At this time of year, many of us start to plan our personal goals and ambitions for the year ahead – more time with the family, getting super-fit or finally taking that dream trip will likely be on the majority of recently created personal ‘must do’ lists. Such resolutions will be started with good intent but invariably, most will be quickly lost to the daily pressures of life and relegated to the ‘too difficult’ bin. There’s always next year….
The New Year provides a similar focus for business leaders. Stretching plans, probably the focus of the last four months of work, will start to be delivered in a pique of excitement and intent. Which CEO doesn’t aspire to achieving a record performance, with both top and bottom lines showing strong year-on-year performance? Which Marketing Director doesn’t wish to see their portfolio growing share, as NPD and product renovations inspire and excite shoppers and consumers alike? Which Sales Director isn’t looking for value and margin growth resulting from aligned customers, effectively managed by a commercially savvy set of Key Account Managers?
For many business leaders, their corporate ambitions for 2018 will likely be even more well-intended than their own personal resolutions, but an attitude of ‘there’s always next year’ simply doesn’t cut it in the commercial arena when things start to miss.
So here are Quantic’s top 7 tips to help ensure that 2018’s growth plans are realistic and achievable:
1. Get connected on objectives
It’s so much easier to stick to your personal resolutions if those closest to you understand and share your ambitions. They can see when you are wobbling and can help you take corrective action through their encouragement, support and advice. Similarly, businesses must ensure that their goals and objectives are clearly understood across the entire organisation.
Quantic understands that connected businesses perform better, but research shows that this is a key miss across many organisations. On average, only 16% of respondents say that they are clear on their corporate strategy and then, their role in delivering it.
Winning businesses connect their staff to a very clear agenda.
2. Get more macro
Too many internal planning process get straight into the minutiae of portfolio, channel and account planning without stopping to consider the context that they are operating within. Take a long look at your macro environment – your category. How are you going to deliver overall growth? What are the core consumer trends, articulated for your category, that become the Drivers against which you create strategy? What are the key barriers preventing targeted behaviours happening now across both shoppers and consumers? What are the triggers to overcome these barriers?
If you can’t comfortably answer all of these questions you need to develop a stronger Category strategy that will act as a context for your operational plans for the next 3-5 years.
3. Get connected on functional strategies
Getting connected means that functional strategies are set up to jointly deliver against your overall objectives. You can see the links and progress from one function to another….
Marketing’s plans against targeted behaviour changes, set the context for your portfolio plan. This is then delivered by a Customer Marketing function’s set of connected, channel-specific activation plans.
Point of Purchase strategies need to tie back to your prioritised Drivers. Channel-specific range coverage levels by segment can be created out of an extrapolation of Driver size, allocated by channel and by product segment.
Winning suppliers are functionally connected. Their individual strategies visibly build to support the overall corporate ambition.
4. Get connected with Customers
No customer will ever stop having difficult commercial conversations, but if you can take a leading position in developing category profitability, your initiatives stand more chance of excellent execution.
How well do your sales team understand their customers? We don’t mean a generic understanding, but rather a deeper understanding of their corporate strategy and its implications on their commercial team’s dealing with you. Are your category plans aligned with theirs? Have Joint Business Plans (JBPs) been built around agreed strategic areas for growth? Are your trading terms connected to changing JBPs, or still built around an anachronistic volume-led framework? Are your category plans and ambitions a regular part of customer top to top meetings?
Winning suppliers understand their customers and connect with them against category-growing priorities.
5. Get Realistic
Take a long hard look at your commercial plans and ask yourself ‘are they as robust as we really think?’ It’s all too easy to get caught up in the details and to lose sight of the basics. Are your initiatives clearly set against the priority Drivers you have selected and communicated to your customers? If they aren’t, it’s time to re-look at the Drivers or, more likely, to reconsider the activity’s validity. Less is usually more.
Is the insight behind the initiative as strong as it can be? Is there a genuine consumer need or is this simply something you have the ability to make?
Are your activation plans really delivering the strength of solution required to over-come barriers? Are your shopper marketing campaigns really addressing understood ‘Relevance’ barriers? Are your category management recommendations really fixing ‘Choose/Buy’ barriers? In a world of Byron Sharp, have you placed enough focus on winning initial penetration, rather than rewarding loyalists?
No plan will ever be 100% robust, but by answering as many of these questions as honestly as you can will either give you the confidence that your commercial objectives are really attainable, or will point you in the right remedial direction.
6. Get Uncomfortable
Growth coming from uncomfortable places may be a cliché but this doesn’t prevent it from being true! Increasingly, winning businesses are taking a genuinely omni-channel approach as their traditional channels and customers become less relevant to today’s target shoppers and their changing lifestyles.
Winning businesses realise a new model is required to reach prioritised target shoppers. What’s your approach to new channel development? What’s your share of business delivered through on-line? What could it be? What’s your approach to Direct To Consumer?
New investments in skills, technology, data and routes to market may be required.
7. Get up-skilled
Selling remains at the heart of achieving your plans, whether this be selling within your business or out to customers. Negotiating sounds glamorous but is really only an expensive substitute to effective selling. Selling in today’s environment requires teams to master and consistently apply both structure and emotional intelligence.
How effective are your teams? Are their selling skills finely tuned? Are their JBP creation skills as developed as they need to be?
So, if any of this resonates with you, give us a call. At Quantic, our team of pragmatic and industry-experienced professionals helps clients to identify and unlock growth opportunities by developing stronger commercial strategies and then by building the capability to deliver them. Don’t allow your 2018 plans to go the same way as the majority of resolutions! Get connected! Get back to growth!
– Duncan MacConnol is Quantic’s Joint Managing Director.