5 Tips to Reevaluating Your Strategic Plan

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Typically, you evaluate your strategic plan because you’ve reached the end of your timeline and you have to assess whether you hit your goals, or you missed them.

Well, this time is different. External, unpredictable factors like a global pandemic call for a re-evaluation of your strategic plan as well. As we’ve been enduring quarantine for the past eight weeks, many of the large national brands have scaled back their earnings projections and production capacity for the rest of the year.

However, just because it’s likely that your organization won’t achieve the milestones laid out in your strategic plan doesn’t mean you should abandon it. The company vision and values that drive the plan haven’t changed, so your plan is still valid, but it needs some fine-tuning. Revisit your strategic plan and ask these questions to bring it up to date for the current environment.

Are Our Strategic Focus Areas Still Relevant?

If you planned to increase foot traffic in a brick-and-mortar location, you’ll probably fall short. Instead, consider how you might connect an online experience with the in-store experience so that your customers get a hybrid experience that still satisfies them.

Don’t only think about this experience as a “bear with us,” bubble-gum, and duct-tape substitute. Give your customers an experience that is on par or even better than before and make it something that your organization will be able to continue for the long-term. If your focus areas are digital, then consider how they might improve with the current increase in online shopping and web traffic.

Good Example:

One of our clients at Hot Dog Marketing offers a technology primarily for field service workers, like occupied home inspections. They quickly pivoted to offer their service in a way that consumers could use it in their home that will satisfy the requirements of the field service companies.

Bad Example:

I drove on the highway yesterday for the first time in weeks. I saw a new billboard for a local retail store. Hopefully, they got at least a partial refund and diverted some of their ad spend to digital.

What Assumptions Can We Make/Discard?

The obvious assumptions that can be discarded are the number of in-store visits and the speed of manufacturing logistics. Assumptions we can make are that the heightened awareness of hygiene and sanitization that we’re currently experiencing will last long into the future.

How can your organization make permanent changes that meet customers’ new priority on cleanliness? If you go this route, consider adding a new page on your website or posters in stores that inform customers about the cleanliness measures you are taking.

Good Example:

Many restaurants in Austin, and most likely everywhere else, have implemented strict hygiene regulations so they can operate during the crisis. However, many of these restaurants have stated that they’ll continue the regulations permanently–understanding that restaurant hygiene practices will become more important to consumers.

Bad Example:

One real estate professional I talked to said they are closing down until they can operate exactly as they did before the pandemic. They expect that once the government lifts the mandates, consumers will go back to previous behaviors immediately.

What Objectives Can We Focus On If Production Is Down?

Launch the right projects at the right time. Even though the economy is in a downturn, that doesn’t mean you should pull back on everything. Companies that were strategically positioned to deliver their products and services virtually have been doing even better.

This “see-saw” effect means that you should divert focus to objectives that will have as much or even more impact at this time. Some companies have dialed back their marketing budgets; however, this will probably come back to bite them. Although their audience may not be buying right now, it’s a good time for them to raise brand awareness and build trust with them through engaging content.

Good Example:

The Last Dance – A docuseries about the 1990s Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan. ESPN moved up its release date by a month and it quickly became the most popular docuseries of all time.

Bad Example:

KFC stopped the launch of a “finger-lickin’ good” ad campaign right as shelter in place orders were issued. That message definitely would have fallen on deaf ears, so they made a good call. However, they probably would have seen a great response if they used the same ad placements with videos of “The Colonel” showing proper hand-washing instructions.

Mitigate Losses By Planning For Divergence.

Staying nimble is much easier for smaller organizations since they often have less red tape and fewer decision-makers that require approval. Being a smaller organization will give you the upper hand in the near future. Coming out of quarantine will likely result in consumers either being very slow or very quick to re-enter society and old habits. However, since we don’t know how consumers will behave in 3, 6, or 12 months, it’s best to plan for both ends of the spectrum.

What should your strategic plan look like if the economy remains slow and consumers spend less? What about if the opposite is true? Now, how can you position your organization to pivot quickly to one plan or the other when the path becomes clear?

Good Example:

An Austin bakery has used this opportunity to get their product into local grocery stores. Even if the bakery’s brick-and-mortar locations can’t open at full capacity, they can still reach many more consumers through their new wholesale channel.

Bad Example:

Many car dealerships are still operating under the same attractional business model, expecting discounts to draw in customers during the quarantine.

Are Our Current KPIs Still The Ones We Should Focus On?

The sales figures will almost undoubtedly not meet projections. If sales are your only KPI, then it might seem like all hope is lost. Instead of focusing solely on sales KPIs, this could be a great opportunity for your organization to shift focus to social KPIs.

Recognize that consumers are spending less, and shift focus to building brand equity and customer loyalty instead. Meet customers in the content channels they’re spending their time in right now–that might be social media or YouTube videos–and engage with them. When the economy begins to recover, these customers-turned-fans will be happy to do business with you.

Bad-Turned-Better Example:

Shake Shack received major public backlash because they accepted $10 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (which most people think should go to helping small, local businesses). However, they returned all of the money and instead partnered with a rare wine auction company to auction off the rare wine collection of Shake Shack’s parent company. Hopefully, their quick reversal will allow them to save some face.

For more up-to-date content to help you during this time, check out our new series Zig When They Zag: Resources to encourage a growth mindset in uncertain times.