Why I Value Strategic Planning: The Story of a PR “Dirty Harry”

Strategic planning. You can’t avoid, ignore, or gloss over it. It’s elemental to what we as marketing professionals do for our clients.

Our firm values planning and presents its approach on our website, and discusses it with our prospects. But something happened last week that compelled me to write about it.

It began with a movie.

When I was younger, I was much more of an avid movie watcher. Kids changed that. Heading out to catch a dinner and flick with my wife was not a regular event. Frankly, sometimes paying the babysitter was almost as expensive as the ticket and the meal.

Now, my kids are older and I’m catching up on a few films that I missed during their first runs. Last week, with a few hours to myself, Michael Clayton caught my eye. Something to do with shady lawyers and unscrupulous global corporations. So much for escapism.

The flick was great. The ending was delicious. But it unexpectedly delivered a glimpse back to my early PR agency career that earned me the nickname of “Dirty Harry.”  As Harry Callahan said in the movie, “Every dirty job that comes along.”

The lead character, Michael Clayton, is a bagman. A fixer. His sole purpose is to clean up the dirt made by clients and family of clients to grease the skids for the firm to retain its big corporate retainers. My dirty jobs moniker didn’t go to that extreme. But I proved myself adept cleaning up other people’s account messes.

Because I went from a corporate background to an agency (note to younger PR pros: best do it the other way around), I had to work harder to prove to a skeptical V.P. and the account supervisor who championed me that I had agency mettle.

The first assignment was to re-pitch a pitch gone wrong. Not the best circumstances when you’re presenting the same information from the same agency to the same contacts but with a different voice. I nailed it. And it got me noticed. What else can this guy do?

From there, it was on to handling more difficult media relations issues, poor project management and understanding clients expectations. All this prepped me for the biggest dirty job: Propping up an alcoholic senior account executive, whose boss took a vacation, right before a high profile client event in New York. The entire project, from the strategy to tactical, on-the-ground details, was a complete disaster. And that’s when it struck me: where was the planning? Where was the collaboration? Where was the leadership?

The project was rudderless, from a clueless client, right down to the agency where no one could make a decision.  And the event was only three days away. So, I started making decisions.

“Do you think that’s the right decision,” the team would ask?  “I have no idea,” I responded, “but it’s the decision we’re making today.”  As the quote says, “Done is better than perfect.”

After three days of hurried, non-stop activity, the event came and went off without a hitch. I was thanked with an on-the-spot bonus. But I found myself mystified about how the situation arose in the first place.

Seeing so many weak links, I came away with a greater appreciation for planning. After this experience, I started asking questions that were more pointed, about goals and objectives and what the client was really out to achieve. That was met with the higher-ups responding with, “Don’t worry about those details; they’re above your pay grade.”

True, the people who work at agencies and clients are only human. Mistakes will be made. But with thought-through strategy and tactics, everyone will know which way everyone is shooting. And when you’re working in the clutch, you’re more likely to know the answer to this question:

“…Did he fire six shots or only five?”

 

 

 

The One Step to One-Up Your Competition

Every business asks itself: how can I better compete?  My products or services are competitive – heck, they’re better than competitors!  They are priced right.  Customers are happy.  What more can we do to attract customers?

Even breakthrough products face this challenge.

A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal addressed this succinctly, talking about AOL.com as the first to market with a social network – a service which is now, of course, failing in the social network department due to Facebook’s prominence.

If AOL had millions of members back in the late-90s, long before Facebook launched in in 2004, what went wrong?

Ignorance of the value of the communities its members were creating.  “Not using the service the ways its customers did,” according to the author, a former AOL employee.  Instead, AOL put the emphasis on attracting advertisers to its content.  They didn’t “get it.”

This is a lesson that translates to marketing.

    • How deep is your grasp of your customers’ use of, and experience with, your product or service? (Be honest!)
    • Do you understand the business value/implications of their purchases of your product, versus others?
    • Are you ignoring the potential community that could be built for your customers?

As we’ve seen with the wild success of Facebook, people want to belong, for personal and business purposes.  This was proven in business long ago by IT companies who have vital user communities.

The overall takeaway is that engagement with a product or service is not about what the company thinks, but what the customer thinks.

Exploit that in all of your marketing efforts (as previously discussed in this blog) – even if you aren’t ready to develop a community – and give yourself a competitive edge.

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Blocked From Blogging? Create a “Non-blog” Blog Instead

There’s a lot B2B companies should like about blogging when it comes to raising awareness of their companies and delivering customers.

Consider the following eye-opening stats courtesy of HubSpot’s “State of Inbound Marketing” report for 2011:

  • 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.
  • Businesses are increasingly aware their blog is highly valuable: 85% of businesses rated their company blogs as useful, important or critical. 27% rated their company blog as critical to their business.
  • Businesses are now in the minority if they do not blog. From 2009 to 2011, the percentage of businesses with a blog grew from 48% to 65%.

 

The writing on the wall as to how blogging could serve your business is so big that Mr. Magoo couldn’t miss it.

To be sure, not all companies need a blog nor should they if they can’t marshal the time and resources to make it good.

But then there are those enterprises that understand enough about social media to go as far as to create social media policies to ensure everyone understands that engagement isn’t allowed.

They have their reasons, some real, some imagined. Compared to many other industries, social media engagement for highly regulated industries, such as financial, pharmaceutical and law, is more of an involved undertaking.

If you work in one of these segments, is developing and sharing content out of bounds for you? The answer, thankfully, is no.

One of the huge benefits of blogging is increased traffic. Search engines rank more highly those websites that offer users regularly updated content. Consistent updating brings search engine spiders to your website frequently, resulting in an increased number of crawls, which in turn increases the number of citations on Google, which means more people could find your business.

But you don’t automatically need a proper blog to deliver targeted, helpful and educational content to your prospects. Blogging platforms make this regular addition of new content easy. They’re designed for it. But even with outreach limitations, you can still build better organic search results with a simple alternative: a non-blog blog.

A non-blog blog is single page of a website altered every week to include a new piece of content, along with an additional page to archive previous weeks’ posts. Here’s what you need to get started.

      • Gain permission to post previously corporate-approved and publically available content. There is nothing controversial about sharing what has already been approved by your legal department
      • Take stock of available content, such as white papers, reports, educational materials, videos, podcasts, etc.  Also, ferret out all related stories occurring within your industry.
      • Revise the page’s layout to include copy that explains what visitors will see on the page and why you are providing it. If you have a rationale, share it.
      • Set up your weekly content portion of the page so it is easily distinguishable from the rest of the page’s content.

 

Now, for a quick note of caution about limitations. First, don’t get too fancy with the page and don’t work to alter the primary navigation. That won’t go over well with the corporate Webmaster. What is limiting about this approach is that it will take the Webmaster time to update the page.  He or she is likely stretched thin.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking, “Just how effective could this be?”

Plenty.

For one of our clients, we altered its portion of a huge large corporate site to mimic a blog using this very approach, encompassing a piece of new content every two weeks (yep, busy Webmaster), such as existing articles, podcasts and curated information. You can read how that turned out here.

Spreading your content, while adhering to company policy and without running afoul of industry regulations, is possible with some imagination and a little hustle. Obstacles to social engagement can be overcome. After all, bureaucracy is the art of making the possible, impossible.

 

 

 

 

Fight B.A.D.D. (Business Attention Deficit Disorder) with A Five-Point Approach to Tying PR Strategy to Business Goals – Part II

Part II of II

When fighting Business Attention Deficit Disorder or B.A.D.D., (see part one) use the following five-point approach to better tie your business objectives to PR strategy:

1.  Subject matter – The subjects or topics of your PR campaign can be broad, narrow, or anything in between. PR can be used in many different ways to support and achieve your overall business and communications objectives.  Some examples (but certainly not exhaustive) will shed light:

Strategy: To inform and educate:

Tactics: Basic guide to selecting your product/service; answers to questions customers commonly ask

Strategy: Introduce a product or service

Tactic: Intro package to editors/bloggers; press release; tailored pitch for editorial coverage; messages as premise for videos and other social media

Strategy: Support sales

Tactic: Content for sales presentations and leave-behinds (re-use of intro materials, educational pieces, industry issues and statistics); content for content and inbound marketing and social media; content for whitepapers and other downloads;           customer success stories; testimonials for website

Strategy: Establish visibility

Tactics: Proactive content placement; thought leadership pieces; blog and other social media comments; establish a blog on topic and other content marketing; one-on-one interviews with editors at trade shows

Strategy: Enter new markets

Tactics: Speak on platform at national conference; sponsor a published roundtable; content for creative introduction to prospects/media

Strategy: Play up staff or staff knowledge

Tactics: Educational pieces addressing sales issues, business problems related to your product or service; published Q&A interview with company executive

Strategy: Showcase thought leadership

Tactics: Position pieces on industry trends; articles incorporating commentary from other industry members; educational and opinion pieces

2.  Tone.  While there still a place for formal writing in any published content, companies need to get away from corporate/industry speak, a heavy commercial message, and strive to truly be informative — and importantly, more personal in tone.  (Think about Southwest, and how different flying is because the attendants inject personality into the ho-hum recitation of standard safety instructions.)

- What kind of company personality do you want to convey in your communications? Does your industry     necessitate a strictly business approach?
- How can you show how your company is different?
- Can you convey what your customers like most about your company in your content?
- What do your prospects most need to hear, and what is the most effective way to
  present that information?

 

You can even go as far as creating a company persona, and have some fun with it.  Your ultimate approach will be dictated at least in part by the final form of your content… Will it be a feature article, a staff written piece, a blog, a sales support document on your website?

3.  Placement strategy and campaign length.  Ideally companies should be prepared for an ongoing, monthly outreach program to capture all the opportunities available in print and online.  Like advertising, you can’t just do one PR piece and expect the world to knock on your door.

Your objectives should guide you on how long and how active your PR program should be. If you’re trying to achieve growth via maximum exposure, for example, you’ll need a year-long effort. If you have something especially timely to announce, a shorter burst campaign is workable. We announced an award for health-related company that had zero media exposure prior to the campaign. Through a very aggressive media relations effort, we achieved print, online and radio coverage to 60 million people within a matter of a few months.

In terms of placement strategy, with all the digital media you simply must go beyond your trusty trade publications and their websites. There are a wealth of outlets for your message.  All your selections should be based on a thorough understanding of where your prospects are finding the information they rely upon.  Newer tools like Slide Share and YouTube, as well as the old-fashioned advertorial, should not be overlooked for re-use of any of your PR content.

4. The public part of public relations. PR goes beyond media. While I’m personally not particularly fond of PR stunts, they can be effective at attracting attention. The real question here is, how and where can you interact with customers and the marketplace?

A great forum for this line of thinking is trade shows. Instead of just having an exhibit, plan a year ahead to pitch your talk at national conferences. Or give a live presentation at your exhibit. Hold an event of your own, and involve the industry in a relevant way, as we did with an “Innovation Gallery” for USG’s introduction of Fortacrete.

5.  Investment versus other marketing strategies. How much you invest versus other tactics again goes back to your communication objectives, and how you’ve planned as a whole to attack them.  PR can work alone, but ideally you want true integration across all of your communications tools.  Since connecting with the prospect takes multiple touches, it makes sense that you’d want to reach them not only with PR, but through direct sales and marketing, interactive/digital/social outlets, e-mail marketing, advertising, etc. PR can be the backbone of your communications program, or a smaller piece, again depending on how you’ve decided will be the most effective ways to reach your target.

In our experience, many companies don’t exploit their PR strategy or toolkit to their fullest potential. A skilled practitioner can guide you from the easy steps, to the more sophisticated (like hosting roundtables, or using a PR topic as the basis for an integrated educational campaign). With the online and social media worlds’ voracious appetite for content, PR can be taken to a whole new level – helping you achieve your business goals faster than ever.

 

 

Fight B.A.D.D. (Business Attention Deficit Disorder) with a Five-Point Approach to Tying PR Strategy to Business Goals

Part I of II

So many businesses suffer from Business Attention Deficit Disorder (B.A.D.D.), a condition that can strike any part of a company when inattention, poor planning, indifference or taking on too much at one time takes focus away from mission critical operations and initiatives.

One of the bigger victims of B.A.D.D. is marketing and PR. With all that those words encompass today, many businesses wrestle with the wide range of PR and content marketing strategies that can enhance their brand and visibility via traditional, online and social media platforms.

The tools at your disposal to engage your audiences have grown precipitously: social media press releases; on-the-fly video; tweeting, liking, and linking via social media; blogging; and converting via landing pages offering advice and free content. The uses and combinations are astounding.

For some businesses afflicted by B.A.D.D., PR and marketing could indeed be more than just window dressing … more than “just send out a monthly press release” … more than that thing you or your agency does by rote without much regard to “why” or “what’s next.” To effectively capture customers and the media – and make your marketing department look good in the process – you need a game plan.

Don’t we all face more “business objectives” than we can work against in 24 hours?  I know I do. I find that organizing a plan complete with objectives, strategies and specific tactics grounds my work, putting me on the right path of knowing what we’re producing  is true progress against our client’s goal.

It’s not doing for the sake of doing – it’s doing with purpose. Taking the time to think your communications strategies through can also lead to some fun, new creative ideas for getting your message out there (but that’s a whole other topic).

PR with Purpose

To deliver value, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish (starting with the business plan) and you have to think through all the possible strategies.

Begin with your set of business goals. Most companies’ number one business objective is growth.

E.g., Business Objective: Grow business by 10% in 2012.

Business goals then translate into marketing/communication/PR goals. How can PR affect that growth? What exactly should it accomplish (the more specific, the better), and how should be measured (in website/social media visits; leads; other metrics)?

E.g., Communications Objectives: Generate greater exposure among targets with goal of 20% increase in leads.  Support sales outreach to direct prospects and influencers.

PR strategy (as well as strategies for using other communications tools) can then be built.

E.g., PR Strategies: Examine/expand on messaging to sales targets.  Establish stronger voice in the industry with proactive outreach to traditional, social and digital outlets with contributed articles, participation in ongoing editorial coverage, guest columns, blog and LlinkedIn posts, white papers, etc. 

Exposure is relatively easy to achieve via publicity, if you are committed to being proactive and available to participate in editorial coverage.  And of course, the right content is king. The kind or flavor of exposure you plan depends on your objectives and PR strategies.

Next week, see Part II for the Five PR Variables you need to consider to better tie PR to your business objectives.

Keeping your Child’s Eye Open for Greater Creativity

“How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child…When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child.  Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language, words, and concepts.  Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.” – Anthony de Mello

One of the disadvantages of growing up is the loss of your “child’s eye”, that simple accepting, sense of wonder of first time-experiences unmarked by skepticism or cynicism.

After reading a comment from Sean McGinnis on a SpinSucks post about developing social content for B2B companies, I began looking for resources on how we might lighten up the reality-based shades we adults wear and so we can better see and appreciate what our businesses have to offer our clients.

Naturally, we have to create programs that deliver a business outcome, whatever that may be, but staying open to those creative possibilities could help us deliver the right ideas.

I came up with short list of resources (some of which themselves are expansive) to help keep the child-like wonder alive.

1. One Man’s Wonder, by writer, traveler and marcom agency owner Jeffery Willus, is about looking further, paying attention, making time for discovery, celebrating little things, and being open to wonder. Check out his “How To Be in the Moment – 101 Tips” series.

2. 50 Ways to Lighten Up & Become Child Like Again. Many of these seem elemental, but they resonated with me. When my son was much younger and yanking open our kitchen cabinet doors (and subsequently baby-proofing the place) I decided to make one small cabinet completely his.  I called it “The Discovery Vault”.  Each day I’d place something new for him to discover and play with. It got to the point that if I’d forgotten to put something new, he’d show disappointment. He wanted to keep the vault fresh. Reminds me of fresh content.

3. From my recent online acquaintance, Kaarina Dillabough defends (and rightly so) the many times we believe we’re not creative. She delivers a simple list of 10 creativity starters.

4. If these don’t resonate, take the adult path of negative/positive reinforcement with “How to stifle your creativity in 10 easy steps”.  Number one on the list goes to the heart of thinking like an adult versus a kid.

So what did I get out of these? It came through loud and clear. As adults running businesses, we have to act realistically, sensibly and rationally… most of the time.  When we can free ourselves, dreaming, curiosity, and wishful thinking — all of the traits a child would have – keep us open to endless possibilities.

How do you keep you child’s eye open and alive?

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Dig Within Your Organization for a Stronger Sales Story

The credit crunch is real, but according to one company recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal, “We don’t need loans, we need sales!”

Typically, marketing budgets are often reduced in a downturn.  But the need for sales – to generate demand – remains.  What to do? Take stock of your marketing messages.

Some companies are so busy trying to sell (with or without marketing support), they’re not taking the time to uncover value that might be buried within the company. The New Year is the perfect time to do some head-down thinking about how you are presenting your company.

Initially, talk to your best customers about why they buy from you. What makes them tick when it comes to your offering?  Do a deep dive to uncover all aspects that are relevant to them. Their answers may surprise you.

Also, engage your front line, the sales team. What are they communicating that resonates best with prospects? Think of several ways to get those messages out to the market.

There’s a simple Q&A exercise we often use with our clients to expand their thinking about how they market themselves.  Some of the questions include:

What value do you provide to customers outside of the product and service itself?  Do you educate and supply resources relevant to their industry?

What else are you really selling?  Are you selling trust?  Teamwork?  Faster delivery?  Excellent services?  Cost-savings? Expertise?  Make a list.  Why should customers keep buying from you?

What results are you helping them deliver to their customers? Is what you’re delivering having an impact? Are there internal results, like greater efficiencies, labor-savings, and the like?

What about their larger business environment — their problems and goals? Ask what business problems are you helping the customer solve.  Again, think about what goes beyond the product or service itself.

If any part of the value you deliver is related to real expertise, your advice and knowledge is worth just as much as your product or service.

What tips that can be shared about choosing or using your product/service?  Use proof points (read hard numbers) about your product and its users.

What staff member knowledge be tapped and shared?  Your employees are your brand extensions.  What they know can extend your firm’s visibility.

In what specific areas could education of the market be helpful?  Give your prospects a walk-through, an introductory session, or a demo on video, and capture the same content in writing for your website, social media and PR programs.

This line of thinking and brainstorming leads easily to a path of new promotional ideas you can use in any medium: online, social, PR, events and trade shows, webinars, ads, blogs, email and direct marketing, etc. And once you have your new idea(s), share them with your customers for feedback. They’re sure to make improvements.

With limited dollars, it’s more important than ever to analyze what you say, and how you say it, in all the ways you face the customer.

The One New Year’s Resolution Every Business Person Should Make… And Keep

In the pursuit of every pitch and proposal comes the inevitable follow-up phone call… and the predictable frustration that follows.

You have a meeting; you talk over objectives, needs and points of pain. With positive words and head nods, there seems to be a connection. You create and submit your plan and wait the requisite week for response to look professional, but not over eager. With no word, you place the call about next steps and…. nothing. Another week slips by. Then you’re like Lt. Uhrua on Star Trek. All hailing frequencies open. Emails and phone calls ensue. What you get in return is dead space.

You scratch your head, wondering what possibly went wrong. Odds are you’ll never find out because, for whatever reason, you’re out of the running. The prospect is no longer interested, and for some so-called professionals, it means you might as well have never existed.

Just what makes it so hard for business people to promptly return emails and phone calls? It’s my number one pet peeve.

Too busy? Sorry, we’re ALL busy. Don’t care to deliver bad news? Too bad. This is business. Not only is this silence bad etiquette, it harms reputations. Take a few seconds and think about your last non-responsive prospect. Yeah, I thought so.

You’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior and you know how it feels. You’d like it if that the person you were perusing showed class and professional courtesy. So here is my suggestion: make 2012 the Year of the Return Phone Call. Now, this does not mean EVERY call. Unsolicited messages don’t count; just the people with whom you purposely engage. If the person or business you were talking to with so much interest isn’t selected or if there is a delay in your decision-making process, make sure to call him or her back.  Not only will you look professional, you’ll cut down on the amount of calls you’ll receive.

So, if you cringe at every voicemail you get, make it stop. Respond back and tell them why there will be no deal. Ten seconds later, you’ve rid yourself of one more unimportant call and come off looking like a decent human being for having done something so few people these days have the courage — and the courtesy — to do.

Why Good Content is Your “Social Annuity”

Just how valuable is the content you create? That depends. Are you writing derivative, uninspired, directionless crud that simply supplies words on a page? Or do you have a trajectory of thought that is meant to enlighten, persuade, educate and sometimes even delight?  In other words, what is the point of your engagement?

There’s no escaping what sharp marketers already know: the power of creating good content can’t be over emphasized. If it delivers information of value to your prospects and optimized correctly, it will be accessed and read repeatedly.

Think of it as your “social annuity”.

This recurring access is similar to a financial annuity. In its simplest form, you hand over a lump of your savings to the financial institution of your choice, and it sends you a monthly payment for the rest of your life.

Just as investors use these simple instruments to supply a consistent flow of cash over time, the content you commit to the web does the exact same thing. As your content is crawled and indexed, it’s committed to a server, ready to be tapped by whoever is clicking in the right keywords to find it.

What’s the primary benefit of a “social annuity”? It has staying power. Unlike ephemeral advertising (and no, I’m not smacking advertising; it has its place in integrated marketing), content sticks around and keeps on producing. But unlike the lump sum of the financial kind, the more content you add, the potential for the return grows and compounds. What you create for your website or blog has a long shelf life at a very low cost. More content leads to more traffic and engagement online.

Marcus Sheridan (and if you don’t know Marcus, you really should) recently showed how just eight blog posts he wrote for his pool company are still grabbing page views months and years after being published. Sure, page views is just a measurement… but so is the money those eight posts help deliver. Marcus estimates that they earned his company about $2 million in revenue. Yes, you read that correctly. And they’re still there, bringing in eyeballs and eventually open checkbooks.

Marcus knows what you should know. Understanding who your audience is, where they are and what keywords they’ll respond to, will draw them to good content. To your content.  And to your company, and your product.  You can take that one valuable investment to the bank.

12 Most Common Excuses Why SMBs
Are Afraid of Strategic Planning

While this is the time of year many SMBs have developed their plans for the new fiscal year, many more used some of the 12 most common excuses not to.

It reminds me of the spittle-prone Sylvester the Cat. If you’re a fan of classic Warner Brothers animation (like I am), you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to the Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn song “You Never Know Where You’re Goin’ Till You Get There”.

No truer words have been spoken about businesses that don’t plan. If there’s no destination, how will you know when you’ve arrived, or at least headed in the right direction?

No time
The workday is filled with the day-to-day business drumbeat and emergencies, both large and small. How is there time to focus on the long-term when the short term needs so much attention? Understand where you’re spending time, and then segment time to work ON the business. You can’t execute all day, every day, nor should you

The culture doesn’t allow it.
“The sky looks the same anywhere you go”, my grandfather would say about his aversion to travel. The same goes for SMBs that say what worked yesterday will work tomorrow.  Change is the only constant. Your customers change, your competition changes.

Marketing is married to an outdated set of tools
If a company says that print advertising is as effective as it ever was, it isn’t looking to divorce old-line thinking. They heyday of mass marketing is gone. Today’s marketing kit is wider and deeper because there are more ways than ever to interact with customers and prospects.

What are we buying?
Consultant speak, academic nomenclature, and business jargon can be off-putting to small business owners. They worry that the theoretical won’t translate into the real world. Be open to the idea of planning, but do not be a pushover on what you’re paying for. Ask for a definition of terms so you and the consultant are speaking the same language.

Too costly
Instead of viewing strategic planning as investment, company leadership will see it as an expense. You invest in people, equipment and technology. There’s no difference in investing to discover a better path forward. An effective plan will produce a pay-off. 

Planning takes away from selling
Daily, weekly, quarterly and annual numbers. No matter the duration, the only thing that is of importance to many companies is growth. Without a plan, the growth will come by luck.  Numbers tell a story, but a numbers-only focus is like putting blinders on a horse. Peripheral vision lets you see more than just straight ahead. 

“Stuff” is easier
While addressing real issues, someone throws out a kernel of an idea and “Boom!”, everyone starts popping down the tactical solution highway.  Ideas based on what you’re already doing are easy; understanding how to plow new paths takes work.

The process is overwhelming
Fear, uncertainty and doubt clouds many smaller business owners and leaders about what strategic planning is about. Intimidation leads to not even starting the process. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is good strategy. Like anything else, chunk the process down into smaller portions that are easier to execute.

Lack of control
Business owners fear that the facilitation process, no matter how well intended, will be rudderless, focusing on past faults and head toward the weeds without a clear purpose. You are a participant in the process; if you don’t understand something, speak up.

Fear of commitment (and failure)
A commitment to anything means taking action. Management that is fearful of change can talk themselves around issues and out of anything, especially when one’s livelihood is on the line. Give yourself some credit. You’ve been flying without a net since you started your business.

No accountability
The reason most small business owners started their firms is because they didn’t want to be accountable to anyone. Therein lies the problem. Strategic planning introduces a layer of accountability into the process, producing fear and anxiety among some owners. Like the smart solo practitioner who toils in near total independence most of the time, move outside your comfort zone and get a different perspective and direction from someone else, sometime.

Past experiences
Previously negative strategic planning experiences produce the “once bitten, twice shy” organization.  An unqualified consultant produced an inferior plan or a poor facilitator spent weeks in meetings without accomplishing anything.  There are the good and the bad at everything. You have the experience to ask the right questions to find the right guide.

Sufferin’ succotash! Are any of these the reasons why strategic planning is the plan of last resort?