Long, insightful, and…fun?
Inside a two day strategy overview session.
I recently facilitated a strategy overview session for a company here in Milwaukee. Our goal was to get an overview of their clients, brand and business goals. It was 6+ hours of meetings held over two days. I know, that doesn’t exactly sound efficient, does it? But, it was the time needed to get context for what a company is trying to achieve, and allow for all stakeholders to see if they are on the same page.
This type of overview gives a roadmap for what actions to take and investments to make before starting down the path of revamping your brand and communications, or embarking on major business decisions.
Also, its surprisingly fun to get together in an open and friendly environment to talk through who your clients are, where you are headed, and how you might get there. We gathered in a room with plenty of wall space for note taking, lots of pens, and a Time Timer. And cookies.
Curious about what was packed into six hours? Here’s a little more about what we covered:
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Who are your clients?
Because they are at the center of everything you do, defining your client is a great place to start. Who are you currently serving? Who would you like to serve in the future? If you could personify these people, what would they be like? What or who influences their decisions? Why would they decide (or not) to work with you?
We began by looking at who current clients are, and then who would be a goal client. Sometimes these are the same people, sometimes not. It’s helpful to recognize this, and then look at how you are connecting with them as individuals. We got into specifics about a client’s history, what they hope to accomplish, and what might be holding them back.
We then looked at factors that influence a client’s decisions, and why they might choose not to work with a particular company. If they do choose to work with a company, what types of experiences or solutions would make them a return customer and advocate?
How is your brand perceived?
What does it sound, look, and feel like? Is there a disconnect between how you think your brand is being perceived, and how it actually is? Here we try to move quickly, to avoid laboring over descriptions of the brand experience. We look for words that are top of mind, hoping to get to a gut reaction. This is intended to get us closer to talking about the actual experience of the brand, vs. how it was intended to feel.
Once we have insight into what a brand stands for, sounds, and feels like, this can be used to review current communications, and see which aspects are shining through in a consistent manner.
What are your goals?
What would you like to accomplish in the short, medium and long term? Where should you focus limited resources when trying to build awareness, grow revenue, increase efficiency, and deliver a better client experience? Which goals do you pick to avoid wasting time and effort?
This is a chance to throw everything at the wall. We wrote out all kinds of ideas—simple ideas, outlandish ones, maybe ideas that have been shot down in the past. How distant are they, really? If you’re able to define the goal, give it a measurable time frame, and assign a value to it, you’ll start to see which ones make sense to take on, and in what order. We gave each goal a level of Desirability—how badly do you want to achieve it? And Feasibility—how much time and resources will be required? Assigning these values built a matrix where certain goals were clear winners, and could be added to the To-Do list with at least a basic understanding of what would be involved to achieve them.
We discussed all of these areas with an eye towards time (no more than 6 minutes per question). This may sound limiting, but it gave a chance for everyone to chime in, and kept thoughts moving, allowing us to cover a lot of ground without over-analyzing any one subject.
This process is definitely a time commitment, but worth the investment. Here’s why:
It’s a great way for stakeholders to check in with each other. You might be surprised at how differently people in the same company might view their audience, challenges or opportunities. It can be helpful to have a structured setting to voice ideas, concerns and divergence of opinion.
It allows you to dream big with limited resources. It’s an environment where you can get all your ideas out, allowing you to entertain the notion of taking a step (even a seemingly wild step), without committing to anything. You may discover some simple, low commitment ideas you can implement quickly. Or some big initiatives that might be worth the effort. Getting an overview allows you to put all of your ideas out on the table to decide which ones will be the most effective, and aligned to your budget and time constraints.
It helps tame the list of unlimited options. Have you ever tried to move in multiple directions at once? What happens? Usually, you just end up in roughly the same place, except now with less time and fewer resources. What if you could commit time upfront to make a plan, and then approach your initiatives deliberately, perhaps just a few at a time?
It aligns your initiatives with your client’s needs. Defining who you are trying to serve, getting into their shoes, and empathizing as best you are able with their situation, sheds light on whether initiatives you are taking on truly work towards the goal of helping your audience. Your success depends on whether you are delivering on your promises, communicating with your audience in the way they want to communicate, and helping to solve their challenges, which is what your business is all about.
It’s an excuse to eat cookies. It’s not a requirement—you can include healthier alternatives. But, like little chocolate donuts, they taste good, and they’ve got the sugar you need to get you going in a decathlon-length meeting.
I hope this helped to give an idea of what a strategy overview is like, and how it can be useful for a company before embarking on major initiatives. If you have any questions about the process, or think it might be helpful for you, please let me know!