Not too long ago I was helping a client with their strategic plan. They told me they had a really good handle on customer/market knowledge. And I made the mistake of taking them at their word – without proof. As we moved along the process, it became clear that they didn’t. And it really limited our success. I won’t make that mistake again! Your strategic plan must have market intelligence as its foundation. Don’t skip it. Don’t skimp on it. And don’t ignore it. Internalize it as a core principle of your organization.
Having a solid foundation of customer and market knowledge is at the very heart of your business’s success. And, of course, that makes it critical to the strategic planning process. Our products and services have to be targeted toward solving a well-defined customer problem. We have to begin by understanding what those problems are and making sure our products and services are designed to solve them better than anyone else. And we all know those challenges can change. Lack of and/or outdated knowledge is simply unacceptable.
This is one of the critical foundational pieces of a solid strategic plan…but one that is often overlooked. Why? We often think we already know what we need to know. (New flash. Our info may be outdated or incomplete.) We’re not sure how to ask or what to look for. (A poor excuse.) And sometimes we might simply be afraid to learn the truth. (It may not match what we think or what we are already dong – and require real change.) There are plenty of impediments to us developing that all-important market knowledge. But, my friends, we need to get over it.
But I get it. Not every organization (especially smaller ones) likes the idea of biting off a full-blown customer/market research effort within their strategic planning process. But that knowledge truly is fundamental to your success; and so we need to go get it.
You’re “in” your business every day. There’s a tendency to think we have a solid handle on what our target market needs and what our customers are thinking. The truth is our information is probably pretty imperfect. Customers don’t tell us everything. In the heat of the day-to-day we’re just not great at looking for those types of clues or signals, and so we often just skim over this type of information. We probably know partof the answer.
I’ve seen (and facilitated) leadership teams discussing and debating market research and its meaning. Trust me, this is a healthy debate to have. It’s always fascinating to me to see the result of these discussions as leaders come together in a common understanding of their market, its needs, and how their products and/or services will fulfill these needs.
Ideally, you should have an ongoing process to collect and analyze this type of information. (Which is an important topic for another day.)
Intuitively, you know this is important. Without REAL market knowledge to support and inform our foundational decisions, a strategic plan will simply not be successful. We’ll be too scattered with our product/service decisions. Our strategic direction and purpose will be unclear. Our brand and our messaging won’t connect with our intended audience. So, take the time and invest the resources to get that knowledge to inform your strategic plan. While alone it can’t guarantee success, it can and will increase the odds that your strategy will be successful by being targeted and focused on the needs of your marketplace.
I LOVE to help leaders improve and businesses grow!