Strategic Thinking | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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A common fear about selecting a single target market or audience persona is that focusing on one market when making branding strategy decisions is risky. The fear is target marketing will cause a brand to miss stellar growth opportunities coming from other markets or audiences. That rationale suggests the best course to capitalize on a brand’s full market potential is to avoid targeting any markets or audiences and instead do what you do with every market or audience in mind.

I can understand why a brand owner may think that. Unless you pick a market or audience that is so narrow and a position so extreme that it is off-putting to everyone not targeted, however, it’s not likely to play out that way.

Why Target Marketing Won’t Cripple Your Branding Strategy

Here’s an example of how target marketing helps your branding strategy:

From the outside, one suspects Starbucks targets only a coffee drinking audience. Maybe there are multiple targets, but they all revolve around coffee drinkers. I haven’t had a cup of coffee since I was three years old, so I am clearly not in a Starbucks target market.

Since Starbucks doesn’t offer Diet Dr. Pepper (my preferred caffeine delivery vehicle), it is foregoing revenue from me and others not buying soft drinks. Yet even though I’m not a coffee drinker, that doesn’t mean, I am not a Starbucks customer. When traveling, I seek out the Starbucks brand for food. It’s a known brand, and its standard food items are nearly as ubiquitous as its retail presences. They have water, which I’m also buying when I travel. In the grand scheme of things, I’m guessing Starbucks doesn’t lose tremendous growth opportunities by not selling soft drinks since doing so would be off-brand.

Working with this example, here’s an alternative way to think about targeting markets and personas: Consider your strategic targeting moves as making strategic prioritization decisions for your brand.

Starbucks would be foolish to prioritize anything I personally wanted from the brand (get rid of the coffee smell, add soft drinks, have a food-only payment line to speed things up) since my preferences are way outside its target market. By prioritizing product development, brand experience, innovation, and everything else around its target markets, Starbucks maintains the strength of its brand. It is in a much better position to grow its presence thanks to picking a target market and prioritizing what it does based on choices the target audience expects and will reward.

If you have hesitated embracing a more focused marketing and messaging strategy focused around a target market, now is the time to get over it! – Mike Brown

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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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Someone downloaded a free Brainzooming strategy eBook, noting his biggest strategy challenge is “how to do a strategic planning process when you are new.” That question relates to something we do all the time: walk into a new client in an unfamiliar industry to design and facilitate a strategic planning process.

While leading strategy development in a new company poses challenges (including needing to learn a tremendous amount as you go), it has a comparable number of advantages (Including not laboring under preconceived ideas about how the organization does things).

via Shutterstock

In that type of situation, we recommend using strong strategic thinking questions and frameworks to quickly understand the situation, the players, and the opportunities. This is vital (from our experience) for ensuring your newness yields more advantages than challenges.

Additionally, here are four areas we recommend exploring right away (and 12 resources to support your work):

Identify what has been done previously

Secure copies of previous plans and strategy documents, and don’t settle for the first things people offer you. Keep digging via different angles and types of requests. What you see as strategic may not be what others think is strategic. Ask about what has and has not worked during previous strategic planning initiatives. You want to be sure to find out what things most often lead to successful implementation. Finally, as you compile strategy documents, review them thoroughly to glean all the value they provide.

Getting to What Is Strategic

Determine the important players

Review the organization chart and identify the major players from a formal standpoint. That’s your first look. Then start probing informally for who the important players will be in strategic planning. That’s not to say the people on the org chart AREN’T important. There are like people outside the top-level organization charts with ideas, insights, pieces of the puzzle, and important answers for getting you up to speed very quickly.

Tracking Down the Expertise You Need

What’s it like?

Go hard and fast to understand the company, customers, industry, and competitors, along with all the other things important for the early internal and external fact base supporting the strategic planning process. These are the basics where you must quickly develop a working knowledge and a good command of the facts. As a new strategic planner, you can quickly gain advantage by bringing intriguing comparisons to the table. Finding analogous situations to help create new perspectives helps you stay ahead of the game in introducing new thinking. The more pertinent analogies you can employ, the more you showcase how fresh perspectives are bringing value to the strategic planning process.

Making Great Comparisons

What’s ahead?

It would not be a surprise if many (most?) of the people you will reach out to for strategic planning participation will be focused on day-to-day business activities. While they may want to look toward the future, near-term responsibilities can routinely derail those aspirations. As the strategic planning person, you are in a prime position to focus on what is coming – whether expected or unexpected. Be on the lookout for individuals who spend considerable time thinking about trends, future developments, and their implications.

Looking Further Out from Here

That may not be everything, but it’s a solid start to run a strategic planning process as if you have years of experience where you are! – Mike Brown

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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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How can you get the most mileage from the free strategic planning eBooks we regularly offer as downloads?

We do not pretend to be able to imagine EVERY single situation where you might apply our strategic thinking exercises. Yet when we create new eBooks, our main goal is ensuring the content is heavy on ideas and tools you can apply to improve strategic thinking and implementation in your organization.

One way we test that expectation is by working with the exercises ourselves to ensure their effectiveness and utility.

Using Our Own Strategic Planning Exercises

Considering that, here’s an example of how, as one previous boss might say, we eat our own dog food (in this case, strategic thinking exercises).

I was working yesterday on designing an upcoming strategic planning Zoomference for a client. One objective for the Zoomference is to push the leadership group’s thinking toward innovative ideas they might have never considered a few years before.

Reaching the part of the outline where we’re going to turn the participants toward more disruptive thinking, I needed to come up with appropriate strategic thinking questions for the client to consider. Turning around in my chair, I saw a draft copy of our Disrupting Thinking eBook. It is filled with questions to push thinking on multiple topics, including brand benefits, success factors, risk taking, and new market entry. I grabbed the copy, combed through it, and found five great questions.

Total time from identifying what I needed to having five strong potential strategic thinking questions?

Less than five minutes.

Compare that to sitting with a blank screen struggling to imagine brand new strategic thinking questions from scratch. I know I would have spent way more than five minutes.

If you’re similarly on the hook to come up with engaging questions or strategy and innovation ideas (which you likely are if you are still reading this), you would have taken the same or more amount of time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be done in five minutes and ready to move on to the next thing?

How Much Time Do You Want to Save in the Next Year?

So, go ahead and download Disrupting Thinking right now. And grab our eBook with 600 strategic thinking questions, too. You will save TENS OF HOURS (maybe more) of time over the next year with these two Brainzooming downloads.
Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

So yeah, we eat our own strategic thinking exercise dog food.

And it tastes darn good.

Plus, we share it ALL THE TIME! – Mike Brown

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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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We were listening in on an internal innovation strategy call conducted by one of our clients. The team was wrestling with a concern voiced by the organization’s senior leader that its complete innovation portfolio wasn’t capable of yielding the financial impact he is seeking. The key question was, “Where’s the beef with this innovation strategy?”

via Shutterstock

The sense of unease among the organization’s innovation team leaders was palpable. They were feeling a need to scramble. They seemed ready to jump through hoops to justify the innovation strategy to the CEO. However, that would have entailed veering from their well-considered implementation plans.

3 Questions When the Innovation Strategy ROI Doesn’t Satisfy the Boss

Before they deviated from their very solid innovation strategy approach (only some of which we helped shape—they’ve been doing great work on their own), I challenged them to consider three questions:

#1. Is there a legitimate basis for the C-Suite challenge to their innovation strategy?

Does the organization truly lack innovation, or is the senior leader lacking awareness and understanding of the work the team has already accomplished? If they can’t answer that question upfront, they risk a lot of potentially unnecessary effort.

#2. Is there a standard methodology for quantifying the impact of the innovation strategy?

If yes, does it support the CEO’s perspective? If there isn’t a standard methodology to project and quantify the innovation strategy impact, it would be a better use of their time to develop one, rather than launching a disruptive CYA effort.

#3. If the team lacks innovation opportunities with a significant financial impact, what can they do to quickly find or create them?

Since it’s far better to scramble for progress than to take a CYA approach, what steps do they need to take to make this happen?

Where do you start looking for the innovation strategy beef?

In a follow-up call, they were still evaluating the need to pump up the number of new ideas to deliver the beef to the CEO.

Hearing they had still not answered these three questions and we’re trying to come up with more ways to generate more ideas, I cautioned them, using an analogy: they should answer the question about where the beef is by going to the fridge and putting a patty on the grill. Instead, they were primed to go out into the fields to look for more cows. The problem is that cows are difficult to find, and new cows don’t often yield the expected beef.

I’m hoping they are going to concentrate and invest their efforts into developing existing ideas, even if at the same time they’re pulling out all stops to get the CEO a satisfactory response.

Should you find yourself in this unenviable-yet-crucial position within your own organization, I encourage you to consider the questions above. They may just mean the difference between progress and business as usual! – Mike Brown

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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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Do you dread strategy meetings?

Really, we’re among friends, so you can be completely truthful in your answer: Do you REALLY, REALLY DREAD strategy meetings?

Of course, you dread them. Every executive dreads strategic planning. I know I do.

The reason is while it is important for organizations, participants hardly ever see the connection between participation and positive changes for brands and customers.

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

While a strategic planning process may promise to deliver real objectives and tactics, it often never happens as promised. Senior executives may say they want disruptive ideas, but they really want ideas that are easy to grasp and fit the current system. And who wants to waste precious time on trying to imagine and plan things an organization should pursue but ultimately never will?

That is why wrapping strategy meetings in creative thinking exercises and the appropriate amount of fun and diversion is optimum.

80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

We’ve been facilitating fun strategic planning activities for years.

Across our client engagements, here are links to 80 activities and ideas for making strategy more fun!

Even though fun strategy meetings seem elusive, we routinely make them productive, enjoyable, and fun for the organizations, senior executives, and teams with which we work. Enjoy this dive into our most successful approaches.

If you would like to go even deeper, contact us, and let’s talk about how we can bring a fun approach to strategy into your organization! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning 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

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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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In the Midwest, where I grew up, grain elevators are a common sight. The tall structures store grain for processing, and you learn as a kid that they can be both combustible and explosive. Given they hold a high concentration of grain, and therefore a large surface area, it only takes a small spark to turn one into an explosive scene.

3 Conditions for Explosive Creative Thinking Skills

Reflecting on grain elevators led me to consider explosive creative thinking skills, and the parallels between the two. The characteristics that create a potentially dangerous explosive situation at a grain elevator can be turned to a positive when applied to creative thinking skills:

#1. Large surface area

When it comes to creativity, this element translates to setting up many-to-many (as opposed to one-on-one) interactions among participants during a creative workshop. In this way, a variety of people are exposed to, and can stimulate new thoughts and perspectives in, one another.

#2. Intensity

Achieve intensity by constraining time and creating high expectations for the number of ideas a creative group should imagine. With just a few competitive people involved across a large group of participants, a big goal combined with a deadline leads to an opportunity to push everyone’s creative thinking skills for big impact.

#3. Structure

Finally, by having creative thinking exercises in place, you provide the right structure for group collaboration. And that’s the spark that takes the setting from calm to explosive.

Creativity Goes Boom!

This shorthand analogy proves very convenient if your team’s creative thinking skills aren’t delivering the results you would like to accomplish. Step back and ask, How can we generate the combination of the abundant surface area, intensity, and the structure to spark an explosion of creative thinking? – Mike Brown

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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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“Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence featured ideas keeping executives focused on strategic priorities during strategic planning meetings. If your team wanders away from the important strategic topic, here’s a strategy to address it:

3 Ways to Keep Strategic Priorities Front and Center with Executives via Inside the Executive Suite

An executive reported a real-time challenge: keeping the senior team at her company focused on strategic priorities. Depending on the number of executives, or the positions of those prone to overly-detailed discussions, making sure a senior team does not get caught in the weeds during strategy meetings can be a touchy proposition.

We suspect it’s an issue familiar to many organizations. We find it typical that at least one or two individuals in any senior group are comfortable sticking to more detail than you would expect them to embrace. These may be individuals who are responsible for specific areas (and perhaps have been so throughout their careers) and/or ones with personalities oriented toward greater-than-average detail.

Keeping Strategic Priorities Front and Center

Do you struggle keeping senior-level strategy discussions at the appropriate level? If so, try these techniques we’ve employed over the years to focus meetings on strategic priorities that legitimately deserve executive suite attention.

1. Identify Where Everyone Stands Up Front

We are major proponents for meeting with executives before important strategy discussions. Whether through in-person interviews or some type of online input, it is helpful to know which executives are thinking what, and what issues resonate most strongly with them. Pre-meetings provide a sense of areas in which individuals may take the group into unnecessary detail. Questions to explore up front include:

  • What are the most important issues to address?
  • Where do you suspect strategy discussions could potentially derail?
  • What factors are important for determining the right strategy?
  • What topics do you feel most strongly about addressing in the meeting?

Based on participants’ answers, you will develop an early indication of the areas in which a meeting could go into the weeds. You will also have a sense of the major strategic themes to use in anchoring meeting conversations. Also, look for the senior leaders most likely to keep things out of the weeds. Talk with them beforehand, asking for their assistance to voice concerns if a particular leader or discussion becomes stuck in tactical matters.

2. Implement a Structure that Emphasizes Discussions on Strategic Priorities

Using what you identify during pre-meeting conversations, design a meeting format and structure to help the team focus on strategic issues. As you evaluate what is strategic, we recommend ignoring whether issues are long- or short-term. The timeline associated with acting on an opportunity or challenge doesn’t determine its strategic importance. Rather, think of strategic issues as those that will create a material impact on any of the following areas for your organization:

  • Its brands
  • Key audiences
  • Customers and prospects
  • Structure and alignment
  • Financial prospects
  • Vision and values
  • Resources and raw materials

Sharing and adopting a comparable framework for what is strategic helps keep a discussion focused on matters that will legitimately move the needle in any of these areas.

We also use several other approaches to steer strategic conversations:

  • List the major strategic themes you identify before the meeting. Allow the senior group to individually and collectively assign each item to a category: strategic, tactical, or (project) task issues.
  • Assign time limits to various agenda topics, allowing more time for strategic matters—disproportionately so.
  • As tactical or extraneous items are mentioned and commanding attention, stop and ask for clarification around the strategic issue to which they relate. If they can’t be tied back to strategy, table them.
  • Tackle non-strategic topics with questions that reveal them for what they are. Ask: How does this contribute to accomplishing our major objectives? How will this create a meaningful impact for customers (or other audiences)? If we don’t address this at a senior level, what major downsides will it create?

You can use these techniques individually or in combination to help manage discussions toward a strategic level.

3. Actively Listening for Strategic Information

From our experience, it’s rare that senior leaders (or anyone else for that matter) will articulate clear strategy statements and strategic issues right away. Instead, strategy emerges from snippets of conversation. That places heavy responsibility on the meeting facilitator to listen for strategic inputs amid conversation that may largely seem tactical.

Beyond monitoring for the strategic areas we mentioned earlier, listen for any conversation that touches on:

  • Organizational aspirations
  • Expectations tied to strategic initiatives and outcomes
  • Numbers that help size the impact of a strategic initiative
  • Significant strengths and weaknesses
  • Factors impacting organizational success, either positively or negatively
  • Descriptions of metrics and objectives
  • Beliefs central to the ways in which an organization conducts business
  • Elements that will contribute to decision making

By identifying the types of information you need to develop and refine strategy, you can better recognize relevant elements that surface throughout a strategic discussion. When details emerge, record and organize them in a way that both highlights their strategic nature and provides a visual aid to align the group. We’ve used this technique to allow a leadership team the flexibility to talk in an open format, while capturing their strategic insights and organizing them in a way they can productively use. Another advantage to actively and distinctly posting strategic decisions and issues as you go through a meeting is that it creates a visual aid to manage the conversation. If people get in the weeds when trying to revisit previously-made decisions, you can point them to the decision list to demonstrate it has already been addressed.

Additionally, if several senior participants are struggling to stay on a strategic plane, divide the larger group into smaller sub-groups. Put tactical thinkers together, freeing those ready to stay focused on strategic topics and make progress.

Keep Trying

We’ve suggested various ideas for keeping strategic priorities a focus for executives . We’ve used them all successfully. Yet they won’t all work in every situation. Try them, adapt where you need to do so, and develop your own variations that work most successfully with your group of senior leaders.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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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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