Business Strategy Part 1: Fundamentals

Business strategy is a difficult endeavor for many seasoned pros, let alone small business owners and startups. The details associated with crafting productive strategy require careful consideration, experienced shepherds and diligent attention to the right components. 


Many companies confuse brand strategy with business strategy, as the brand is the typical touchpoint of the business. Brand strategy is just as complex and important as an overarching business design, but it can at best serve as a band aid for a rudimentary business strategy.


You must first must uncover how your business will win in the long term before figuring out how your brand will come to life and engage your audience.


Business strategy ultimately boils down to creating unique and superior value for your customers, delivered differently than your competition.

One may communicate this through an intriguing brand or marketing plan, but the value needs to be delivered across the entirety of the value chain to drive ultimate performance.


Strategy is a very deep topic to explore, so it's helpful to first review the essential components that comprise a quality strategic plan. 


For a company to craft a winning business strategy, they must:

  • Set Measurable Goals

  • Establish Qualities of Distinction

  • Avoid Copying Competitors

  • Create Unique Value 

  • Choose & Ignore Customers Wisely

  • Accept & Make Trade-Offs

  • Focus Attention

  • Align Divisions

  • Execute Skillfully

  • Innovate With Care

  • Multiply Smart Choices

  • Become Flexibly Firm

  • Choose Proper Metrics

  • Exhibit Patience & Persistence

  • Ignore False Trends


That's a significant list to attend to for a burgeoning business, let alone a fortune 500 company. No wonder it often gets set aside for the sake of simply trying to make "the best" product possible.


Great products are surprisingly easy for customers to come by and replace, hence why smart strategy is not only an offensive tool, but a good defense against new entries into the market.


Perhaps this is a good place to pause for now. More to come!

In the meantime, what are your thoughts or questions as they relate to strategy?





How to Build Better Business Plans by Challenging Assumptions

Keep Calm Plan.png

Whether negotiating a partnership, forecasting the results of a new project, or pitching investors on your startup; you most likely calculated the intended outcome by layering in facts and assumptions that allow you to make a guess about the future.

This is a core element of any new strategic endeavor or plan, which unfortunately can be quite perilous if not done correctly. Much of the time, the peril lies within your assumptions, not with your inherent ideas.

In most instances where intelligent parties are involved, a carefully crafted prediction of the future is formulated with multiple assumptions that must prove true to obtain the desired results.


The end game becomes crafting a 'story that sells' instead of rigorously evaluating the assumptions in order to develop a model of the future that is as certain as possible.

Startups are major culprits of this because of their uncertain future, lack of a viable business model, participation in an ecosystem that embraces uncertainty, “pivoting” and constant adjustment. This is fine in the earliest days, but if you have raised money with assumptions that you did not fully vet, you might be in for a rude awakening at your next investor meeting.


Forecasts are often presented with a “best case/worst case” scenario in mind, but more times than not, this “worst case” is a “low end” prognosis crafted to increase the likelihood of approval or acceptance. The fear in genuinely revealing the “worst case” is that you might never actually get approval to move forward with your plans, the funding to make it to market, or the partnership you seek. Unfortunately, this might be the most positive outcome!


Here is the crux of the problem: 


Many times people exploit their assumptions to tell a positive story without conducting the rigorous work needed to determine their accuracy, let alone their likelihood. This leads to miscalculations, errors, omissions and sunk costs that can take years to recoup, if ever.

Worst of all, they do this because it’s often endorsed, overlooked or rewarded!


A better way to plan:

First, admit that your projections may indeed be inaccurate, hence the need to test your assumptions. When leadership acknowledges and supports this process, team members are less inclined to falsify the prognosis, and a more rigorous examination can take place in plain view.


Then, ask yourself or your team: “Given our projections, what are the most important assumptions that must prove true for us to be successful, and how will we track them”? List these assumptions in order of importance, with the most important/uncertain at the top.


Once you have this list, you can then find ways to economically and rapidly test them for validation. Invariably, you will gain confidence through this process, as you either affirm or refute your assumptions. This knowledge can then be interlaced into your strategy with forecasts that gain greater assurance and transparency. Buy-in from third parties becomes easier when the story is told not simply with assumptions identified, but with those assumptions tested.


It comes down to the willingness to ask the right questions, the patience to investigate your variables, and ultimately answering the simple question, “What must be true for this to work”.


The next time you need to develop a vision for the future, first examine your assumptions. You might not be able to precisely predict the outcome, but you’ll come a heck of a lot closer to success.


Read more from the Journal...


Mavriko Marketing is a business consultancy that helps companies Make Their Move™ with better strategy, digital marketing and design. If you’d like to improve your bottom line, contact us today!


5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Photos & Audience Engagement.

Struggling to gain followers on Instagram?

Wondering why your engagement is inconsistent?


While the complete answer begins with an amazing photo (subject, lighting, framing), and includes countless other strategies (think image content, post timing, hashtag strategy, etc…) here are some simple tricks that will make any of your photos stand out. 


#1 - Turn On the Lights! 

If your image is a bit on the dark side, either adjust the photo before you upload, or use Instagram's advanced editing tool to amp up the light. You can do this by increasing BRIGHTNESS or HIGHLIGHTS, and by reducing SHADOWS. Use each sparingly and rarely ever all 3 at the same time.

Be careful, you can make your photos so bright that they lose their subtleties (unless this is your "look" - see @joriespaulding below). They should be just bright enough to help catch someone's eye and make the photo feel fresh, regardless of what a viewers phone's brightness level might be set to. 

Of course, this does not apply to every photo style or theme, but as a general rule, your average photo will get more love if you turn up the lights just a bit! 


#2 - Get Chunky

Notice how the trees in this 'winter driveway' photo create some "noise"? This does allow for significant contrast with the snow for an interesting image, but in a montage of photos, it gets lost in the shuffle (side note - it could be a bit brighter :).

Photos like this can receive solid engagement as they are seen in a linear feed, but are too "busy" to attract much attention in a 3x12 thumbnail gallery where you hope to be discovered amongst the sea of photos.

Photos with chunky blocks of color like the 'blue sky moon' do a much better job at drawing attention in a gallery due to the brains visual perception sequence of Shape, Color, Content. 


#3 - Create a “Look”

Be consistent with your tones, coloring and light. You can do this in many ways, from the subjects/colors in your photo, to post production editing in your favorite app, Instagram app edits, and filter application. The easiest technique is to consistently use the same 1 or 2 filters, but this depends on the image you are working with. 

The photos you see in GoVermont are often custom edited AND include a filter to get just the right look. 

There are many accounts that do this well, including:

#4 - Be on Time

Be timely with your posts, or timeless with your subject matter. 

Classic summer photos shared in the winter won’t work well on a consistent basis, but you can certainly post an interior shot any time of year.

Spring flowers popping where you are? Then a picture of fall foliage probably won't do that well. You get the point...


#5 - Give Them What They Want

This may or may not be obvious, but you must give your audience what they want to see. After all, it IS the reason they follow you. Stray too far from what they typically like and you will see your engagement decline.


If you aren't inspired by the photo(s) you are posting, then you won't be motivated to continue to produce quality work. At some point, you have to do your own thing - especially in the beginning. There are millions of Instagrammers out there. Why should someone follow you?

These are just a few of lessons we have learned attracting 100,000+ followers for our clients!


If You Need help with Instagram Marketing or accelerating your account growth, We have space available for a limited # of new clients.

Drop Us a note Today to discuss your Goals!

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Mavriko Brand Marketing provides marketing expertise without the inflated fees. Specializing in Digital Marketing, Strategy, Planning and Design, we help you Make Your Move™.