By: Sophie Herring, Director, White Space Strategy
Once you’ve settled on a vision for your company, and mapped out what you want to achieve, the hard work begins! White Space Strategy Director Sophie Herring has shared her 5 top tips for building a strategy to realise your ambitions…
Tip #1 = Understand your customers
Getting to know your customers’ needs and expectations now, and how these could change over time, is a crucial cornerstone of any growth strategy. This applies across both B2B and B2C markets.
Start by building a picture of today – who are your customers? What are their most pressing priorities? How does your product or service add value to them? What are their unmet needs? Then layer future trends over this, and continually update the picture. Consider which growing customer groups could be your core customers of tomorrow, and how you can evolve to meet their unmet needs.
Tip #2 = Know your competitors
While it’s impossible to second guess every move your competitors will make, it is perfectly possible to build a picture of their key drivers and ambitions. This, plus an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses, puts you in a good position to understand where they are most likely to pose threats to you, and even where there might be opportunities to collaborate or partner for mutual gain.
However, as well as knowing competitors, it’s also important to look outside of your industry. Consider who your customers benchmark you against to help build a north star for customer satisfaction. For example, when a customer is buying your insurance online, are they just comparing the onboarding process to other insurers? More likely, they are comparing you to the best, tailored digital journeys of our time.
Tip #3 = Don’t forget emerging threats
It’s all too easy to complete a competitor analysis based just on the here and now. But successful businesses in will have thought deeper than that. They will have considered which trends, movements and individual companies might disturb their markets, creating new competitor sets.
Take the energy market – back in 2013, less than 5% of UK households bought their energy from a supplier outside the ‘Big 6’. Today, the ‘Big 6’ doesn’t even really exist, with 10 suppliers sharing 87.5% of the market. So, don’t write off the small guys or left-field players without first carefully considering key drivers of change in your market. Never mind ‘what if Amazon enters the market’.
Tip #4 = Scenario plan
Once you’ve looked at customers, competitors and emerging threats, it’s likely that some very different versions of the future seem possible. Scenario planning can be an extremely helpful tool to help plan around this.
Try creating 3-5 versions of the future, that harness some of the key developments around customer needs and competitor or disruptor plays, answering the question ‘what if’. The key is to step away from trying to be too accurate here – you’re trying to create multiple, plausible pictures of the future that explore a broad range of alternatives, none of them need to be ‘right’. Planning against each scenario will help demonstrate which strategies are common across scenarios, guiding next robust next steps, which will apply regardless of scenario.
If you’re looking for a scenario planning template, or for ideas on how to run a scenario planning workshop, White Space Strategy has created a free downloadable toolkit available elsewhere on Whiteboard.
Tip #5 = Increase agility
Now you have a picture of some plausible scenarios you may have to respond to, it’s important to consider how you can work to be more agile in your responses to opportunities and threats. Part of this is about keeping on top of developments that allow you to maximise opportunity and minimise risk. For example, have you got the right processes in place to identify M&A opportunities as and when they arise? Are you tracking the market share of your competitors (large and small)? Are you building sufficient resilience into your supply chain? Also, consider how you can build agility into your day-to-day operations, cutting through long, corporate timescales for change and challenging yourselves to build an agile mentality that is ready to react to the changing world, team-by-team.
About the author:
Director, White Space Strategy
Sophie has overall responsibility for project delivery at White Space Strategy. She holds client relationships with business leaders at many of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies.
White Space Strategy was named as one of the UK’s leading strategy and innovation consultancies by the Financial Times in 2021 and 2022.
Sophie is an expert at complex strategy modelling, using this to support decisions around capital allocation and proposition development.
She also holds a degree in History from the University of Cambridge.
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