In part one of this series on small business strategy, we defined what is strategy (and what it’s not) and how to set goals. In part 2, we covered objectives and how to overcome obstacles preventing you from achieving those objectives. Now to deal with the last step, plotting a (flexible) way forward.

In parts 1 and 2, you developed your ‘core’ and listed the reasons (positives) a prospect should buy from you. You identified your strengths (value chain) and those of your competitors. You identified your goals and objectives and the roadblocks (negatives) that could stop you from achieving those objectives.

It is now time to develop your strategies. That is, armed with your positives, how are you going to deal with the roadblocks (negatives) that could stop you achieving your objectives? Strategy is simply the way you decide to overcome the roadblocks that stop you from making progress.

That is why identifying roadblocks is so important. If you are not honest with yourself and identify the real roadblocks to progress, you will not make any progress. You have not dealt with the problem.

Write down your thought process. Record the strategy you decide upon and your reasoning. You will need to refer back to it as the situation unfolds. The important point to note is you never have a finished planning document, it evolves.

If everything works out as you expect, great. If not, rather than get despondent, it is helpful to refer back to why you made a decision. What happened that you did not expect? Identify it, fix it and move on.

Try to pick up on evolving threats early and deal with them. Continue to review and build your value chain.

Your Position In The Marketplace

You need to use your analysis to define your place in the market (positioning). Keep this in mind when considering your strategy and tactics.

There will be many that hold a stronger position than you. To attack head-on would be foolhardy, but you might be able to exploit a weakness. Re-visit their value chain and compare it with your own.

You need to be realistic and understand your current place in the market. You might be able to improve that place over time, but you need to be aware of your starting point.

Your Customer

Your analysis should lead you to identify specifically who your target customer is and (even more important) who they are not. It sometimes helps to write down a description of your perfect customer. Focus only on your target customers and what you will offer those customers. Do not try to be all things to all prospects.

Your position in the market (see above) may prevent you from accessing some customer groups. Or, something could block your access to some customer segments. Find a way around a roadblock (a strategy) or if that is not possible, accept it and move on.

Some customer groups might seem attractive as they are an easy win. If they are low value and/or high maintenance, it is often better to target your effort elsewhere. Giving up short-term turnover (not necessarily profit) for medium-term to long-term gain is always hard, but it is something you should carefully consider.

Your Focus

You cannot address all your objectives at once. You don’t have the resources for that and it is way too complex. The world is not linear B rarely follows naturally from A, things change. You need to pick an objective and deal with it. When it is dealt with, move on to the next.

When you reach a natural stop, start on the next objective, then the next. All the time things will move and change. If you set them correctly, your goals should not change. Although they may need minor tweaks, the same should apply to your objectives. Everything else will change.

You cannot expect to achieve objective A, then move on to objective B, then C until your goals are magically achieved. Instead, you pick an objective, develop a strategy, deliver on that strategy then re-evaluate the situation.

You may have planned to deal with objective A, then B but circumstances could dictate it is best to move to objective D. It is possible to juggle several strategies and the tactics to achieve those strategies.

Developing A Strategy

You know what you have to achieve. You know what tools you have in your armoury and what stands in your way. You should have some gut feeling on the best way forward and you should not ignore it.

A strategy is a best guess (a hypothesis) on the best way forward, given the information available. You don’t have perfect information and the environment will constantly shift around you, so all you can do is decide on a way forward, record it, act on it and measure the result.


Tactics are the tools you decide to use to deliver your strategy. For example, if your objective is to increase sales by ‘X’% by ‘Y’ date and the roadblock is you don’t have enough sales leads you need a strategy to overcome that.

You might decide your website is so convincing. all you need to do is drive traffic to the site and prospects will get in touch. There are several possible ways to drive traffic, including paid ads and SEO. These are your potential tactics. You choose one (or more) tactics, set expectations, deliver them and measure the result.

You could find out you were wrong. You might drive lots of traffic to your website, but it does not convert. Why not, what happened? Find it, fix it, and try again.

Digital marketing could be a complete waste of time and effort for your business. If so, you need a different set of tactics. Perhaps direct mail will work for you, or local advertising or networking. The principles remain the same – select, deliver, measure, adapt (or not), repeat.

Evaluate Success

The detailed analysis work you carried out will not remain valid for long. You need to constantly re-evaluate what is happening in the market and the environment. Combine this information with what you learn when delivering your tactics. Learn your lessons, modify your tactics (if necessary) and go again.

Download Parts1 through 3 in our free small business strategy guide


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