By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Robert Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert Robert Bradford

The other day, a client was chatting with me and mentioned something about my strategic planning work I’d never thought of:  I ask weird questions.  Not so weird, in my mind – but my favorite questions are always strategic, and always lead to excellent discussions about the sources of value in business and how you can create more.

With this in mind, I created a list of fun questions that I like to pose at different points in the strategic planning process.  I don’t recommend tackling them all at one, and – in Simplified Strategic Planning – there is a concrete, data-driven process that definitely creates a logical, practical framework for addressing these questions.  That being said, you might want to think about how to incorporate these key questions into your own strategic planning (or pick up a copy of Simplified Strategic Planning, and learn how a structured approach could save you time while giving you better answers).

  1. Why do our customers choose us?

I think of this as THE question for business strategy.  There are many, many possible answers, yet – in most markets – the decision seems to boil down to about 3-5 variables that dynamically drive customer preference.  For example, in the airline industry, low fares, convenient schedules, and extensive network explain a huge portion of the ticket purchases.  Likewise, in banking, convenience, relationships and fee structure seem to be the top drivers.  You don’t have to be the best in all of the factors (indeed, many industry leaders are pretty bad at one or more), but you do need one or two that will lock in a sustainable customer base for your business.

  1. How will technology change our industry even more?

Of course, I say “even more” because most of us are currently riding some of the biggest waves the market oceans have thrown at us already.  If you think those changes are big, you may be surprised at what the future has in store.  We are wearing computers.  We are tinkering with the chemical and genetic makeup of familiar products.  Our world is getting smaller and more segmented.  These factors – and dozens like them – will not stop changing to give us a breather.  We will continue to be buffeted by technological changes that can wipe out entire industries (pay phones, anyone?) and spawn entirely new ones.  Again, in strategic planning, we don’t need to get these 100% right, but if we can anticipate just a little bit, we can move to the front of our industry – or even escape it, if it’s heading for disaster.

  1. If customers could change ONE thing about our industry, what would it be?

I like this question because it forces us to look at the problems of our industry from the customer point of view.  Good market segmentation might lead us to very different answers for different customer groups, but some of the best opportunities to grab new market share – or hang on to your existing share – are likely to arise from the customers’ frustrations with the way business is currently being done.  If your industry is highly oriented towards operational efficiency, there may be opportunities in becoming more personalized and human.  If your industry offers a plethora of choices, a simplified product may be welcomed.  Whatever the frustrations are, it’s likely you (and your competitors) have great reasons for creating the frustration – but it’s also likely someone will come up with a clever way to sidestep it, leaving the rest of the industry playing catch-up.

These are just three of the best questions I like to use.  Naturally, if you’d like us to drill into your team with these and other penetrating questions that will improve your market share, drop us a line.  Do you have any questions that you find useful in your strategic planning?  Please comment below and let us know!

For more ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached at .

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