Being “strategic” has become corporate speak for being “important.” If you want your planning session to seem elevated, call it strategic planning. Business people talk about strategic planning ad nauseam. However, often there’s too much talking and not enough deciding.
Jan Rivkin, chair of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, defines strategy as “an integrated set of choices, which positions a firm in an industry so as to generate superior financial returns over the long run.”
Strategy is about choices, and you are the decider.
The question is: How are you going to create a sustainable advantage? You can start by being clear about your position.
Decision makers sometimes see positioning as a writing exercise, with the abstract goal being a beautifully crafted mission statement. It’s not that. A strategic position is an integrated set of choices.
Positioning, or clarifying your value proposition, comes down to five key decisions:
- Brand name
- Category or market
- Key audience (customer group)
- Key claim (how we are different or better)
- Support (what we do to support that claim)
You can assemble the answers to these questions into a clumsy but useful sentence:
For [key audience], [brand name] offers the best/most/etc. [key claim] among all [category or market] because [support].
Build a brand that is focused, different, and better. Your target market and customer ensure that you’re not trying to serve all people. Being clear about your claim is critical – why would someone buy your product or service? Finally, supporting the claim means doing what it takes to make it happen.
As a decision maker, you can either spend your time dodging these questions or answering them. By making these key decisions for your business, you will help make sure your brand means something to somebody, rather than meaning nothing to everybody.