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How to Think Strategically, By Asking Yourself Questions

think strategically

As small business owners we’re great at many things, but strategy is usually not our strong suit.

Early on in my marketing career, I was struggling with a strategic issue and my supervisor told me I needed to “think more deeply.”  That didn’t help one bit.

In the small business world, we tend to operate in a “ready, fire, aim” way. And that’s ok, that’s what gets stuff done. That’s where a lot of innovation comes from. That’s why small businesses can be nimble and solve real-life problems faster than big businesses and that’s what moves our economy forward.

But, the transition from small business to sustainable company requires strategy.

As I’ve worked with many different small business owners, I’ve developed a few processes to make this “deep thinking” process a bit more tangible and more importantly, more doable.

First, An Analogy

Let’s say we were going to build a 10 story building. We first need an architect to draft the blueprint. Then we have a project plan. Prep the ground. Bring in utilities. Lay the foundation. Put up a frame and then plumbing and electricity. Lastly, we finish with sheetrock, paint, etc. That’s the rough idea (clearly, I’m not a builder).

But, what would happen if we tried to install the electricity before the frame was up?

We’d end up with a tangled pile of wires. That’s also what happens when entrepreneurs fly at 100 mph “getting stuff done.” It works. But only to a point.

So, how do we replicate that logical process in our business? How do we get from point A to point B?

That’s a little to vague for most people. So, a slight alteration of the question does the trick:

How to Think Strategically

Its all about moving a person from where they’re at to where they need to be. Particularly in the marketing world, this has a lot to do with what’s going on in your customers mind and emotions. What emotions does my prospect need to feel in order to justify purchasing my product? Once you’ve identified the pre-purchase state, you can work backwards to create it.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose we sell hiking boots. Here’s how we attack it.

How do we get an average person to purchase hiking boots? In order words, what is the mental state of someone who makes a purchase of hiking boots?

Ok, now that we’ve outlined the purchasing state, we must put a plan in place to create that state:

Depending on your business, you may use different media to do this. Some may use one video that walks prospects down this path. Others may use an email series. Others may use a webinar or hangout. That’s another strategic question for you. In order to get prospects from point A to point B, which medium will most easily get them there?

In this example we’ll use an email series:

Ask Yourself

This is a very simple example. But you can see how asking the right questions in the beginning helps us to frame out the email sequence in a logical way that is both educational and gets the sales job done. It sure beats writing a bunch of emails and hoping they work (just like wiring the building prematurely and then hoping the lights turn on).

In every situation, ask yourself how to get from point A to point B. Here are a few strategic questions every business owner should be asking:

If you can answer those questions with well thought-out plans, you’ll be strategically moving your company from where you are to where you want to be.

Camping [1] Photo via Shutterstock