Every business owner needs to spend time devising a long-term strategy for growth. It can help you focus on where you want your business to be, as well as the steps needed to get there.
Without such planning, your business will probably stumble along and you'll miss out on exciting growth opportunities. Here are key components for successful long-term planning, as well as strategic elements to implement:
A Clear Value Proposition
It must be absolutely clear what sets your business apart from the competition. If you don't already know why customers buy your products or services, it's time to identify that unique value proposition and get it on paper. Being able to articulate this key factor will also help frame the marketing message you send to new customers.
Thorough Understanding of Your Customers' (Evolving) Needs
How much do you know about the people who buy your products? What are their needs today, and how will those needs likely change tomorrow? Long-term planning starts with a comprehensive understanding of your customer's persona (including age, education, spending habits and other demographic data) and works to anticipate what needs may lie ahead.
In-Depth Competitive Analysis
Since no business exists in a vacuum, your strategic planning should include an analysis of your competitors: what they do well, where they fall short, the effectiveness of their marketing approach and so on.
"When you understand the competition well, you can take advantage of their flaws and deliver a product or service with the best value in the market," according to StartUpTipsDaily.
Aggressive Employee Recruitment and Retention Strategy
No small business lasts long without a talented, loyal workforce. Your long-term growth strategy must include a plan for aggressively investing in the most creative employees you can find. Make a commitment to designing job positions that include opportunities for career growth. Craft job descriptions that are both accurate and appealing to your target job candidates, and provide an attractive benefits package, so your great new hires don't leave for a competitor.
Upgraded Company Website
When's the last time you looked at your business site? Your customers may routinely encounter glitches or other obstacles that impair their shopping experiences. A key element in long-term planning is leveraging the latest software technology to attract, engage and educate visitors to your site — and then convert them into paying customers.
Start-up coach Ehsan Jahandarpour reminds business owners that "automating your sales funnel, and implementing retargeting strategies can increase your conversion rate and revenue significantly."
Established Key Indicators and Milestones
No plan will count for much if you don't have a way to measure its effectiveness. Determine which key indicators have the greatest effect on your business, and incorporate these into your plan. Also, build in realistic milestones to reach at different stages (monthly, quarterly, annually) so you know if your business is growing at an acceptable pace, if customer acquisition is moving ahead and if both short-term and long-range revenue streams are conducive to further growth. Data is incredibly important at this stage of your small business's life, so make sure to constantly update your records.
Planning requires time and resources, but the payoff (in terms of forging a viable path to future growth) makes this a valuable exercise for your small business.