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Are you in budget meetings right now, determining what funds you will have to implement next year’s strategic initiatives?

Is your budget process running late? Are you still reviewing budgets for next year?

If so, you have time to turn tedious budgeting exercises into productive strategic planning activities focused on business growth.

Budgeting Can Be the Worst, but There Is Hope!

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During budgeting in the Fortune 500 world, we spent too much time on the numbers and not nearly enough on making sure we were prioritizing the best strategic initiatives to grow the business.

I worked with some great people in the accounting and financial areas that understood forecasts and budgets do not just happen by themselves. My peers at the vice president level and above were, however, too often engaged in micro-managing budget details they could manage while not tackling tougher strategic issues within budgeting.

To counter this preference for numbers over strategy, we routinely tried to bring new thinking to the table to turn budget meetings into productive strategic planning activities.

3 Ways to Turn Budgets into Strategic Planning Activities

In our new Brainzooming eBook, “3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities,” we reveal how to:

  • Introduce productive questions you can address to improve strategy AND financials
  • Ensure you invest meeting time on high-impact areas (instead of minutiae)
  • Adopt an effective, highly-strategic approach to business metrics that addresses the link between strategic activities and results

If you are leading budget meetings, you can use these ideas to improve their strategic impact.

Even if your role is to develop and present your business unit’s budget, you can use the concepts in this eBook to highlight strategic activities and create a stronger linkage between forecasts, budgets, and the important strategic initiatives that drive growth.

The bonus part is that “3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities,” is FREE!

What finance or accounting person is going to nitpick that?


Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities

Download your copy today! – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you’ve read the Brainzooming blog for any length of time, you’ve seen Chuck Dymer’s name multiple times. Chuck has been an incredible influence on my career, especially as it comes to creative thinking skills. As someone said to me at one point, “You’ve changed your job into Chuck’s job.”

That was definitely true.

Chuck was the first person I heard deliver an in-depth presentation on creative thinking skills. He captivated me with his message. We worked with Chuck multiple times, and started to adopt many of his ideas and approaches into our strategic planning methodology.

Suffice it to say, there wouldn’t be a Brainzooming if I hadn’t met Chuck Dymer.

Creative Thinking Skills and Place with Chuck Dymer

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Chuck is closing his ideation space, The IdeaLoft.

I visited him for lunch yesterday, and we recorded the Facebook live video here. I asked Chuck to talk about the IdeaLoft and how place and creativity relate to one another. The relationship between them was integral to the design and layout of the Idealoft.

Enjoy the video and Chuck’s insights and expertise on how place influences creative thinking skills!

Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”


Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I was discussing a request for proposal the other day with a potential client. He’s developing a short list of potential candidates for a new market research initiative at his company. It was clear that the organization’s team had already decided that a request for proposal was the best way to determine which outside vendor will be the best market research partner.

One other thing that was clear in the conversation:  their expectations go well beyond carrying out an already in-place quantitative market research initiative.

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The discussion surfaced the need for creating and implementing multiple types of research – both quantitative and qualitative – across a number of market segments. While he billed it as “customer” research, it likely needs to include both prospects and former customers to provide accurate insights.

As we talked, I told him they shouldn’t be issuing a request for proposal.

When a Request for Proposal Doesn’t Fit

A request for proposal is fine (I suppose) when the expectations, needs, and product or service are evident. I told him, however, that when none of these are clear (even to the client) and there are multiple avenues to address a nebulous deliverable, a request for proposal isn’t the best step.

In less specific situations, a request for proposal is a waste of time for potential vendors. They are taking time to design something they will likely never implement. The real market research design will only take shape after the client selects a vendor and meaningful exploration takes place. By that point, the specifications have changed so much, the proposal is likely irrelevant.

The client will wind up re-working much of the original RFP process in short order after they pick a research partner. That’s wasted time, too.

A Request for Presentation Could Be Better

I suggested they invite potential market research partners to come in and present their credentials, experience, and initial thinking on helping the client explore what types of market research they will really need. After developing a comfort level with a potential market research partner from the Request for Presentation, they can select one. THAT is the time to sit down, specify the methodology, and develop a scope of work with pricing.

We’ll see if they take the advice.

I hope they do.

A Request for Presentation will likely be a more fruitful RFP process than one focused on a Request for Proposal. – Mike Brown

 

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Are you still working on your strategic planning for 2017?

Or, are you still waiting to launch your strategic planning for 2017?

Or is strategic planning for the next year something your organization just neglects to do?

If you answered “Yes” to the first or second questions, or even to the third one, but you know you SHOULD do planning for next year, time is running out.

5 Ways to Still Complete Your Strategic Planning for 2017

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To help you get a handle on what you have left to complete for strategic planning, here are five things you can do to cope AND get completely on top of things for 2017:

  • Keep as much of last year’s strategy in place as is practical and focus only on updating tactics.
  • Expand the number of people collaborating on the plan, creating concurrent tracks of activity.
  • Simplify the various parts of the plan so that it is easier and faster to complete.
  • Invite people that cannot come together for in-person planning to participate via online collaboration.
  • Push out the expectation for finishing strategic planning until early next year to give you more time.

Each of these five ideas will remove a significant time drain during your planning activities. The key to all of these is that you have the wherewithal to make such a dramatic change and still deliver a strategic plan that moves your business ahead next year.

We can help make each of these adjustments, all in the interests of streamlining your strategic planning process. Let us know if you need help. We can make it happen in time for you to be ready to make next year your best year yet!

Let’s talk for thirty minutes, and see how we can still work together to complete your plan and start implementing! – Mike Brown

Streamline and Complete 2017 Strategic Planning!

Download our FREE eBook: 5 Keys to Streamline Your Strategic Planning Process

5-keys-streamline-cover2In this new eBook, we share some of what we’ve learned from shaping, streamlining, and implementing hundreds of strategic workshops. Through our experience, we’ve identified and now share in this eBook:

  • Suggestions for assembling a strategy team with the right types of diversity
  • Dependable ways to help non-strategists think strategically
  • Tips for streamlining strategic planning activities to best fit your organization and save time

These user-friendly techniques regularly cut weeks (sometimes months) from typical strategic planning activities so your organization can focus on successful implementation for 2017!

Download Your FREE eBook! 5 Keys to Streamline Strategic Planning Activities!


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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For as much as we share about the Brainzooming approach to strategy, creativity, and innovation, I still frequently get the question, “What is it The Brainzooming group does?”

I am always surprised when that question comes from someone I interact with frequently or that sees Brainzooming social media content about our work. Probably both intentionally and unintentionally, we are vague in describing a specific set of services and products The Brainzooming Group delivers.

As I explained to a CEO the other day, our lack of specificity results from the fact we ADAPT what we do to a client’s situation and needs. Rather than having one method that clients need to conform to when working with us, we modify our approach to what will be most beneficial for the client. That key difference relative to most (maybe nearly all?) companies that do what we do is one of the most important ways The Brainzooming Group provides tremendous value for the right organizations and C-level executives.

“I’m an executive that needs a new strategy. Can you help?”

If you aren’t sure what we do and whether we should be working together, here are several pain points we’ve addressed for clients in the last year:

My organization needs a new or updated strategic plan, and we don’t want it to be as painful as last time.

We can bring you a quicker, more effective strategic planning process than you’ve likely ever experienced.

I’m a C-level executive and need to move a big initiative ahead, but my key staff members don’t have the wherewithal to make it happen (plus I don’t have the time to mentor them through it).

We can both teach and mentor them while delivering a strategy and implementation plan to bring the initiative to fruition.

I am taking over an organization and want to engage our employees more directly in culture change and moving forward.

We can bring you a multi-dimensional approach to involve all of your employees in sharing their perspectives and aspirations in a way that you can do something with the ideas AND meaningfully engage your people.

My organization is making a push to embrace innovation; we need training, strategies, and a way to make sure innovation is creating the expected impact.

We can design and implement an overall and initiative-specific process to foster and cultivate innovation across your organization.

My sales force is stuck in old ways of selling, and I have to change how we do things.

We can deliver strategic and creative thinking-based training that gives salespeople a structure to approach business development and solutions selling dramatically differently.

Do you see your organization in any of these situations?

brainzooming-ad

If so, we should talk sooner than later. No expectations, no obligation, no endless phone calls asking for follow up.

Talking for thirty minutes, we’ll both have a good idea if we should work together. When both our brains are zooming, that’s a great sign we’ve clicked.

If not, no problem. We’ll probably both be better off taking a different approach.

Do you have thirty minutes to talk?

So is it worth thirty minutes of your time to see how we can help move your strategies and success ahead?

If so, contact us, and let’s make it happen! – Mike Brown

 

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Should you NEVER have fun during your company’s strategy planning process?

I suspect you know my answer to that question!

I had dinner the other evening with a former colleague from the corporate world. He is the relatively new CEO of a nonprofit organization. As we were exchanging stories about what we had done since the last time we saw one another, we discussed strategic planning.

He mentioned that the organization’s current strategic planning process facilitator “reprimanded” him at a strategy meeting. She told him never to mention the idea of having “fun” during strategy planning. Supposedly, the previous CEO set the tone for strategy, and fun was not part of the strategic planning process equation.

Wow.

Double Wow.

Strategic-Planning-Fun

I immediately showed him how one of our most recent strategic planning eBooks was all about working to create a fun atmosphere for strategy planning. He recalled how we always spread out a bunch of toys at strategy planning meetings. While toys may or may not be part of the mix during strategic planning activities, the key principle is that being serious and mind numbing does not, in and of itself, lead to stronger strategy.

In the Brainzooming worldview, the best strategy comes from pushing on the edges of everyday thinking.

Or pushing beyond those edges into territory no upstanding businessperson would typically venture. And in those cases, fun and laughter are all part of the strategy deal. You cannot imagine boldly when your brain is chained to serious thinking.

Mind numbing thinking does not lead to breakthrough thinking.

Wild thinking (which IS FUN) does.

That is why we highly recommend that fun and your company’s strategic planning process go together!  – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”


Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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What are basic brand strategy moves to quickly take an older brand into today’s market?

An “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence looked at this brand strategy question last month. They evaluated the options for the band Depeche Mode. The group is making a “comeback” and incorporated a variety of brand strategy approaches to freshen its brand.

An Old Brand Is Just an Old Brand – Until to You Do Something New with It – via Armada Corporate Intelligence

Depeche Mode, a 1980s and 90s alternative band, is discussing a new record and tour. The group, known for hits such as, “People Are People,”  “Personal Jesus,” and “Enjoy the Silence,” announced its newest record, “Spirit,” six months in advance along with a twenty-one country tour during mid-2017.

Depeche Mode has remained active since its biggest hits decades ago. This week’s announcement, however, seems to represent a new push to return to greater prominence.

What makes an old product new again?

We raised the question yesterday of how brands rekindle, dust off, improve, innovate upon, and reintroduce themselves to the market. The Depeche Mode update involves multiple brand strategies:

  • Involving a new producer and tech music luminaries
  • Putting the brand into new formats
  • Ramping up promotional elements
  • Playing up pure nostalgia

If you have a long-standing brand needing a boost to reach its previous heights, what are your options for bringing it back to the market in a way that attracts attention, engages existing and new audiences, and delivers improved business results?

Evaluating Your Brand Update Options

Using possibilities suggested in the Depeche Mode story plus a few others, we identified (and labeled) six potential brand update strategies for long-standing brands to undertake enhancements. These include:

Pure Nostalgia – In this strategy, everything essentially remains the same with the original brand. The brand’s promise (what it delivers to customers), elements (what makes up the brand), and experience (what happens for customers as they use the brand) to remain relatively unchanged. The brand attraction is dependent on audiences having positive (and likely intense) memories of the brand from an earlier, more prominent time. There may be a significant marketing push for the brand, but it constitutes the main effort to return the brand to earlier prominence. (Example – A cereal or candy brand marketing itself as a brand you remember from childhood)

Reintroduction – This strategic option involves updating the brand promise, elements, and experience to reflect current capabilities, knowledge, and market realities. Elements of the old brand may be eliminated and replaced with different aspects than the brand originally possessed. While certain brand elements are distinctly different and reflect today’s situation, a strong connection remains to the brand’s earlier days to create clear linkage. (Example – Bringing back current actors to play Colonel Sanders for KFC)

Refresh – Within a brand refresh strategy, the objective is to focus on a brand’s strongest elements – the things making it most distinctive and valuable to the primary audience – and preserve them. Any brand aspects that are outdated or lacking in some way are replaced with distinctly new elements reflecting a contemporary look, feel, and sensibilities. (Example – Pokémon GO, moving a familiar brand into mobile gaming and augmented reality)

Reformulation – In this brand update scenario, a brand retains its name and perhaps a few very important core elements. Everything else is completely redesigned and modernized. The underlying expectation is to call to mind the old brand among loyal audience members while relying on modern features to fuel new growth and success. (Example – The “new” Yankee Stadium replacing the old, historic ballpark)

Promotional Reintroduction – Even when a brand promise is largely intact and all aspects of the brand are strong, it may need an extra something to maximize its impact in a new way. That is when a promotion-based brand update strategy comes into play. The objective here is using a short-term change in the brand (or attaching something new to the brand) to generate interest and attention. After some finite period, the brand change or addition is reversed.  (Example – Coca-Cola adding personal names to its cans and bottles for the summer)

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(Re)Launch – This brand update strategy involves keeping the brand largely intact as it has always been. The major change involves inserting the brand into new channels, locations, or markets. It could also involve returning to current channels, locations, or markets where the brand was previously active but withdrew or minimized its presence. (Example – A restaurant chain that enters and exits a particular market, only to re-enter the market at a future time)

A couple of notes about these strategies:

  • These options are not mutually exclusive. They likely benefit, in fact, from smart, strategic combinations.
  • We selected the labels based on how we’ve seen these described and deployed, so you may see them labeled differently elsewhere

Against this backdrop of potential strategies, we recommend conducting an exercise to identify a comprehensive list of everything closely associated with your brand. Beyond listing anything tied to the brand promise, elements, and experience, include language, customer perceptions (positive and negative, quantitative and qualitative), images, and any other sensory cues related to the brand.

After identifying a robust list of brand-related aspects, assemble a group of people from throughout your organization with strong insights into the brand. Have the group individually and collectively make their best assessments of whether each brand item is:

  • Critical to defining the brand
  • Important to the brand, but open to modification or significant change
  • No longer relevant for the brand

While it is ideal to have quantitative market research to incorporate into this type of brand assessment, a diverse group can generally make a strong first pass evaluation of where you have room to modify your brand. As you develop a point of view on where your brand is ripe for change, review the brand update strategy options list. Choose one or multiple strategies that might make sense for updating your brand.

Does your brand need a refresh?

Beyond this article, let us know if you want to talk further about updating a brand. With many organizations currently preparing next year’s strategies, it is a great time to perform a brand check to determine if it is time for something new.

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

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