By: Jill Huettich:
Developing a strategic plan is essential for businesses that want to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Yet unfortunately, as critical as a strategic plan may be, the thought of creating one tends to intimidate business owners and executives alike. That’s especially true when you’ve been tasked to create one from scratch.
The good news is that developing a strategic plan doesn’t have to be all doom-and-gloom. In fact, it can be downright simple when you have the right tools to tackle it.
That’s what we’ll be covering in this article. This guide will show you how to write a strategic plan and even provide you with a strategic plan template you can use to simplify the process of writing your own.
So, let’s get started … but first, let’s quickly review why it’s so important to create a strategic plan in the first place.
Why is developing a strategic plan important?
Think of strategic planning as the vision that’s established for a company, so it can realize its most important objectives.
Of course to do that, a business needs to know where its priorities lie. What does it want to accomplish and how does it intend to reach those goals? By answering these questions, a company can devote its budget, resources, and commitments more effectively—rather than diluting efforts by attempting to tackle multiple competing initiatives at once.
This also has the benefit of getting the entire team—employees, departments, and management—on the same page, so everyone is working in a unified way toward a common vision.
So, now that we’ve briefly covered why a strategic plan is key to business success, let’s review how you actually go about writing one.
- Executive summary
- Business description
- Mission statement
- SWOT analysis
- Strategic goals
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Target customers
- Industry analysis
- Competitive analysis & advantage
- Marketing plan
- Operations plan
- Financial projections
How to write a strategic plan
It’s recommended that you keep your strategic planning committee small.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” the same concept applies here. The more people you have working on your plan, the more complex the strategic planning process will become. So, aim to seek input from stakeholders, but only task a small group with creating the actual plan.
Once your strategic planning committee is established, get a draft on paper quickly. There’ll be time for revisions later, but for now, you want to commit your best ideas to paper, then give your draft to the management team to review. Later, you can make revisions.
Watch the video below for a walk through of how mind maps and information visualization can be used to dynamic strategic plans.
Use this strategic plan template to get started
When you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, it can be hard to know where to begin. To get you started in the right direction, here’s a sample strategic plan template you can use for your own organization. Simply fill out each section, and you’ll be well on your way to planning success!
Section 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary should summarize each of the following sections, so stakeholders can quickly review the plan without reading it in its entirety. For that reason, you’ll want to complete this section last, after writing the rest of your plan.
Your Executive Summary:
Section 2: Business Description
Briefly describe your business. You don’t need to go into a lot of depth here, but you do want to give an elevator pitch of sorts, providing details about what it is your company does.
Section 3: Mission Statement
Why does your organization exist? What’s its purpose? To get your creative juices flowing, here are some mission statements for inspiration:
- Nordstrom: To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.
- Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
- Warby Parker: To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
Your Mission Statement:
Section 4: SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. So, in this section, you’ll summarize what your company is doing well, where its weaknesses lie, potential areas for growth, and possible factors that could derail your organization’s success.
Below, we’ve included a sample SWOT Analysis template available in MindManager:
Section 5: Strategic Goals
In this section, you’ll want to work backward. First, think about your company’s 5-year goals. From there, you’ll want to identify what your organization needs to achieve in one year, so it’s on the right track to meet those objectives.
Likewise, identify your company’s quarterly and monthly goals once you’ve determined your 1-year goals. Keep in mind that going forward, you’ll ideally want to update this section monthly.
Section 6: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
It’s important to monitor your KPIs to know if you’re moving towards your goals or further away from them. So, you might include metrics in this section like total sales, website traffic visitors, # of returns, or whatever makes the most sense for your organization.
Key Performance Indicators:
Section 7: Target Customers
In this section, you’ll identify the wants and needs of the customers you’re trying to reach. This is important, because further along in the plan, you’ll analyze how you can best market your goods and services to these individuals.
Section 8: Industry Analysis
Although this section doesn’t need to be long, you do want to determine whether your market is growing. If it isn’t, you’ll also want to include areas your company could possibly diversify into.
Section 9: Competitive Analysis & Advantage
Who are your key competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? This section will help you determine your competitive advantage.
Section 10: Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan will play a fundamental role in helping your organization achieve its goals. So, in this section, explain how you plan to attract new leads, how you’ll convert those leads to customers, and what you’ll do to extract maximum value from them.
This information can also be presented visually with a marketing growth plan, much like this one found in MindManager software:
Section 11: Team
Which team members will be instrumental in achieving your goals? Are there resource gaps you’ll need to fill to be successful? If so, which positions will you need to hire for?
Section 12: Operations Plan
This is one of the most critical parts of your plan. In this section, you’ll identify what action steps your company needs to complete to achieve its objectives. So, think about each of the individual projects your company plans to undertake and how those projects will be completed.
Helpful hint: It’s a good idea to add a Gantt chart here, identifying when each project will start and who will manage it.
Section 13: Financial Projections
When you know what you’re trying to achieve financially, you have a better understanding of what you need to do to get there. For instance, by knowing the total sales you want to achieve quarterly, you’ll have a better idea of how many new customers you’d need to attract during that time frame.
And that’s it! Those are the key sections you’ll want to include in your strategic plan.
Let’s close with a little inspiration, just in case the task still seems daunting.
While of course it’ll take time to complete this strategic plan template, research shows that businesses with strategic plans are much more likely to achieve their goals than those that don’t have plans. So, any time spent on your strategic plan can be considered time well-spent.
Lastly, to make your strategic planning easier, we recommend a good mind mapping software, like MindManager. MindManager makes it easy to include key visuals in your project plan that summarize important data, like Gantt charts, timelines, project plans, and more.
MindManager also includes a wide variety of ready-to-use strategic planning templates to help get your started on the right foot. Best of luck with developing your strategic plan!
- What is strategic planning? We walk you through the basics
- The 6 steps of the strategic planning process
How Visualization Leads to Better Strategic Plans
Download this free eBook to learn: how visualization builds a better plan, 5 proven visualization methods, and a deep dive into the business benefits of visualization.