Earlier I wrote about creating a more sophisticated, comprehensive planning and forecasting process. The quarterly Goals and Objectives process is a great way to engage your employees in creating and sharing their ideas for supporting the company’s growth. It’s a foundation, and people will expand on it. It starts a discussion about where you are going. Wouldn’t that discussion be a lot more productive if you created and shared a detailed roadmap?

I deliberately put the goals and objectives process before the creation of a roadmap. The roadmap is effective to the extent that it is assembled by the collective intelligence of all who are involved. As a business owner, you’ve started by defining your most critical growth goals, shared them with your team, and had them establish goals that are aligned with the company’s plans for growth. So far, so good. Now you have common ground to work together on the detailed roadmap that goes far beyond 6 to 10 goals. Your employees would like an active role in running a great business. A roadmap lets you turn them loose, with the confidence that you are all heading toward the same goal.

Where do we start the process of creating a roadmap, a Growth Planning Process? It’s my belief that you must always start with the market for your products and services. If you don’t know the customers and potential customers for your products and services, you need to make that the first priority! An easy way to start this thought process is to examine two building blocks of any Marketing Plan: How well you understand current and prospective customers, and how well you reach them. The following questions may help fuel that discussion.

1) How well do I understand my current and prospective customers? Ask yourself how well you understand:
Who the prospective customer is
Where the prospective customer is
Why they seek this type of product
How they shop for and buy this type of product
What most influences their purchase

2) How effective am I doing at reaching the prospective customers? Ask yourself how well you do the following:
Listen and learn from existing and targeted buyers
Are highly present in their trusted sources and communities
Anticipate and encourage their needs
Provide information and buying opportunities in appealing ways
Identify which competitive advantages work best

NEXT UP: I’ve identified some gaps in my market knowledge and skills: Now What?

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