Ten Essential Trends to Help Your Strategic Plan Thrive

None of us can control the economy, fickle clients, or political tides.  What we CAN control is how we react to today’s social and economic trends.  Here are ten that will have an immediate impact on your growth strategies the coming decade.



1.  Your clients will reward you handsomely for right brain thinking.  Just read Daniel Pink’s seminal book, “A Whole New Mind,” for evidence.  Companies continue to outsource the left brain (linear, analytical) tasks overseas at bargain rates.  Wisdom and insight, however, will become more and more valued.
2.  Consider making the free offer a legitimate marketing strategy.  Microsoft just announced a free version of Outlook online to counter Google’s strategy.  Free online services and tools are not just for startups anymore.
3. Think more globally and broadly about your business, or you will lose in the long term.  A classic example of this global thinking is The Trunk Club, founded by Joanna Van Vleck.  A few years ago, she started a men’s personal shopping service in bucolic Bend, Oregon.  The business required her fashion consultants to work face to face with discerning male clients.  Today, her firm can work with clients nationwide through the use of webcams and Skype.  Trunk Club is a prime industry mover with a captive VC audience.
4.  Keep your marketing strategies fresh to counter volatile and erodiing client and brand loyalties.  We can no longer take client and brand loyalty for granted.  Case in point:  The Edelman Trust Barometer found that 62% of adults in 20 countries trusted corporations less in December 2008 than a year earlier. In addition, while clients expect more from major brands, they are similarly overwhelmed by the sheer number of products and services. Consequently, their trust in certain brands is being tested more than ever.
5.  Be a strong, well prepared negotiator.  As we lose our trust in today’s corporations and their brands, the win/lose scenario must die.  Know your minimum and maximum requirements before important meetings. Keep a fallback position in your back pocket.  Prioritize items you can trade.

6.  Your client profile is changing…be sure your marketing programs are keeping pace.  Have you adapted your products, services, and communications to older buyers? Have you over-invested in social media and neglected traditional networking, direct mail, and face to face meetings?  In today’s over-tweeted, over-text messaged society, this is not uncommon.  Also look for clients to demand luxury on a budget.
7.  Bankers, investors and shareholders will demand more focus and a cleaner balance sheet.  As a leader, you must distinguish between the essential and the expendable.  What must you stop doing in order to move forward?  Look for industry leaders to divest non performing assets and resources. You should too.

8. Abandon long winded, complex planning exercises.  Low cost experimentation is powerful.  Unless you are new to strategic planning, and currently lack a growth plan, avoid an exhaustive 4 day offsite planning session.  Instead, create a series of 1-day team exercises to regularly answer core strategy questions, such as:
* What are today’s driving forces in our industry?
* What is the impact on our business, clients, investors and employees?
* What value can we deliver that is unique, and what are the ultimate outcomes we offer?
* What must we stop doing to ensure we can deliver that value?
(You will find a complete list of thought-provoking growth planning questions in my new book).

9. Shift to simplicity. Look at the genius behind Time Inc.’s decision to launch Real Simple magazine in 2000.  Apple’s iPod is another great example of simplicity. If successful, the telehealth industry (which is projected to grow to $6B by 2012) will make it easy for chronically ill and elderly patients to access the right physicians across the U.S. via video and medical information technology.  U.S. Healthcare, Cisco Systems, Intel and GE are investing significantly in these areas.  What can you offer to help your clients simplify choice making and eliminate the stress associated with too much information?

10.  Investors and stakeholders will reward leaders who make self care a priority. Excessive lifestyles are declasse. These three steps are essential for any business leader to stay energized and balanced through these tumultuous times:
* Find a healthy exercise, sleep, and diet routine.  Stick to it at least 80% of the time. If you lose yourself in your role, you are more vulnerable if and when your industry shifts. You will also be blind to new opportunities to feel fulfilled.
* Establish and leverage the wisdom of a tight group of confidants.  If you are not a member of a MasterMind or key advisor group, join one now.
* Bring your emotional self to work.  According to the Harvard Business Review’s article “Leadership in a Permanent Crisis” by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, “Appropriate displays of emotion can be an effective tool for change, especially when balanced with poise.  Maintaining this balance lets people know that although the situation is fraught with feelings, it is containable.” Is this approach a potential political tightrope? You bet.  Is it essential to appearing human? Absolutely.

If you want a bright future, you can create it. These trends will ensure you are equipped with the right flashlight.

copyright 2009, Lisa Nirell.  All rights reserved.

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