At the ATENEO Graduate School of Business (AGSB) where I have been teaching Marketing and Brand Strategy for 21 years, I always start my first day of school with a challenging question addressed to my MBA students:
Q 1 Why did you enroll at the AGSB when there are many business schools around?
Q 2 What is so ATENEO about AGSB?
My students especially those who did not experienced college life at the ATENEO Loyola campus are perplexed! They did not know what hit them? Collectively a good number answered mostly motherhood statements, “that AGSB is a brand and it will further enhance their corporate careers”. So I asked them a follow through question…
Q3 What is the Brand DNA of AGSB?
Most of them eventually give up.
I likened these questions to what your product really is. Say for instance, I am a new customer and will ask the following questions:
Why will I buy your product?
What is so unique and compelling about your product and
Why will I buy it now?
If you cannot provide clear answers to these questions, it will be tough surviving in a competitive marketplace.
Reason to Believe
Fundamentally, it starts with a compelling Reason to Believe or RTB element. If you do not have the RTB and the pillars of support, you will naturally struggle.
It is clear that your business model will revolve around pricing. And from all indications, you will likely fail in the first 2 years. You must note that being an SME or a startup business, you do not have the scale and the resources to fight the well-entrenched competitors.
Additionally, without any RTB, your product will end up as a commodity. Being a commodity, you will get dragged in a protracted price war. When you compete based on price, it can be bruising and unless you are the market leader, the likelihood of failure is imminent.
A Great Story Must Be Part of Your Strategy
Let me share an online quote: Give a man a bow and arrow and tell him to shoot and his first response would be, “At what?”
When there is no target, there is no purpose for shooting.
On the other hand, if you gave the archer a target and challenged him to hit the bullseye, everything changes. You now gave him something to aim at, something to challenge his skills against, something to measure his progress with, and something that gives all of his effort purpose. All by adding in a simple target.
The goal of strategy is to describe how and why the company is going to achieve its goals and objectives and to that end, the company must ensure that its strategies are aligned.
Initiate Strategic or Business Planning
According to a research paper by John Ward, co-founder and principal of The Family Business Consulting Group, Inc., the term “strategic planning” typically refers to the process of developing a business strategy for profitable growth. It is designed to create insights into the company and the environment in which the company operates. It provides a systematic way of asking key business questions.
Such an inquiry challenges past business practices and opens the way for choosing new alternatives. The result should be a well-prepared strategic plan—usually a written document—that spells out specific steps to improve customer satisfaction, increase profit, and revitalize and prepare the company for the next generation. The plan also states the chosen mission of the business, identifies the direction of future growth, and describes programs that can help to achieve that growth. It thus indicates ways in which the business can compete more effectively.
A strategic plan describes how you can get there. It’s about making decisions in the present for the future and usually involves a three to five-year time frame. It is both written and lived. It cannot be pieces of paper stuck in a drawer and forgotten, but must be thought through carefully. It should reflect a flexibility and readiness to whatever the future may bring.
Analyzing the Critical Elements
As a strategic planning facilitator, I usually begin my intervention by profiling the current situation using financial, competitive or customer analysis and by interviewing the senior managers on what they see as the key strategic issues facing the firm. The interviews often uncover all sorts of business issues, such as uncertainty about the direction, performance in the past year, and discrepancies between target and performance.
If you want to phase your plans and not “rock the boat” due to the conservative nature of the head, you may opt to explore by formulating a business plan. The latter is an action plan covering 12 months.
But actions taken alone are just tactics.
Compelling strategy is Non Negotiable
For the business to survive and grow, its marketing strategy must be compelling and competitive.
Marketing strategies should identify customer groups the company can serve better than its competitors and tailor its product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts, and services to those target market segments. Good marketing strategies help the company concentrate its efforts on the markets it can serve best.
It is crucial that the compelling strategy takes into account all aspects of the company, so that the whole organization and the executives are aligned, proceeds in the same direction with the same purpose.
In the end, the company’s strategy is more likely to yield positive results if all employees understand, embrace and buy into them.
Prof. Soriano is a National Agora Awardee for Marketing Excellence, an International Family Business Advisor, Book Author of two best-selling Family Business books and Executive Director of ASEAN-based Consulting group, W+B Strategic Advisory. He is also a Professor of Global Marketing and Real Estate and former Chair of the Marketing Cluster at the ATENEO Graduate School of Business. He a senior fellow at the IPMI Indonesia International Business School and recently assumed the Deanship of the MLQU School of Accountancy, Business and Real Estate.