Every strategy has two elements: formulation and execution. For all intents and purposes, the two go hand in hand. Formulation is useless without execution and there’s simply nothing to execute without formulation. But there’s a reason 7 to 9 out of every 10 business strategies fail – and it might not be for the reasons you’re thinking. Most businesses attribute formulation to their downfall – when the real failure is in their execution.
Regardless of where they end up, all strategies begin with discussion and thinking – stepping stones to form the questions that bring real-world solutions. If you want to build and effective strategy – and of course, you do – then you need to start by asking the right questions.
Did you earn the win?
The value a business delivers to the customer is the essential issue every marketer is looking to solve. Does your product or service create something valuable to the customer? If so, then it’s your job to communicate those value propositions and earn the win.
A quintessential example of earning the win is the BlackBerry device, which entered the market as a shooting star only to die down in the distance at the launch of the iPhone.
The first-generation BlackBerry device earned its win – no doubt about it. For the first time, customers purchased not a mobile device but a mini-computer armed with all the security an on-the-go businessperson could need. It wasn’t until the launch of the iPhone – an alternative that captivated large audiences – that BlackBerry would realize its downfall in strategic execution.
While the iPhone brought customers smartphone innovation, BlackBerry stuck to its old approach. Customers demanded something new and BlackBerry didn’t listen. The once dominant mobile device lost its right to claim victory and faltered.
Does your business deserve to win? Let the classic case of the BlackBerry serve as a permanent reminder to always ask this vital question and answer it both honestly and objectively.
Does your strategy need a fresh start?
A failed strategy puts companies in a defensive position – you’re looking to defend the past rather than create a new future. Sometimes, a fresh start is all a company needs to revamp its strategy and stumble upon success.
There’s an obvious risk in taking a new strategic approach. But if there is no risk, there is no reward. Intel reaped the rewards of a fresh start when the company abandoned its memory chip commodity business and entered the world of microprocessors.
Founders Andy Grove and Gordon Moore adopted the mindset of new CEOs stepping in to change the company’s strategic direction. The creative concept helped the founders think outside of the box and revamp Intel’s business strategy.
If your strategy needs a fresh start, simply walk out of the office and return back, this time to the drawing board.
If you traveled into the future, why did your strategy fail?
This is known as the premortem question. It’s based on the notion that mistakes are easier to spot in hindsight.
As a business owner, you might have some clues into the roadblocks that may steer your strategy in the wrong direction along the way. If you anticipate those fears and put them on the table, then your strategic team can talk about them in a positive way.
All great strategies begin with creative discussions. Opening a discussion with “If only we had…” is a highly effective way to ignite the creativity that sparks valuable strategic direction.
Hindsight is always 20/20. So, go ahead. Travel three to six years into the future. You might discover hurdles you can overcome before you even approach them.
What conditions are necessary for your strategy to succeed?
If you want to build a winning strategy, there’s a lot more to consider than the short-term and the obvious. When posed the question of which conditions a strategy needs to succeed, most executives answer it literally: we need to have everyone on board, for example.
In order to get to the heart of the question, you need to probe deeper than the surface. Take the economy, for example. Will it be strong enough to support customers purchasing your product or service? The question sounds relatively simple – but the answer is always more complex.
A successful strategy depends on a host of conditions and you need to be both explicit and realistic about them. It’s easy to look at the content of a strategy. Looking at its conditions requires the insight of a seasoned strategic marketer.
Would you invest in the strategy?
Strategic execution requires financial investment. At first glance, your executives might be on board to fund the new business and marketing strategy. Beneath the surface, some might have their secret doubts.
It doesn’t take much to get your executives to share their deepest concerns about funding a strategic campaign. All it usually takes is one executive admitting a financial investment is either too risky or too little, too late.
Ask your doubtful executives what has to change in the strategy to get them to invest their money. The typical response is an honest evaluation to help you view the strategy from all angles.
Pave the Road for Success
What makes these the right questions to help you avoid strategy failure? Each of the questions helps you determine a starting point, share concerns and build awareness for the potential pitfalls along the way. Answer these questions first and you can pave the road for miles of success.