Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Strategic Planning - more power outside the box!

This is the fourth in a series of articles about how to get more power out of your strategic planning.

4. Think Outside the Box

Some people will point out that "think outside the box" is a lot like yesterday's tip - "be different" - and it is. But there is more to thinking outside the box than just being different. Perhaps the most important way your company can get outside the box is to focus on the actual need your are serving for your customers, rather than just your product or service. By "actual need", I mean the reason your customer is buying from you. For example, Harvard professor Ted Levitt liked to cite the case of a company that made drills - the need was the hole, not the drill. Far too often, we get hung up on the thing we do and completely miss what it does for our customers.

How can you use this? Stop for a moment and think about why your customers are buying from you. Then ask two follow-up questions: (1) Is there any other way this need could be met (besides buying what we sell)? and (2) Is there something we can add to what we sell - maybe a completely different product or service - that will enable us to meet our customer's needs even better than we do right now?

There's much more to thinking outside the box than thinking broadly about customer needs, but this is a good way to free yourself from the constraints of doing things the way you always have. Give it a try - you'll be glad you did!

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