can translate into one or two new, manageable service offerings.

πŸ€” – How Can We Enhance Our Current Offerings Using Our Team’s Skills?

Think about ways to improve the quality or scope of your current services by capitalising on the advanced skills of your team members.

πŸ€” – What Targeted Training Could Elevate Our Team’s Performance in Key Areas?

Identify areas where specific training could enhance your team’s skills, aligning with your strategic growth goals.

πŸ€” – Where Are the Gaps in Our Team, and How Should We Strategically Hire to Fill These?

Reflect on the skill and capacity gaps within your team and consider how strategic hiring can effectively fill these gaps, contributing directly to your growth areas.

I Know Where I Want to Be, but Not Sure How to Measure Progress and Success

Understanding where you want your business to go is a significant first step. However, the journey to success is marked by the ability to measure progress effectively. This is where the concepts of leading and lagging indicators, time-based progression, and regular communication come into play, especially in the context of Performance Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

β¬…οΈβž‘οΈ– Leading vs. Lagging Indicators:

  • Leading Indicators: These are forward-looking metrics that can predict future events or outcomes. For a business, this could include metrics like website traffic, client engagement rates, or social media interactions. They are useful for adjusting strategies in real time and can help you stay ahead of the curve.
  • Lagging Indicators: These are backward-looking and reflect the results of past actions. Examples include revenue, profit margins, or customer retention rates. They are essential for understanding the overall health and effectiveness of your business strategies.

⌚️ – Time-Based Progression in Goal Setting:

  • Setting clear timeframes for your goals is crucial. Break down your long-term objectives into smaller, short-term goals with specific deadlines. This makes tracking progress more manageable and provides regular checkpoints to assess and adjust strategies.
  • Implement a timeline for each KPI, ensuring it aligns with your overall strategic goals. This helps in evaluating the effectiveness of your actions over different periods.

πŸ“’ – Regular Communication and Review of KPIs:

  • Establish a routine for reviewing your KPIs. This could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the nature of the indicator. Regular reviews ensure that your business remains on track and can adapt quickly to changes in the market or internal dynamics.
  • Encourage open communication within your team about these metrics. Discussing both successes and areas for improvement fosters a culture of transparency and continuous development.

Selecting the Right KPIs:

Choose KPIs that are directly aligned with your business’s specific goals and vision. Avoid generic metrics that do not contribute to your unique objectives.

Ensure that your KPIs are measurable, relevant, and realistic. They should challenge your team but also be attainable with the resources and capabilities you have. Remember the K in KPIs means KEY, not “anything that I can measure“.

βœ… – Client Acquisition Rate: Directly measures the effectiveness of your marketing and sales strategies in attracting new clients. It’s specific, measurable, and directly linked to growth objectives.

βœ… – Average Project Profit Margin: This measures the profitability of projects, ensuring that your business is not just attracting work but doing so profitably. It’s a realistic indicator of financial health.

βœ… – Client Retention Rate: Indicates the percentage of clients who stay with your business over a specific period. It’s relevant for assessing client satisfaction and service quality.

βœ… – Employee NPS Score: While not directly a financial metric, it’s crucial for a service industry where employee performance directly impacts client satisfaction and business reputation.

βœ… – Engagement Metrics Beyond Social Media Likes: While tracking likes is straightforward, it’s more beneficial to focus on engagement metrics that offer deeper insights into user interaction and meaningful connections with your audience. Metrics such as comments, shares, and the quality of interactions offer a more substantial understanding of engagement and business impact.

βœ… – Segmented Website Traffic Analysis: Rather than just looking at total website traffic, delve into segmented traffic analysis. This approach allows you to understand which specific sections of your audience are most engaged and which marketing efforts are truly effective. It’s about turning raw traffic numbers into actionable marketing intelligence.

βœ… – Outcome-Based Team Performance Metrics: Instead of merely counting hours worked, shift your focus to outcome-based metrics. Evaluate the effectiveness of your team’s efforts by measuring the results and impact of their work. Metrics like project completion rate, client satisfaction scores, or specific campaign results are far more indicative of your team’s true productivity and effectiveness.

βœ… – Customised Benchmarks Aligned with Your Business’s Unique Context: Generic industry benchmarks can be misleading. Instead, develop customised benchmarks that reflect your business’s specific context, goals, and strategies. This tailored approach ensures that your benchmarks are relevant and aligned with your unique business objectives, leading to more accurate and meaningful performance assessments.

βœ… – Client Relationship Quality and Profitability Metrics: Rather than focusing solely on the total number of clients, emphasize the quality and profitability of these relationships. Metrics such as client NPS, lifetime value, profit margin per client, and client satisfaction ratings provide a more nuanced and substantial understanding of your client relationships’ true value and contribution to your business’s success.

Using KPIs to Drive Strategy:

Utilise the insights gained from your KPIs to inform strategic decisions. If certain tactics are not yielding the expected results, be prepared to pivot or adjust your approach.

Celebrate the milestones achieved through these metrics. Recognising progress is vital for maintaining team morale and motivation.

By effectively employing leading and lagging indicators, setting time-based goals, and maintaining regular communication around your KPIs, you can not only track your business’s journey toward its objectives but also ensure that the route taken is as efficient and effective as possible.

Navigating the Path to Your Business’s Success

In this journey through strategic planning and effective execution, we’ve explored various facets that are essential for the growth and success of your business. From understanding the nuances of strategic planning challenges to recognising untapped potentials and unmet goals, we’ve delved into how to turn these challenges into opportunities.

We started by reflecting on past strategic plans, understanding the importance of learning from unmet objectives. By asking thought-provoking questions about your business’s current status and past experiences, we aimed to shift the perspective from what has been done to what can be achieved. We then moved on to practical steps and strategies, focusing on how to leverage your team’s skills and resources effectively to unlock your business’s full potential.

The importance of selecting the right KPIs cannot be overstated. By choosing metrics that are aligned with your specific goals and vision, and ensuring they are measurable, relevant, and realistic, you set a solid foundation for measuring progress and success. Remember, the right KPIs are those that not only challenge your team but are also attainable and directly contribute to your business’s growth.

As we conclude, it’s crucial to remember that strategic planning and execution are not just about setting goals and measuring progress. It’s about creating a culture within your business that values continuous learning, adaptability, and proactive problem-solving. Your journey doesn’t end with reaching a set of goals; it evolves with each milestone achieved and each lesson learned.

With the insights and strategies discussed, your business is well-equipped to navigate the complexities of the business world. Embrace the journey, celebrate the milestones, and always strive for continuous improvement. Here’s to the success and growth of your business – may your path be marked by informed decisions, strategic foresight, and unwavering commitment to excellence.

  • 🧭 – Crafting a strategic plan aligns agency growth with market realities, balancing aspiration with attainability.
  • 🚒 – Effective planning requires foresight, flexibility, and understanding of agency dynamics to steer through challenges.
  • 🎯 – A strategic plan is more than goals; it’s a dynamic, actionable roadmap for digital marketing success.
  • πŸ” – Regularly revisiting and adjusting strategies is crucial in response to changing market trends and internal dynamics.
  • πŸ“ˆ – Key to strategy success is measurable goals, accountable stakeholders, and maintaining traction through a RACI matrix.
  • 🧩 – Overcoming strategic planning challenges involves realistic goal setting, resource allocation, and adapting to market changes.