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How to Develop a Business Strategy: 6 Steps

colleagues developing a business strategy using sticky notes on glass window

  • 25 Oct 2022

Business strategy can seem daunting, and for good reason: It can make or break an organization. Yet, developing a strong strategy doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

In the online course Business Strategy , Harvard Business School Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee posits that strategy is simple. His secret? Focus on your organization’s value creation.

“Strategy often sounds like a lofty concept that only the most senior executives can develop,” Oberholzer-Gee says. “But actually, anyone can think and act strategically. It doesn’t need to be difficult; all you need is a proven framework.”

Here’s a breakdown of why business strategy is important, the basics of value-based strategy, and six steps for developing your own.

Why Do You Need a Business Strategy?

Business strategy is the development, alignment, and integration of an organization’s strategic initiatives to give it a competitive edge in the market. Devising a business strategy can ensure you have a clear plan for reaching organizational goals and continue to survive and thrive.

According to a study by Bridges Business Consultancy , 48 percent of organizations fail to meet half of their strategic targets and 85 percent fail to meet two-thirds, highlighting why dedication to the business strategy process is crucial.

One type of business strategy is called value-based strategy, which simplifies the process by leveraging the value stick framework to focus on the advantage your business creates.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Value-Based Strategy?

Value-based strategy , also called value-based pricing, is a pricing method in which an organization relies on the perceived value of its goods and services to determine its pricing structure and resource allocation.

The value stick framework can be used to visualize how various factors impact each other and determine which initiatives to pursue to increase value for all parties.

The value stick framework

The value stick has four factors:

  • Willingness to pay (WTP) : The highest price a customer is willing to pay for your product or service
  • Price : The amount customers have to pay for goods or services
  • Cost : The amount a company spends on producing goods or services
  • Willingness to sell (WTS) : The lowest amount suppliers are willing to accept for the materials required to produce goods or services

To determine how to best create value, you can toggle each factor on the value stick to see how the others are affected. For instance, lowering price increases customer delight.

"As strategists, we really ask three questions,” Oberholzer-Gee says in Business Strategy. “How can my business best create value for customers? How can my business create value for employees? And how can my business create value by collaborating with suppliers? Think of a company's strategy as an answer to these three questions."

Related: 4 Business Strategy Skills Every Business Leader Needs

6 Steps to Develop a Value-Based Business Strategy

1. define your purpose.

When approaching business strategy, defining your organization’s purpose can be a useful starting point.

This is vital in creating customer and employee value, especially if your organization’s purpose is linked to a cause such as environmental protection or alleviating specific social issues.

A recent survey conducted by clean energy company Swytch found that nearly 75 percent of millennials would take a decrease in salary if it meant working for an environmentally responsible company. Nearly 40 percent selected one job over another because of an organization’s sustainability practices.

Additionally, research in the Harvard Business Review shows that consumers’ motivation to buy from sustainable brands is on the rise. Sales of products marked as sustainable grew more than five times faster than those that weren’t.

By starting with purpose, your organization can create more value down the line.

2. Assess Market Opportunity

Next, understand your market’s competitive landscape. Which companies own shares of the market? What differentiates your competitors’ products from yours? Are there any unmet needs your organization could take advantage of?

Conducting this research before planning a strategy is critical in identifying how your organization provides unique customer value and opportunities to create even more.

3. Create Value for Customers

With an understanding of the market and your company’s purpose, you can determine how your organization provides unique or greater value and strategize ways to improve.

On the value stick, the value captured by customers is called “customer delight.” It can be increased by raising their willingness to pay and decreasing the product’s price. If lowering the price isn’t an option, brainstorm how you could make the product more valuable to customers, thus increasing their willingness to pay.

Some ways to create customer value include:

  • Lowering the product’s price
  • Increasing the product’s physical quality and longevity
  • Providing quick, high-quality customer service and a smooth shopping experience
  • Leveraging network effects , if applicable, to create a community of users
  • Incorporating an environmental or social cause into processes, packaging, and branding

4. Create Value for Suppliers

In addition to creating value for customers, you also need to provide value for suppliers. Suppliers can include any company that provides raw materials, labor, and transportation to help your organization produce goods or deliver services.

Supplier surplus, also called supplier delight, is created when the cost of materials increases or their willingness to sell decreases. The relationship between a firm and its suppliers can be contentious, given that both want to increase their margins. Yet, there are ways to create value for both parties.

Some ways to create value for suppliers include:

  • Agreeing to pay more for higher quality materials : While this increases the supplier surplus, it may also increase customer delight by raising willingness to pay, or increase the firm’s margin by allowing you to raise prices.
  • Working with the supplier to increase efficiency : This strategy can increase supplier surplus by lowering the overall cost of the supplier’s labor and their willingness to sell.

Business Strategy | Simplify Strategy to Make the Greatest Business Impact | Learn More

5. Create Value for Employees

Creating value for employees is a critical part of an effective business strategy and can be assessed using the value stick. Think of your employees as the “supplier” of labor and the supplier margin as employee satisfaction.

Employee satisfaction can be increased by raising wages or lowering the minimum salary they’re willing to receive by delivering value in other ways. Satisfied employees may provide a better customer experience, resulting in increased customer delight.

The value you provide employees ensures they’re motivated to do their best work, develop their skills, and stay with your company long-term.

Some examples of ways to create value for your employees include:

  • Offering competitive salaries and bonuses
  • Offering benefits like ample paid vacation and sick days, generous parental leave, and wellness budgets
  • Providing flexibility of work location, whether your team is fully remote or hybrid
  • Aiding in professional development
  • Creating a workplace rich with a diversity of experiences, identities, and ideas
  • Fostering a supportive organizational culture

One example from Business Strategy is that of a call center for a diagnostics company. The employees were being paid minimum wage and expressed that the analytical nature of their phone calls with customers warranted higher pay. They also expressed pain points about cumbersome tasks and work conditions.

When a pay increase was implemented for all employees, along with operational changes to make processes smoother, employee productivity increased to the point that it balanced out the higher cost of salaries.

Because the employees’ satisfaction increased, they also began providing better experiences on the phone with customers. This increased the customers’ willingness to pay, directly impacting customer delight.

6. Map Strategy to Actionable Tasks and KPIs

Amidst creating value for each of the three groups, don’t forget the fourth party that needs value: your company. By creating value for employees, suppliers, and customers, you’re creating value for your firm, too.

To ensure you’re tracking to goals, determine your key performance indicators, what metrics constitute success, and how you’ll report results over time. Then, break each of the above value-creation goals into action items. For instance, what steps can you take to increase your employees’ compensation? Who will be responsible for each task?

Having actionable assignments and clear metrics for success will allow for a smooth transition from strategy formulation to execution.

Which HBS Online Strategy Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Building Your Strategic Skill Set

By leveraging the value stick, you can create a business strategy that provides value to employees, customers, suppliers, and your firm.

To develop your strategies further and dig deeper into how to navigate value creation, consider taking an online course like Business Strategy . Professor Oberholzer-Gee walks through real-world examples of business challenges, prompts you to consider how you’d create value, and then reveals what those business leaders did and how you can apply the lessons to your organization.

Want to learn more about how to craft a successful strategy for your organization? Explore Business Strategy , one of our online strategy courses , to learn how to create organizational value. Not sure which course is the right fit? Download our free flowchart .

business strategy in a business plan

About the Author

 FourWeekMBA

The Leading Source of Insights On Business Model Strategy & Tech Business Models

business-strategy

Business Strategy Examples In 2024: Examples, Case Studies, And Tools

A business strategy is a deliberate plan that helps a business to achieve a long-term vision and mission by drafting a business model to execute that business strategy. A business strategy, in most cases, doesn’t follow a linear path, and execution will help shape it along the way.

Table of Contents

What is a business strategy?

At this stage, it is important to clarify a few critical aspects.

As an HBR working paper entitled “From Strategy to Business Models and to Tactics” pointed out:

Put succinctly, business model refers to the logic of the firm, the way it operates and how it creates value for its stakeholders. Strategy refers to the choice of business model through which the firm will compete in the marketplace. Tactics refers to the residual choices open to a firm by virtue of the business model that it employs.

Personally, I have a controversial relationship with the concept of “strategy.” I feel it’s too easy to make it foggy and empty of practical meaning.

Yet strategy and vision matter in business.

A strategy isn’t just a calculated path, but often a philosophical choice about how the world works.

Usually, it takes years and, at times, also decades for a strategy to become viable. And once it does become viable, it seems obvious only in hindsight.

In this guide, we see what that means.  

In the real world, the difficult part is understanding the problem

bounded-rationality

In the real world, a lot of time and resources are spent on defining the problem.

Classic case studies at business school assume in most scenarios that the problem is known and the solution needs to be found.

In the real world, the problem is unknown, the situation is highly ambiguous, and the most difficult part is making the decision that might solve that same problem you’re trying to figure out. 

How do you execute a strategy in that context? Business modeling can help!

Is a business strategy the same thing as a business model?

business-model-vs-business-strategy

As the business world started to change dramatically, again, by the early 2000s, also the concept of strategy changed with it. 

In the previous era, the strategy was primarily made of locking in the supply chain to guarantee a strong distribution toward the marketplace. 

And yet, the web enabled new companies to form with a bottom-up approach.

In short, product development cycles shortened, and frameworks like lean , agile , and continuous innovation became integrated into a world where software took over. 

Where most of the processes before the digital age, were physical in nature. As the web took off, most of the processes became digital.

In short, the software would become the core enhancer of hardware. 

We’ve seen how in cases like Apple’s iPhone , it wasn’t just the hardware that made the difference.

But it was the development ecosystem and the applications that enhanced the capabilities of the device. 

Thus, from a product standpoint, hardware has been enhanced more and more with the software side.

At the same time, the way companies developed products in the first place changed. 

Software and digits-based companies could gather feedback early on, thus enabling the customers’ feedback as a key element of the whole product development cycle. 

Therefore, wherein the previous era, companies spent billions of budgets to release markets, and products, with little customer feedback.

In the digital era, customer feedback became built into the product development loop. 

That led to frameworks with faster and faster product releases, which also changed the way we do marketing . 

minimum-viable-product

In a classic MVP approach, the loop (build, measure, learn) has to be very quick, and it has to lead to the so-called product/market fit .

As the web made the ability to gather customers’ feedback early on, and as the whole process becomes less and less expensive, also lean approaches evolved, to gain feedback from customers as early as possible. 

running-lean-ash-maurya

From build > demo > sell, to demo > sell > build , lean approaches got leaner. 

And the era of customer-centrism and customer obsession developed:

customer-obsession

This whole change flipped the strategy world upside down.

And from elaborate business plans , we moved to business modeling , as an experimental tool, that enabled entrepreneurs to gather feedback continuously.

In a customer-centered business world, business models have become effective thinking tools, to represent a business and a business strategy on a single page, which helped the whole execution process. 

The key building blocks of a classic business model approach, like a business model canvas or lean startup canvas  move around the concept of value proposition , that glue them together. 

And from the supply chain , we moved to customer value chains .

Where most digital business models  learned to gather customers’ feedback in multiple ways. 

The business strategy formed in the digital era, therefore, developed its own customer-centered view of the world, and the business theory world followed.

Academics, following practitioners, moved away from traditional models (like Porter’s Five Forces ) to more customer-centered approaches ( business model canvas , lean canvas).  

The mindset shift flipped from distribution and optimization on the supply side.

To optimize on the demand side, or how to build products that people want, in the first place. This is the new mantra.

No more grandiose business plans, just substantial testing, iteration, and experimentation. 

In this new context, we can understand the strategy developed by several players and how business modeling has become the most important strategy tool. 

And the interesting part is, whether you want to scale to become a tech giant, or you just want to build a small, viable business, it all starts from the same place!

minimum-viable-audience

Is business strategy a science?

Business strategy is more of an art than a science.

In short, a business strategy starts with a series of assumptions about how the business world looks in a certain period of time and for a certain target of people.

Whether those assumptions will turn out to be successful will highly depend on several factors.

For instance, back in the late 1990s when the web took over, new startups came up with the idea of revolutionizing many services.

While those ideas seemed to make sense, they turned out to be completely off, and many of those startups failed in what would be recognized as a dot-com bubble.

While in hindsight certain aspects of that bubble came up (like frauds, or schemes).

In general, some of the ideas for which startups got financed seemed to be visionary and turned out to work a decade later (see DoorDash , or Instacart , in relation to Webvan’s bankruptcy). 

For instance, some startups tried to bring on-demand streaming to the web (which today we call Netflix ). Those ideas proved to be too early.

They made sense but from the commercial standpoint, they didn’t.

Thus, if we were to use the scientific method, once those assumptions would have proved wrong in the real world, we would have discarded them.

However, those assumptions proved to be wrong, in that time period, given the current circumstances.

While we can use the scientific inquiry process in business strategy, it’s hard to say that it is a scientific discipline.

So what’s the use of business strategy?

In my opinion, business strategy is useful for three main reasons:

  • Focus : chose one path over another.
  • Vision : have a long-term strategic goal.
  • Commercial viability : create a self-sustainable business.

As a practitioner, someone who tries to build successful businesses, I don’t need to be “scientific.”

I need to make sure not to be completely off track. For that matter, I aim at creating businesses.

Thus, I need to understand where to focus my attention in a relatively long period of time (3-5 years at least) and make sure that those ideas I pursue are able to generate profits, which – in my opinion – might be a valid indicator that those ideas are correct for the time being.

If those conditions are met, I’ll call it a “successful business.”

Those ideas will become a business model , that executes a business strategy.

This doesn’t mean those ideas, turned into a business model , pushed into the world will always be successful (profitable).

As the marketplace evolves I will need to adjust, and tweak a business model to fit with the new evolving scenarios, and I’ll need to be able to “bet” on new possible business models .

Survivorship bias

Survivorship bias is a phenomenon where what’s not visible (because extinct) isn’t taken into account when analyzing the past.

In short, we analyze the past based on what’s visible.

This error happens in any field, and in business, we might get fooled by that as well.

In short, when we analyze the past we do that in hindsight.

That makes us cherry-pick the things that survived and assume that those carry the successful characteristics we’re looking for.

For instance, for each Amazon or Google that survived there were hundreds if not thousands of companies that failed, with the same kind of “successful features” as Amazon or Google.  

So why do we analyze successful companies in the first place? In my opinion, there are several reasons: 

  • Those successful companies have turned into Super Gatekeepers to billions of people : as I showed in the gatekeeping hypothesis , and in the surfer’s model , a go-to-market strategy for startups will need to be able to leverage existing digital pipelines to reach key customers.

gatekeepers-model

  • Modeling and experimentation : another key point is about modeling what’s working for other businesses and borrowing parts of those models, to see what works for our business. By borrowing parts you can build your own business model, yet that requires a lot of testing. 

Business-Model-Experimentation

  • Skin in the game testing : therefore business models become key tools for experimentation, where we can use real customers’ feedback (not a survey, or opinions but actions) and test our hypotheses and assumptions. When we’re able to sell our products, when people keep getting back to our platform, or service, there is no best way to test our assumptions that measure those actions. 

Lindy effect and aging in reverse

lindy-effect

Nicholas Nassim Taleb , in his book Antifragile , popularized a concept called Lindy Effect .

In very simple terms the Lindy Effect states that in technology (like any other field where the object of discussion is  non-perishable)  things age in reverse.

Thus, life expectancy, rather than diminishing with age, has a longer life expectancy.

Therefore, a technology that has lived for two thousand years, has a life expectancy of another thousand years.

That is a probabilistic rule of thumb that works on averages.

Thus, if a technology (say the Internet) has stayed with us for twenty years, it doesn’t mean we can expect only to live for another twenty years at least.

But as the Internet has proved successful already, the Lindy Effect might not apply.

In short, as we have additional information about a phenomenon the Lindy Effect might lose relevance.

For instance, if I know a person is twenty, yet sick of a terminal disease, I can’t expect to use normal life expectancy tables.

So I’ll have to apply that information to understand the future.

Strategies take years to fully roll out

It was 2006, when Tesla, with his co-founder   Martin Eberhard , launched a sports car that broke down the trade-off between high performance and fuel efficiency.

Tesla, which for a few years had been building up an electric sports car ready to be marketed, finally pulled it off.

As Elon Musk would   explain   Back in 2012:  

In 2006 our plan was to build an electric sports car followed by an affordable electric sedan, and reduce our dependence on oil…delivering Model S is a key part of that plan and represents Tesla’s transition to a mass-production automaker and the most compelling car company of the 21st century.

tesla-market-entry-strategy

The beauty of a strategy that turns into a successful company, is that it might take years to roll out and seem obvious only in hindsight. 

This connects to what I like to call the transitional business model.

Or the idea, that many companies, before getting into a fully rolled out business strategy, transition through a period of low scalability and low market size, which will help them gain initial traction. 

transitional-business-models

As a transitional business model proves viable, it helps the company shape its long-term vision, while its built-in strategy is different from the long-term strategy.

The transitional business model will guarantee survival. It will help further refine the long-term strategy and it will also work as a reality check. 

As the transitional business model proves viable, the company moves to its long-term strategy execution. 

As the business strategy gets rolled out, over the years, it becomes evident and obvious, and yet none managed to pull it off.

netflix-market-expansion

When Netflix moved from DVD rental to streaming. DVD rental was the transitional business model that helped Netflix stay in business in the first place.

And yet, when Netflix moved from DVD to streaming it had to apparently change its strategy.

When, in reality, it was rolling out its long-term strategy, shaped by the transitional business model. 

Caveat: Frameworks work until suddenly they don’t

When you stumbled upon a “business formula,” you can’t stop there.

That business formula, if you’re lucky, will allow you to succeed in the long term. Yet as more and more people will find that out, that will lose relevance.

And the matter is, the reality is a villain. Things work for years until they suddenly don’t work anymore.

We’ll see some frameworks, but the real deal is not a framework but the inquiry process that makes us discover those frameworks.

In short, the value is in the repeatable process of discovery and not in the discovery itself. A discovery, once spread, loses value.

Master a business strategy process

There isn’t a size-fits-all business playbook that you can apply to all the scenarios.

Some of the business case studies we’ll see throughout this article will show companies that have dominated the tech space in the last decade and more.

While the playbook executed by those companies worked for the time being.

That doesn’t mean you should play according to their playbook. If at all you’ll need to figure out your own.

Thus, what matters is the process behind finding your business playbook and my hope is that this guide will inspire you and give you some good ideas on how to develop your own business strategy process!

Business strategy case studies

business-strategy-examples

We’ll look now at a few case studies of companies that, at the time of this writing, are playing an important role in the business world.

  • Alibaba Business Strategy.
  • Amazon Business Strategy.
  • Apple Business Strategy.
  • Airbnb Business Strategy.
  • Baidu Business Strategy.
  • Booking Business Strategy.
  • DuckDuckGo Business Strategy.
  • Google (Alphabet) Business Strategy.

What is a business model’s essence?

Keeping in mind the distinction between business strategy and business models is critical.

The other element used in this guide is a business model essence.

Shortly, I’ve been looking for a way to summarize the key elements of any business in a couple of lines of text:

business-model-essence

Therefore, for the sake of this discussion, you’ll find each company’s business strategy, a business model essence that will help us navigate through the noisy business world.

From there, we’ll see the business strategy of a company.

Alibaba Business Strategy

Business Model Essence : Online Stores Leveraging On An E-Commerce/Marketplace Distribution And Monetization Strategy  

As pointed out in Alibaba’s annual report for 2017:

We derive revenue from our four business segments: core commerce, cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, and innovation initiatives and others. We derive most of our revenue from our core commerce segment, which accounted for 85% of our total revenue in fiscal year 2017, while cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, and innovation initiatives and others contributed 4%, 9% and 2%, respectively. We derive a substantial majority of our core commerce revenue from online marketing services. 

Alibaba, like Amazon , became an “everything store” in China.

It leveraged its success to build also other media platforms ( Youku Todou and UCWeb). The e-commerce, marketplace business model has become quite common since the dawn of the web.

From that business model tech giants like Amazon , eBay and Alibaba have raised.

alibaba-business-model

Alibaba’s vision, mission, and core principles

Alibaba’s Business Strategy starts from its core values defined in its annual report:

  • Customer First : “The interests of our community of consumers, merchants, and enterprises must be our first”
  • Teamwork: “ We believe teamwork enables ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.”
  • Embrace Change   I”n this fast-changing world, we must be flexible, innovative, and ready to adapt to new business conditions in order to maintain sustainability and vitality in our business.”
  • Integrity “We expect our people to uphold the highest standards of honesty and to deliver on their commitments.”
  • Passion “We expect our people to approach everything with fire in their belly and never give up on doing what they believe is right.”
  • Commitment  “Employees who demonstrate perseverance and excellence are richly rewarded. Nothing should be taken for granted as we encourage our people to “work happily and live seriously.”

Alibaba’s mission is “ to make it easy to do business anywhere, ” and its vision is “to build the future infrastructure of commerce… a company that would last at least 102 years.”

For that vision to be executed it has three major stakeholders: users, consumers, and merchants.

The focus on the “at least 102 years” might seem fluffy words, yet those are important as this kind of goal helps you keep a long-term vision while executing short-term plans.

It isn’t unusual for founders to set such visions, as they help keep the company on track in the long run.

And this is where a business strategy starts.

All the business models designed by Alibaba will follow its vision, mission, and values they aim to create in the long run.

Read : Alibaba Business Model

Alibaba ecosystem and value proposition

These elements gave rise to an ecosystem made of “consumers, merchants, brands, retailers, other businesses, third-party service providers and strategic alliance partners.”

As Alibaba points out in its annual report “our ecosystem has strong self-reinforcing network effects benefitting its various participants, who are in turn invested in our ecosystem’s growth and success.”

Network effects are a critical ingredient for marketplaces’ success.

To give you an idea, the more buyers join the platform, the more Alibaba’s recommendation engine will be able to suggest relevant items to buy for other customers, and at the same time the more merchants will join in, given the larger and larger business opportunities.

Keeping these network effects going is a vital element of long-term success but also among the greatest challenge of any marketplace that wants to be relevant.

Even though Alibaba’s essence is in online commerce, the company has several business model s running and a business strategy that at its core is evolving quickly.

alibaba-brands

Thus, the core commerce has made it possible for Alibaba to build a whole new set of “companies within a company.”

From digital entertainment and media, logistics services, payment, financial services, and cloud services with Alibaba Cloud.

Thus, from a successful existing online business model , Alibaba has expanded in many other areas.

And its future business strategy focuses on developing, nurturing, and growing its ecosystem.

More precisely, its strategic long-term goal is to “serve two billion consumers around the world and support ten million businesses to operate profitably on its platforms”

To achieve that Alibaba is focusing on three key activities:

  • Globalization.
  • Rural expansion.
  • And big data and cloud computing.

For its core commerce activities, Alibaba has designed a value proposition that moves around a few pillars:

  • Broad selection: over 1.5 billion listings as of March 31, 2018.
  • Convenience:  seamless experience anytime, anywhere from online and offline.
  • Engaging, personalized experience: personalized shopping recommendations and opportunities for social engagement.
  • Value for money: competitive prices offered via a marketplace business model.
  • Merchant quality: review and rating system to keep merchants’ quality high.
  • Authentic products: merchant quality ratings, clear refund, and return policies, and the Alipay escrow system.

From that value proposition , Alibaba has been able to grow its customer base and offer wider and broader products, until it expanded in the service and cloud business.

Amazon Business Strategy

amazon-case-study

Business Model Essence : E-Commerce/Marketplace Distribution And Monetization Model Leveraging On Proprietary Infrastructure To Offer Third-Party Services

Starting in 1994 as a bookstore, Amazon soon expanded and became the everything store.

While the company’s core business model is based on its online store.

Amazon launched its physical stores, which generated already over five billion dollars in revenues in 2017.

Amazon Prime (a subscription service) also plays a crucial role in Amazon’s overall business model , as it makes customers spend more and be more loyal to the platform. 

Besides, the company also has its cloud infrastructure called AWS, which is a world leader and a business with high margins. Amazon also has an advertising business worth a few billion dollars.

Thus, the Amazon business model mix looks like many companies in one. Amazon measures its success via a customer experience obsession, lowering prices, stable tech infrastructure, and free cash flow generation.

amazon-business-model

Therefore, even though in the minds of most people Amazon is the “everything store.”

In reality, its revenue generation shows us that it has become a way more complex organization, that also has a good chunk of advertising revenue and third-party services.

For instance, Amazon is also a key player with its AWS in the cloud space.

aws-vs-azure

And is well a key player in the digital advertising space, together with Google and Facebook :

advertising-industry

Amazon has been widely investing in its technological infrastructure since the 2000s, which eventually turned into a key component of its business model .

Read : Amazon Business Model

Amazon’s vision, mission, and core values

amazon-vision-statement-mission-statement (1)

Jeff Bezos is obsessed with being in “day one,” which as he puts it , “ day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always  Day 1. “

It all starts from there, and to achieve that Jeff Bezos has highlighted a few core values that makeup Amazon ‘s culture and vision :

  • Customer obsession.
  • Resist proxies.
  • Embrace external trends.
  • High-velocity decision-making.

As pointed out by Amazon , “w hen Amazon.com launched in 1995, it was with the mission “ to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. ” 

This goal continues today, but Amazon ’s customers are worldwide now and have grown to include millions of Consumers, Sellers, Content Creators, and Developers & Enterprises.

Each of these groups has different needs, and we always work to meet those needs, innovating new solutions to make things easier, faster, better, and more cost-effective.”

In this case, Amazon ‘s mission also sounds like a vision statement.

Whatever you want to call it, this input is what makes a company look for long-term goals that keep them on track.

Of course, that doesn’t mean a well-crafted vision and mission statement is all that matters for business success.

Yet, it is what keeps you going when things seem to go awry.

Amazon moved from an online book store to the A-to-Z store it kept its mission almost intact while scaling up.

Start from a proof of concept, then scale up

It is interesting to notice how businesses evolve based on their commercial ability to scale up.

When Amazon started up as a bookstore, it made sense for several reasons, that spanned from logistics to pricing modes and industry specifics.

Yet, when Amazon finally proved that the whole web thing could be commercially viable, it didn’t wait, it grew rapidly.

From music to anything else it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen quickly.

Thus, this is how Amazon’s mission shifted from “any book in the world” to “anything from A-Z.”

This isn’t a size-fits-all strategy. Amazon chose rapid growth, similar to a blitzscaling process as aggressive growth was a way to preserve itself.

Hadn’t Amazon grown so quickly, it could have been killed.

The opposite approach to this kind of strategy is a bootstrapped business, which is profitable right away and self-sustainable.

Decentralized and distributed value creation: the era of platforms and ecosystems

Before we move forward, I want to highlight a few key elements to have a deeper understanding of both Amazon and Alibaba’s business models and their strategies.

Before digitalization would show its use and commercial viability, most of the value creation processes were internalized.

That meant companies had to employ massive resources to generate value along that chain.

That changed when digitalization allowed the value creation process to be distributed, and we moved from centralized to grassroots content creation.

This is even clearer in the case of platforms, and marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba.

For instance, where in the past the review process and quality insurance would be done centrally by making sure that the supply complied with the company’s quality guidelines.

Introducing distributed review systems, where the end-users checked against the quality compliance, allowed companies like Alibaba and Amazon to generate network effects, where the more users enriched the platforms with those reviews the more the platform could become valuable.

For that matter though, the main platform’s role will be to fight spam and attempt to trick the system.

Other than that (fighting spam is a challenging task) all the rest is managed at the decentralized level, and the value creation happens when more and more users review products and services on those platforms.

We’re referring here to the review system, but it applies almost to any aspect of a platform.

Amazon for years allowed third-party to feature their stores on Amazon ‘s platform, while they kept the inventory.

This meant an outsourced and distributed inventory system, spread across the supply side.

Therefore, the supply side not only made the platform more valuable by creating compelling offerings.

But it also made it more valuable from the operational standpoint, by allowing a better inventory system, which could be turned quickly.

Therefore, the critical aspect to understand in the digital era is decentralized value creation, which makes the value creation process less expensive for an organization, more valuable to its end users, and more scalable as it benefits from network effects.

How do decentralize value creation?

Many platform-like business models have leveraged a few aspects:

  • User-generated content (Quora, Facebook , Instagram).
  • Distributed inventory systems ( Amazon , Alibaba).
  • Peer-to-peer networks ( Airbnb , Uber).

This implies a paradigm shift.

When you start thinking in terms of platforms, no longer you’ll need a plethora of people taking care of each aspect of it.

Rather you’ll need to understand how the value creation can be outsourced to a community of people and make sure the platform is on top of its game in a few aspects.

For instance, Amazon and Alibaba have to make sure their review system isn’t gamed. Airbnb has to make sure to be able to guarantee safety in the interactions from host to guests and vice-versa.

Quora has to make sure to keep its question machine to keep generating relevant questions for users to answer (the supply-side).

If you grasp this element of a platform, you’re on a good track to understanding how to build a successful platform or marketplace.

Apple Business Strategy

Business Model Label : Product-Based Company Leveraging On Locked-In Ecosystems With A Reversed Razor And Blade Business Strategy

Apple sells its products and resells third-party products in most of its major markets directly to consumers and small and mid-sized businesses through its retail and online stores and its direct sales force.

The Company also employs a variety of indirect distribution channels , such as third-party cellular network carriers, wholesalers, retailers, and value-added resellers.

During 2017, the Company’s net sales through its direct and indirect distribution channels accounted for 28% and 72%, respectively, of total net sales.

Many people look at the iPhone, or the previous products Apple has launched successfully in the last decade and assume that their success is due to those products.

In reality, Apple has followed throughout the years a strategy that focused on five key elements:

  • Strong branding.
  • Beautifully crafted products.
  • Technological innovation.
  • Strong distribution.
  • Locked-in ecosystems.

In short, Apple can sell an iPhone at a premium price because it employs a reversed razor and blade strategy.

This strategy implies free access to Apple’s Ecosystem (ex. iTunes, and Apple Store).

That makes the whole experience through Apple’s devices extremely valuable.

Thanks to that experience, the perception of high-end (luxury-like) products, together with a reliable distribution, justifies Apple’s premium prices.

apple-business-model

Apple’s managed to build a business platform on top of the iPhone, thus creating a strong competitive moat, which lasts to these days:

evolution-of-apple-sales

Therefore, Apple’s future success can’t be measured with the same lenses as the last decade.

The real question is: what product will Apple  be able to launch successfully?

And keep in mind it’s not just about the product. Apple’s formula summarized above can be replicated over and over again.

But it isn’t a simple formula. And as locked-in ecosystems, in which Apple controls as much as possible, the experience of its users has proved quite successful in the last decade.

That might not be so in the next, given the rise of more decentralized infrastructure.

For that matter, Amazon might be well moving from a reversed razor and blade model:

amazon-razor-blade-business-model

To a service-based model:

apple-revenues

This isn’t surprising, as a service business has a few compelling advantages:

  • High margins.
  • A relatively stable revenue stream.
  • Scalability.

As Apple has relied on home runs with its products, from the new Mac to the iPod, iPhone, and iPhones, that kind of success isn’t easy to replicate, and it makes the company relies on a continuous stream of fresh sales to keep the business growing.

A service business would balance things out.

It is important to remark this isn’t something new to Apple :

iphone-sales-2007-09

When Apple introduced the iPhone, it isn’t like it was an overnight success. It was successful, but it had to create a whole ecosystem to make the iPhone a continuous source of growth for the company!

When it comes to business strategy, as pointed out in Apple’s annual reports:

The Company is committed to bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software and services. The Company’s business strategy leverages its unique ability to design and develop its own operating systems, hardware, application software and services to provide its customers products and solutions with innovative design, superior ease-of-use and seamless integration.

Understanding this part is critical. As I explained above, at the time of this writing many think of Apple as the “iPhone company.”

Yet Apple is way more than that, and its business strategy is a mixture of creating ecosystems by leveraging on these pillars:

  • Operating systems.
  • Applications software.
  • Innovative design.
  • Ease-of-use.
  • Seamless Integration.

Those elements together make Apple ‘s products successful. As Apple further explained:

As part of its strategy, the Company continues to expand its platform for the discovery and delivery of digital content and applications through its Digital Content and Services, which allows customers to discover and download or stream digital content, iOS, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV applications, and books through either a Mac or Windows personal computer or through iPhone, iPad and iPod touch® devices (“iOS devices”), Apple TV, Apple Watch and HomePod.

Once again, it isn’t anymore about creating a product, but about generating self-serve ecosystems.

How do you support those ecosystems?

It depends on what’s your target. A media company will primarily need an ecosystem made of content creators (take Quora or Facebook or YouTube ).

In many cases, a digital media company over time has to be able to nurture several communities to create a thriving ecosystem.

For instance, large tech companies or startups, often rely on several communities:

  • Programmers and developers ( Google , Apple ).
  • Content creators and publishers ( Google , Quora, YouTube ).
  • Artists and creative talents ( Apple , YouTube ).

In Apple ‘s case though, the first ecosystem is the community of developers building third-party software products that complement the company’s offering:

The Company also supports a community for the development of third-party software and hardware products and digital content that complement the Company’s offerings.

When you combine that with a high-touch strategy (where skilled and knowledgeable salespeople interact with customers) you create a flywheel, where customers are retained for longer, the brand grows as a result of this high-touch activity which creates a better post-sale experience and triggers word of mouth and referral from existing customers:

The Company believes a high-quality buying experience with knowledgeable salespersons who can convey the value of the Company’s products and services greatly enhances its ability to attract and retain customers.Therefore, the Company’s strategy also includes building and expanding its own retail and online stores and its third-party distribution network to effectively reach more customers and provide them with a high-quality sales and post-sales support experience.The Company believes ongoing investment in research and development (“R&D”), marketing and advertising is critical to the development and sale of innovative products, services and technologies.

Read : Apple Business Model

Airbnb Business Strategy

Business Model Essence : Peer-To-Peer House-Sharing Network With Fee-Based Monetization Strategy

As a peer-to-peer network, Airbnb allows individuals to rent from private owners for a fee.

Airbnb charges guests a service fee between 5% and 15% of the reservation subtotal; While the commission from hosts is generally 3%.

Airbnb also charges hosts who offer experiences a 20% service fee on the total price.

The digitalization that happened in the last two decades has facilitated the creation of peer-to-peer platforms in which business models disrupted the hospitality model created in the previous century by hotel chains like Marriott, Holiday Inn, and Hilton.

airbnb-business-model

Airbnb is quickly branching out toward offering more experiences. We can call Airbnb the “marketplace of experiences.”

In short, just like Amazon started from books, Airbnb has started from house-sharing.

But that is the starting point, which gives the innovative company enough traction to validate its whole business model and expand to other areas.

The principal aim of Airbnb is to control the whole experience for its users. This means creating an end-to-end travel experience that embraces the entire process .

Thus, it’s not surprising that we’ll see Airbnb expanding its marketplace to more and more areas. This is also shown by the fact that Airbnb might soon offer bundled travel packages .

Just as we’ve seen in the case of Alibaba and Amazon , Airbnb follows a marketplace logic, where it needs to make the interactions between its key users (hosts and guests) as smooth as possible, with an emphasis on safety.

As a platform, Airbnb initially used a strategy of improving the quality of its supply by employing freelance photographers that could take pictures of host homes.

This, in turn, made those homes more interesting for guests, as they could appreciate those homes more.

As many people in real estate might know, the quality of the pictures is critical.

Although this might sound trivial, this is what improved the Airbnb supply side.

Indeed with better and professionally taken images, Airbnb improved its reach via search engines (yes, search engines are thirsty for fresh and original content, images comprised).

And it enhanced the experience of its potential customers.

Now Airbnb is converting its business model to digital experiences. In addition to changing the whole strategy.

Whereas Airbnb focused in the past on covering major cities across the world.

Changing travel habits made Airbnb focus on digital experiences and local, extra-metropolitan areas throughout the pandemic.

While, post-pandemic, as people travel for longer stays, the whole platform has been structured around these. 

airbnb-statistics

Read : Airbnb Business Model

Baidu Business Strategy

Business Model Essence :  Online Marketing Free Services Advertising-Supported Revenue Model

Baidu makes money primarily via online marketing services (advertising). In fact, in 2017, Baidu made about $11.24 in online marketing services and a remaining almost $1.8 billion through other sources. According to Statista,

Baidu has an overall search market share of 73.8% of the Chinese market. Other sources of revenues comprise membership services of iQIYI (an innovative market-leading online entertainment service provider in China) and financial services.

baidu-traffic-acquisition-strategy

At first sight, Baidu might seem the mirror image of Google , but in China.

However, this is a superficial view. While Baidu has followed in China a similar path to Google , it did take advantage of the fact that Google wasn’t available there, to build its dominant position.

Baidu also has a more efficient cost structure than Google. It had also introduced innovations in its search products (like voice search devices for kids) at a time when Google wasn’t there yet.

Read : Baidu Business Model

Baidu mission: two-pillar business strategy and value propositions acting as a glue for its key users/customers

In the past years, Baidu has followed an expansion business strategy focused on acquiring assets and companies that complemented its core business model .

As the leading Chinese search provider, in 2017, Baidu updated its mission to “ Baidu aims to make a complex world simpler through technology.”

This mission is achieved via a two-pillar strategy:

  • Strengthening the mobile foundation (similar to Google’s mobile-first).
  • And leading in artificial intelligence.

Baidu’s key partners comprise users, customers, Baidu union members, and content providers.

For each of those critical segments, Baidu has drafted a fundamental value proposition .

Thus, to generate a value chain that works for these stakeholders, Baidu has to balance it with a diversified value proposition :

  • Users:  enjoying Baidu search experience want a search engine that gives them relevant results.
  • Customers: with 775,000 active online marketing customers in 2017, consisting of SMEs, large domestic businesses, and multinational companies, distributed across retail and e-commerce, network service, medical and healthcare, franchise investment, financial services, education, online games, transportation, construction and decoration, and business services. Those businesses look for a trackable, and sustainable ROI for their paid advertising campaigns. By bidding on keywords, they can target specific audiences.
  • Baidu Union Member: share revenues with Baidy by displaying banner ads on their sites in relevant spaces filled by the  Baidu search algorithm (think of it as Google’s AdSense Network ). Those publishers and sites can generate additional revenues and monetize their content without relying on complex infrastructure, that instead is employed by Baidu.
  • Content Providers:  video copyright holders, app owners who list their apps on the Baidu app store, users who contribute their valuable and copyrighted content to Baidu products, and publishers. Those users get visibility or money in exchange for this content. Baidu has to make sure to allow those content providers to get in exchange for their work and creativity visibility and revenues.

Understanding how the value proposition for each player comes together is critical to understanding the business decisions a company like Baidu makes over time.

For instance, as Baidu (like Google ) moves more and more toward AI, the need to balance the value proposition for Baidu Union Members might fickle.

Booking Business Strategy

Business Model Essence :  House-Sharing Platform Leveraging On A Two-Sided Marketplace With A Commission-Based Revenue Model

Booking Holdings is the company that controls six main brands that comprise Booking.com, priceline.com, KAYAK, agoda.com, Rentalcars.com, and OpenTable. 

Over 76% of the company’s revenues in 2017 came primarily via travel reservations commissions and travel insurance fees.

Almost 17% came from merchant fees, and the remaining revenues came from advertising earned via KAYAK.

As a distribution strategy, the company spent over $4.5 billion on performance-based and brand advertising.

booking-business-model

Read : Booking Business Model

Booking mission, value proposition, and key players

Booking’s mission is to “help people experience the world.” Booking does that via a few primary brands:

  • Booking.com.
  • priceline.com.
  • Rentalcars.com.

The mission of helping people experience the world is executed via three primary value propositions delivered to consumers, travelers, and business partners:

  • Consumers are provided what Booking calls “the best choices and prices at any time, in any place, on any device.”
  • People and travelers can easily find, book, and experience their travel desires.
  • Business partners (like Hotels featured on Booking.com) are provided with platforms, tools, and insights in exchange.

Boomedium-term term strategy is focused on:

  • Leveraging technology to provide the best experience.
  • Growing partnerships with travel service providers and restaurants.
  • Investing in profitable and sustainable growth.

DuckDuckGo Business Strategy

Business Model Essence : Privacy-based Search Engine Built On Google’s Weakness With An affiliate-based Revenue Model

DuckDuckGo makes money in two simple ways: Advertising and Affiliate Marketing.

Advertising is shown based on the keywords typed into the search box. Affiliate revenues come from Amazon and eBay affiliate programs.

When users buy after getting on those sites through DuckDuckGo the company collects a small commission.

duckduckgo-business-model

While this model might not sound that exciting. DuckDuckGo managed to grow quickly by leveraging Google’s primary weakness: users’ privacy. Where Google’s primary asset is made of users’ data. DuckDuckGo throws that data away on the fly:

It is important to remark that DuckDuckGo is still figuring out a business model that can make it sustainable in the long term.

Indeed, the company got a venture round of $10 million back in August 2018.

DuckDuckGo will be tweaking its business model in the coming years, to reach a “ business model /market fit.”

Read : DuckDuckGo Business Model

Read : DuckDuckGo Story

Google (Alphabet) Business Strategy

Business Model Essence :  Free Search Engine Distributed Across Hardware, Browsers, And Members’ Websites With An Hidden Revenue Generation Model

As of 2017, over ninety billion dollars, which consisted of 86% of Google ’s revenues came from advertising networks.

The remaining fraction (about 13%) came from Apps, Google Cloud, and Hardware. While a bit more than 1% came from bets like Access, Calico, CapitalG, GV, Nest, Verily, Waymo, and X.

Google business model is changing over the years.

Even though advertising is still its cash cow, Google has been diversifying its revenues in other areas. 

While in 2015 90% of Google’s revenues came from advertising, in 2017, advertising revenues represented 86%.

Other revenues grew from about 10% in 2015 to almost 13% in 2017.

how-does-google-make-money

Why did Google get there? And where is Google going next? To understand that you need to understand the “moonshot thinking.”

Read : Google Business Model

Read : Google Cost Structure

Read : Baidu vs. Google

Understanding Google’s moonshot thinking and a breakthrough approach to business

As highlighted in the Alphabet annual report for 2018:

Many companies get comfortable doing what they have always done, making only incremental changes. This incrementalism leads to irrelevance over time, especially in technology, where change tends to be revolutionary, not evolutionary. People thought we were crazy when we acquired YouTube and Android and when we launched Chrome, but those efforts have matured into major platforms for digital video and mobile devices and a safer, popular browser. We continue to look toward the future and continue to invest for the long-term. As we said in the original founders’ letter, we will not shy away from high-risk, high-reward projects that we believe in because they are the key to our long-term success.

Understanding the moonshot approach to business is critical to understanding where Google (now Alphabet) got where it is today, and where it’s headed next.

Since the first shareholders’ letter from Google’s founders, Brin and Page they highlighted that “ Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

Google has successfully built ecosystems that today drive

To understand where Google is going next, you need to look at the AI Economy , in which the tech giant is trying to lead the pack.

Whether or not it will be successful will highly depend on its ability to keep creating successful ecosystems, just as Google has done with Google Maps (you might not realize but Google Maps powers up quite a large number of applications) and Android.

At the time of this writing, Google is widely investing in other areas, such as:

  • Voice search.
  • AI and machine learning applications.
  • Self-driving cars.
  • And other bets.

If that is not sufficient Google has made several moves in different spaces, to keep its dominance on mobile, while moving toward voice search, like the investment in KaiOS, which business model is interesting as it finally allows an ecosystem to be built on top of cheap mobile devices in developing countries:

kaios-feature-phone-business-model

That is why Google keeps making “smaller bets in areas that might seem very speculative or even strange when compared to its current businesses.”

Those other bets made “just” $595 million to Google in 2018.

This represented 0.4% of Google ‘s overall revenues , compared to the over $136 billion coming from the other segments.

Google ‘s North Star is its mission of “ organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.” 

Read : KaiOS Business Model

Let’s go through a few other tips for a successful business strategy. 

Problem-first approach

customer-problem quadrant

The customer-problem quadrant by LEANSTACK’s Ash Maurya is a great starting point to define and understand the problem, that as an entrepreneur you will going to solve. 

Indeed, a successful business is such, based on the market’s rewards for the entrepreneur’s ability to solve a problem.

Keep in mind that defining and understanding problems in the real world is one of the most difficult things (that is why entrepreneurship is so hard).

To properly stumble on the right definition of the problem you’re solving, there might be some fine-tuning going on, which in the business world we like to call product-market fit . 

Business engineering skills

business-analysis

Another key element is not to lose sight of the context you’re operating.

As such, analyzing that properly might require some business engineering skills . 

To simplify your life you can use the FourWeekMBA business analysis framework.

Don’t strategize on a piece of paper

Strategies always work well on a piece of paper.

Yet when execution comes suddenly we can realize all the drawbacks of that.

In very few, rare cases, a designed strategy will work as expected.

However, the reason we plan and strategize isn’t just to make things work as we’d like them to.

But to communicate a vision we have to those people (employees, customers, stakeholders) who will help us get there. 

That is why when we strategize it’s important not to lose sight of the essence of our strategy, which is the long-term vision we have for our business.

The rest is execution, practice, and a lot of experimentation!

The innovation loop

what-is-entrepreneurship

Innovation starts by tweaking, testing, and experimenting also in unexpected ways.

Often though, as a business strategy is documented after the fact, it seems as if it was all part of a plan. 

In most cases, the innovation loop starts by stumbling upon that thing that will have a great impact on your business.

Therefore, as an entrepreneur, you need to keep pushing on those models that worked out.

But also to be on the lookout for new ways of doing things. 

Barbell approach 

barbell-strategy

In a barbel approach we want to have a clear distinction between two domains: 

  • Core business : on the core business side, where you have a consolidated strategy, and a business model that has proved to work, it’s important to be structured. This means having a clear culture, following given processes, and slowly evolving your business model. 
  • New bets : as your business model will become outdated over time, and that might happen also very quickly, you need to be on the lookout for new opportunities emerging, also in new, completely unrelated business fields. 

For instance, a tech giant like Google, has a part of its business skewed toward a few bets it placed on industries that are completely unrelated to its core business (search).

Those bets are not contributing at all to its bottom line (only some of those bets are generating revenues but those are extremely marginal compared to the overall turnover of the company). 

However, those might turn out widely successful (or huge failures) in the years to come. 

google-other-bets

Thus, with a barbell approach, we want to consolidate what we have. But also be open to what might be coming next!

Business Explorers

Strategic analysis thinking tools.

strategic-analysis

Strategic analysis is a process to understand the organization’s environment and competitive landscape to formulate informed business decisions , to plan for the organizational structure and long-term direction. Strategic planning is also useful to experiment with business model design and assess the fit with the long-term vision of the business.

Business model canvas

The business model canvas aims to provide a keen understanding of your business model to provide strategic insights about your customers, product/service, and financial structure;

so that you can make better business decisions.

Blitzscaling canvas

In this article, I’ll focus on the Blitzscaling business model canvas. This is a model based on the concept of Blitzscaling.

That is a particular process of massive growth under uncertainty, and that prioritizes speed over efficiency. It focuses on market domination to create a first-scaler advantage in a scenario of uncertainty.

Pretotyping

pretotyping-alberto-savoia

Pretotyping is a mixture of the words “pretend” and “prototype,” and it is a methodology used to validate business ideas to improve the chances of building a product or service that people want.

The pretotyping methodology comes from Alberto Savoia’s work summarized in the book “The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed.”

This framework is a mixture of the words “pretend” and “prototype,” and it helps to answer such questions (about the product or service to build) as: Would I use it? How, how often, and when would I use it?

Would other people buy it? How much would they be willing to pay for it? How, how often, and when would they use it?

Value innovation and blue ocean strategy

blue-ocean-strategy

A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created.

At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken.

Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

Growth hacking process

growth-hacking

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation, coupled with the understanding of the whole funnel, where marketing , product, data analysis, and engineering work together to achieve rapid growth.

The growth hacking process goes through four key stages analyzing, ideating, prioritizing, and testing.

Pirate metrics

pirate-metrics

Venture capitalist , Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables us to understand what metrics and channels to look at. At each stage of the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Engines of growth

engines-of-growth

In the Lean Startup, Eric Ries defined the engine of growth as “the mechanism that startups use to achieve sustainable growth.”

He described sustainable growth as following a simple rule, “new customers come from the actions of past customers.”

The three engines of growth are the sticky engine, the viral engine, and the paid engine. Each of those can be measured and tracked by a few key metrics, and it helps plan your strategic moves.

design-a-business-model

The RTVN model is a straightforward framework that can help you design a business model when you’re at the very early stage of figuring out what you need to make it succeed.

Sales cycle

business strategy in a business plan

A sales cycle is the process that your company takes to sell your services and products.

In simple words, it’s a series of steps that your sales reps need to go through with prospects that lead up to a closed sale.

Planning ahead of time the steps your sales team needs to take to close a big contract can help you grow the revenues for your business.

Comparable analysis

comparable-company-analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company.

To find comparables, you can look at two key profiles: the business and economic profiles.

From the comparable company analysis, it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

Porter’s five forces

porter-five-forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition.

It was published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s.

The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces which you can use to have a first assessment of the market you’re in.

Porter’s Generic Strategies

porters-generic-strategies

Porter’s Value Chain

porters-value-chain-model

Porter’s Diamond Model

porters-diamond-model

Bowman’s Strategy Clock

bowmans-strategy-clock

VMOST Analysis

vmost-analysis

Fishbone Diagram

fishbone-diagram

GE McKinsey Matrix

ge-mckinsey-matrix

VRIO Framework

vrio-framework

3C Analysis

3c-model

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. This is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through, before purchasing a product or service. The variation of the AIDA model is the CAB model and the AIDCAS model.

PESTEL analysis

pestel-analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization.

This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses. That can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

Technology adoption curve

technology-adoption-curve

The technology adoption curve is a model that goes through five stages. Each of those stages (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggard) has a specific psychographic that makes that group of people ready to adopt a tech product.

This simple concept can help you define the right target for your business strategy.

Business model essence

A Business Model Essence, according to FourWeekMBA, is a way to find the critical characteristics of any business to have a clear understanding of that business in a few sentences.

That can be used to analyze existing businesses. Or to draft your Business Model and keep a strategic and execution focus on the key elements to be implemented in the short-medium term.

FourWeekMBA business model framework

fourweekmba-business-model-framework

An effective business model has to focus on two dimensions: the people dimension and the financial dimension. The people dimension will allow you to build a product or service that is 10X better than existing ones and a solid brand.

The financial dimension will help you develop proper distribution channels by identifying the people that are willing to pay for your product or service and make it financially sustainable in the long run.

TAM, SAM, and SOM

total-addressable-market

Understanding your TAM, SAM and SOM can help you navigate the market you’re in and to have a laser focus on the market you can reach with your product and service.

Brand Building

business strategy in a business plan

Value Proposition Design

value-proposition

Product-Market Fit

product-market-fit

Freemium Decision Model

freemium-model-decision-tree

Organizational Design And Structures

organizational-structure

Speed-Reversibility Matrix

decision-making-matrix

Minimum Viable Product

SWOT Analysis

business strategy in a business plan

Revenue Modeling

revenue-modeling

Business Experimentation

business-experimentation

Business Analysis

bcg-matrix

Ansoff Matrix

ansoff-matrix

Key takeaway

I hope that in this guide you learned the critical aspects related to business strategy, with an emphasis on the entrepreneurial world. If business strategy would only be an academic discipline disjoined from reality, that would still be an interesting domain, yet purely speculative.

However, as a business strategy can be used as a useful tool to leverage on to build companies, hopefully, this guide will help you out in navigating through the seemingly noisy and confusing business world, dominated by technology. As a last but critical caveat, there isn’t a single way toward building a successful business.

And oftentimes the way you choose to build a business is really up to you, how you want to impact a community of people and your vision for the future!

Other resources: 

  • Types of Business Models You Need to Know
  • What Is a Business Model Canvas? Business Model Canvas Explained
  • Blitzscaling Business Model Innovation Canvas In A Nutshell
  • What Is a Value Proposition? Value Proposition Canvas Explained
  • What Is a Lean Startup Canvas? Lean Startup Canvas Explained
  • How to Write a One-Page Business Plan
  • How to Build a Great Business Plan According to Peter Thiel
  • How To Create A Business Model
  • What Is Business Model Innovation And Why It Matters
  • What Is Blitzscaling And Why It Matters
  • Business Model Vs. Business Plan: When And How To Use Them
  • The Five Key Factors That Lead To Successful Tech Startups
  • Business Model Tools for Small Businesses and Startups

Additional Business Strategy Tactics

Blue ocean player.

blue-ocean-strategy

Blue Sea Player

blue-sea-strategy

Constructive Disruptor

constructive-disruption

Niche player

microniche

Blitzscaler

blitzscaling-business-model-innovation-canvas

Continuous Blitzscaler

amazon-flywheel

What is business strategy?

What are examples of business strategies.

Things like product differentiation, business model innovation, technological innovation, more capital for growth, can all be moats that organizations focus on to gain an edge. Depending on the context, industry, and scenario, a business strategy might be more or less effective; that is why testing and experimentation are critical elements.

Connected Strategy Frameworks

ADKAR Model

adkar-model

Business Model Canvas

business-model-canvas

Lean Startup Canvas

lean-startup-canvas

Blitzscaling Canvas

blitzscaling-business-model-innovation-canvas

Blue Ocean Strategy

blue-ocean-strategy

Business Analysis Framework

business-analysis

Balanced Scorecard

balanced-scorecard

Blue Ocean Strategy 

blue-ocean-strategy

GAP Analysis

gap-analysis

GE McKinsey Model

ge-mckinsey-matrix

McKinsey 7-S Model

mckinsey-7-s-model

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees

mckinseys-seven-degrees

McKinsey Horizon Model

mckinsey-horizon-model

Porter’s Five Forces

porter-five-forces

Porter’s Value Chain Model

porters-value-chain-model

PESTEL Analysis

pestel-analysis

Scenario Planning

scenario-planning

STEEPLE Analysis

steeple-analysis

FourWeekMBA Business Toolbox

Business Engineering

business-engineering-manifesto

Tech Business Model Template

business-model-template

Web3 Business Model Template

vbde-framework

Asymmetric Business Models

asymmetric-business-models

Business Competition

business-competition

Technological Modeling

technological-modeling

Transitional Business Models

transitional-business-models

Minimum Viable Audience

minimum-viable-audience

Business Scaling

business-scaling

Market Expansion Theory

market-expansion

Speed-Reversibility

decision-making-matrix

Asymmetric Betting

asymmetric-bets

Growth Matrix

growth-strategies

Revenue Streams Matrix

revenue-streams-model-matrix

Pricing Strategies

pricing-strategies

Other business resources:

  • What Is Business Model Innovation
  • What Is a Business Model
  • What Is Business Strategy
  • What is Blitzscaling
  • What Is Market Segmentation
  • What Is a Marketing Strategy
  • What is Growth Hacking

More Resources

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Strategic Planning in Business

ProjectManager

Table of Contents

What is business strategic planning, the strategic planning process in 3 steps, what is a business strategic plan, key components of a business strategic plan, business strategic plan example, strategic plan vs. business plan.

Strategic planning is key for success in business. By planning strategically for the future, a business can achieve its goals. It’s easier said than done, but the more you know about strategic planning, the better chance you have at succeeding.

Business strategic planning is the process of creating a business strategy and an accompanying business strategic plan to implement a company’s vision and achieve its goals over time. The main goal of strategic planning is to take a company from its current state to its desired state through a series of business actions.

The business strategic planning process usually consists of defining business goals, doing a SWOT analysis to assess the company’s business environment and developing a business strategy. The leadership team is in charge of business strategic planning, as it has a very important impact on the overall direction of a company.

business strategy in a business plan

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Strategic Plan Template

Use this free Strategic Plan Template for Word to manage your projects better.

Strategic Planning is one of the three levels of organizational planning, which is the process that allows organizations to define its objectives for the future and make action plans to guide the efforts of each of its departments, employees and management levels .

The other two levels of organizational planning are tactical and operational planning. Let’s see how these three types of organizational planning differ from each other.

Strategic Planning vs. Tactical Planning

While a strategic plan is created by the top management team and defines the high-level strategic goals of an entire organization, a tactical plan has a narrower scope. A tactical plan is created by the middle management level of a business and describes the specific goals, initiatives, challenges and resources for each department and how its efforts contribute to the completion of the larger strategic plan of the business.

Strategic Planning vs. Operational Planning

An operational plan allows you to establish guidelines, procedures and best practices for the daily operations of your business. The main objective of operational planning is to ensure that your business operations contribute to the accomplishment of the strategic objectives defined in the strategic plan.

Strategic planning is very important, but it doesn’t need to be overly complex. Let’s simplify this process by breaking it down into three simple steps.

1. Set Business Goals

A business goal is simply an accomplishment that a company wants to achieve in the short, medium or long term. Business goals can take many forms such as increasing sales, revenue, customer satisfaction levels and brand positioning, among many other things.

2. Conduct a SWOT Analysis

The goal of a business strategy is to leverage the strengths of a business and minimize the impact of its weaknesses. Those two things are internal factors. The strengths of a company can become competitive advantages that can lead to business growth. There are many types of business strengths and weaknesses such as scale, speed, or R&D, just to name a few.

Threats and opportunities refer to external factors such as competitors or an untapped market. A successful business strategy considers all of these factors to define how a product or service will be created, marketed and sold, and a SWOT analysis is a great starting point.

3. Develop a Business Strategy & Strategic Plan

Once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis, you can create a business strategy that’s designed to help position your company in the market. Your business strategy guides how you produce, market and sell your product or service based on internal and external analysis.

Then, you’ll need a strategic plan to explain how you plan to execute that business strategy. To oversee the execution of a business strategic plan, managers need to manage time, costs and tasks. ProjectManager is a project planning tool that allows managers to plan, schedule and manage their team’s work. Plan your work with professional tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and calendars. Then track your progress in real time to stick to your strategic plan. Get started for free.

Gantt chart in projectmanager

A business strategic plan is an implementation plan that’s meant to turn a business strategy into action items that can be executed over time. Business strategic plans are usually executed over the course of 3-5 years.

How to Develop a Strategic Plan

To develop a strategic plan, you should ask yourself the following three questions.

  • Where Is the Business Now? Gather as much information on your business as possible including internal operations and what drives its profitability. Compare the business to competitors and note the similarities and differences in detail. This isn’t a day-to-day operational study, but a broader look at the business in context to itself and its environment. But don’t go crazy; stay realistic in terms of your business goals. Be detached and critical in your analysis.
  • Where Do You Want to Go? Now it’s time to decide what your top-level objectives are for the future. Start with a vision statement , objectives, values, techniques and goals. Look forward to five years or more to forecast where you want the business to be at that time. This means figuring out what the focus of the business will be in the future. Will that focus differ from what it is now, and what competitive advantages do have you in the marketplace? This is where you build the foundation and initiate changes.
  • How Can You Get There? Once you know where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to plan. What are the changes to the structure, financing, etc., necessary for the business to get there? Decide on the best way to implement those changes, the timeframe with deadlines and how to finance it. Remember, this is looking at the business at large, so consider major endeavors such as diversification, existing growth, acquisition and other functional matters. A gap analysis can be a big help here.

Once you’ve answered the above questions and have a way to achieve the long-term goals laid out in the strategic plan, the next step is making sure you have the right person to manage all of its moving parts. They must be analytical, a creative thinker and able to grasp operational detail.

That doesn’t mean the strategic plan is led by one person. It’s best to not do it alone; seek other opinions. The people in your organization, from bottom to top, are all great resources to offer perspectives from their standpoints. Don’t forget to take in the advice of stakeholders, including customers, clients, advisors and consultants.

To create a strong strategic plan, one must first have a strong understanding of the business that is to expand. How does the business work? Where does the business stand in relation to competitors in the marketplace? A strategic plan is built on the bones of the following foundational elements:

  • Mission Statement: The mission statement describes what your company does.
  • Vision Statement: The vision statement explains where your company expects to be in the future.
  • Core Values: Guiding principles that shape your company’s organizational culture.
  • Business Objectives: Consider using the SMART goal-setting technique . This simply means setting up specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives that your company wants to achieve.
  • SWOT Analysis: External and internal factors that make up your company’s business competitive environment.
  • Action Plan: A plan outlining steps that will be taken to achieve the business objectives of your organization.
  • Financials: A section that shows the financial performance expectations, the budget and the resources that will be required to implement the action plan.
  • Performance Measurements: Performance indicators that will be used to measure the effectiveness of the action plan.

Never forget to check your strategic plan against reality. In addition to being achievable, it must be practical for your business environment, resources and marketplace.

Now let’s look at a simple business strategic plan example. This is a strategic plan for a small construction company.

1. Mission, Vision & Core Values

  • Mission Statement: To build residential spaces that provide wellbeing for our clients.
  • Vision Statement: To offer the best construction experience for our clients and expand our brand throughout the globe.
  • Core Values: Sustainable innovation and respect for the environment.

2. Business Objectives

  • Business Objective 1: Grow operating margin from 15% to 20% over the next year.
  • Business Objective 2: Reduce operating costs by 5% over the next quarter
  • Business Objective 3: Increase the number of new contracts generated by 10% over the next year

3. SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths: Available financing, brand visibility and know-how.
  • Weaknesses: Lack of PPE, human capital and expertise in construction areas such as plumbing, electrical work and masonry, which requires subcontractors.
  • Opportunities: Lack of environmentally-friendly construction companies in the market.
  • Threats: Larger construction companies compete for contracts in the area.

4. Action Plan

  • Business Objective 1: To grow operating margin, new employees with plumbing, electrical work and masonry experience will be hired to cut down subcontractor costs. This must be done by the end of the first quarter.
  • Business Objective 2: To reduce operating costs, the company will acquire property, plant and equipment. By doing this, the company will no longer rent equipment from third parties, which will reduce operating costs significantly in the medium and long term.
  • Business Objective 3: To increase the number of new contracts generated, the leadership team will invest more in the PR, marketing and advertising departments. The company will also invest in key positions for the construction bidding process such as contract estimators.
  • Financials: This section will explain in detail what are the costs associated with the work items in the action plan as well as the expected financial benefits for the company.

Our free strategic plan template helps leadership teams gather important information about their business strategy, which makes it the perfect tool to start shaping a strategic plan for your business or project.

business strategy in a business plan

Strategic Planning Templates

Here are some free strategic planning templates for Word and Excel that will help you with key aspects of the strategic planning process. Use them individually or add them to your strategic plan template for Word so you don’t miss any detail about your organizational strategy.

Strategic Map Template

This strategic map template it’s a strategic planning tool that allows you to visualize all the strategic objectives of your organization and understand how they’re interrelated.

strategic map template

Balanced Scorecard Template

A balanced scorecard is a chart that allows you to set strategic objectives that will benefit your business in one of four key areas, its finances, internal processes, customer satisfaction and organizational learning.

Balanced Scorecard Template

Vision Statement Template

The vision statement is one of the most important aspects of the organizational strategy of a business. It’s a short but powerful statement that describes the overall direction of a company and what it intends to achieve in the future. This free vision statement template will help you focus on what matters most and define the vision of your business.

Vision Statement Template

A strategic plan is a type of business plan, but there are distinctions between the two. Whereas a strategic plan is for implementing and managing the strategic direction of a business, a business plan is more often the document that starts a business.

A business plan is used primarily to get funding for the venture or direct the operation, and the two plans target different timeframes in business history. A strategic plan is used to investigate a future period, usually between three-to-five years. A business plan is more routinely a year out.

A Different Intent

A strategic plan offers a business focus, direction and action to help the business grow from the point it presently resides to a greater market share in the future. A business plan, on the other hand, is more focused on offering a structure to capture and implement ideas that initially define a business.

With a strategic plan, existing resources are prioritized to increase revenue and return on investment. The business plan is different in that it’s seeking funding for a venture that doesn’t yet exist. Where a strategic plan is building a sustainable competitive advantage in the future, a business plan is designed to take advantage of a current business opportunity.

So, a strategic plan is communicating direction to teams and stakeholders in order to achieve future goals. A business plan isn’t talking to staff, which is likely nonexistent or minimal at this point. It’s speaking to banks and other financial supporters.

Related Strategic Planning Content

  • Strategic Project Management: Planning Strategic Projects
  • Strategic Planning Models: An Introduction to 5 Popular Models
  • A Quick Guide to Strategic Initiatives
  • How to Create a Strategic Roadmap for Your Organization
  • Project Alignment: Aligning Your Project to Business Strategy

Strategic planning, like any planning, requires keeping a lot of balls in the air. That means having the right tool to plan, monitor and report on all the various tasks and resources. ProjectManager is online project management software that gives you control over every aspect of creating and implementing a strategic plan. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

business strategy in a business plan

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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What is strategic planning? A 5-step guide

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Strategic planning is a process through which business leaders map out their vision for their organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. In this article, we'll guide you through the strategic planning process, including why it's important, the benefits and best practices, and five steps to get you from beginning to end.

Strategic planning is a process through which business leaders map out their vision for their organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. The strategic planning process informs your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals.

Strategic planning helps you clearly define your company’s long-term objectives—and maps how your short-term goals and work will help you achieve them. This, in turn, gives you a clear sense of where your organization is going and allows you to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact. Think of it this way—if your goals and objectives are your destination on a map, your strategic plan is your navigation system.

In this article, we walk you through the 5-step strategic planning process and show you how to get started developing your own strategic plan.

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What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is a business process that helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. During the strategic planning process, stakeholders review and define the organization’s mission and goals, conduct competitive assessments, and identify company goals and objectives. The product of the planning cycle is a strategic plan, which is shared throughout the company.

What is a strategic plan?

[inline illustration] Strategic plan elements (infographic)

A strategic plan is the end result of the strategic planning process. At its most basic, it’s a tool used to define your organization’s goals and what actions you’ll take to achieve them.

Typically, your strategic plan should include: 

Your company’s mission statement

Your organizational goals, including your long-term goals and short-term, yearly objectives

Any plan of action, tactics, or approaches you plan to take to meet those goals

What are the benefits of strategic planning?

Strategic planning can help with goal setting and decision-making by allowing you to map out how your company will move toward your organization’s vision and mission statements in the next three to five years. Let’s circle back to our map metaphor. If you think of your company trajectory as a line on a map, a strategic plan can help you better quantify how you’ll get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in a few years).

When you create and share a clear strategic plan with your team, you can:

Build a strong organizational culture by clearly defining and aligning on your organization’s mission, vision, and goals.

Align everyone around a shared purpose and ensure all departments and teams are working toward a common objective.

Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go and achieve desired outcomes.

Promote a long-term vision for your company rather than focusing primarily on short-term gains.

Ensure resources are allocated around the most high-impact priorities.

Define long-term goals and set shorter-term goals to support them.

Assess your current situation and identify any opportunities—or threats—allowing your organization to mitigate potential risks.

Create a proactive business culture that enables your organization to respond more swiftly to emerging market changes and opportunities.

What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?

The strategic planning process involves a structured methodology that guides the organization from vision to implementation. The strategic planning process starts with assembling a small, dedicated team of key strategic planners—typically five to 10 members—who will form the strategic planning, or management, committee. This team is responsible for gathering crucial information, guiding the development of the plan, and overseeing strategy execution.

Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the planning process. 

Step 1: Assess your current business strategy and business environment

Before you can define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. Understanding the external environment, including market trends and competitive landscape, is crucial in the initial assessment phase of strategic planning.

To do this, your management committee should collect a variety of information from additional stakeholders, like employees and customers. In particular, plan to gather:

Relevant industry and market data to inform any market opportunities, as well as any potential upcoming threats in the near future.

Customer insights to understand what your customers want from your company—like product improvements or additional services.

Employee feedback that needs to be addressed—whether about the product, business practices, or the day-to-day company culture.

Consider different types of strategic planning tools and analytical techniques to gather this information, such as:

A balanced scorecard to help you evaluate four major elements of a business: learning and growth, business processes, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.

A SWOT analysis to help you assess both current and future potential for the business (you’ll return to this analysis periodically during the strategic planning process). 

To fill out each letter in the SWOT acronym, your management committee will answer a series of questions:

What does your organization currently do well?

What separates you from your competitors?

What are your most valuable internal resources?

What tangible assets do you have?

What is your biggest strength? 

Weaknesses:

What does your organization do poorly?

What do you currently lack (whether that’s a product, resource, or process)?

What do your competitors do better than you?

What, if any, limitations are holding your organization back?

What processes or products need improvement? 

Opportunities:

What opportunities does your organization have?

How can you leverage your unique company strengths?

Are there any trends that you can take advantage of?

How can you capitalize on marketing or press opportunities?

Is there an emerging need for your product or service? 

What emerging competitors should you keep an eye on?

Are there any weaknesses that expose your organization to risk?

Have you or could you experience negative press that could reduce market share?

Is there a chance of changing customer attitudes towards your company? 

Step 2: Identify your company’s goals and objectives

To begin strategy development, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your vision, mission, and current position to identify and define your goals—these are your final destination. 

To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” “What’s the ideal future state of this company?” This can help you figure out which path you need to take to get there.

During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents, such as:

Your mission statement, to understand how you can continue moving towards your organization’s core purpose.

Your vision statement, to clarify how your strategic plan fits into your long-term vision.

Your company values, to guide you towards what matters most towards your company.

Your competitive advantages, to understand what unique benefit you offer to the market.

Your long-term goals, to track where you want to be in five or 10 years.

Your financial forecast and projection, to understand where you expect your financials to be in the next three years, what your expected cash flow is, and what new opportunities you will likely be able to invest in.

Step 3: Develop your strategic plan and determine performance metrics

Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Take your current business position and strategy into account, as well as your organization’s goals and objectives, and build out a strategic plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your plan should be created or revisited as the quarters and years go on.

As you build your strategic plan, you should define:

Company priorities for the next three to five years, based on your SWOT analysis and strategy.

Yearly objectives for the first year. You don’t need to define your objectives for every year of the strategic plan. As the years go on, create new yearly objectives that connect back to your overall strategic goals . 

Related key results and KPIs. Some of these should be set by the management committee, and some should be set by specific teams that are closer to the work. Make sure your key results and KPIs are measurable and actionable. These KPIs will help you track progress and ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

Budget for the next year or few years. This should be based on your financial forecast as well as your direction. Do you need to spend aggressively to develop your product? Build your team? Make a dent with marketing? Clarify your most important initiatives and how you’ll budget for those.

A high-level project roadmap . A project roadmap is a tool in project management that helps you visualize the timeline of a complex initiative, but you can also create a very high-level project roadmap for your strategic plan. Outline what you expect to be working on in certain quarters or years to make the plan more actionable and understandable.

Step 4: Implement and share your plan

Now it’s time to put your plan into action. Strategy implementation involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success. 

Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to the strategic plan, so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and the overall strategy map. We recommend sharing your plan in the same tool you use to manage and track work, so you can more easily connect high-level objectives to daily work. If you don’t already, consider using a work management platform .  

A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch: 

Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process, to ensure all team members understand the strategic plan and how to implement it effectively. 

Define what “success” looks like by mapping your strategic plan to key performance indicators.

Ensure that the actions outlined in the strategic plan are integrated into the daily operations of the organization, so that every team member's daily activities are aligned with the broader strategic objectives.

Utilize tools and software—like a work management platform—that can aid in implementing and tracking the progress of your plan.

Regularly monitor and share the progress of the strategic plan with the entire organization, to keep everyone informed and reinforce the importance of the plan.

Establish regular check-ins to monitor the progress of your strategic plan and make adjustments as needed. 

Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed

Once you’ve created and implemented your new strategic framework, the final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.

Remember, your strategic plan isn’t set in stone. You’ll need to revisit and update the plan if your company changes directions or makes new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan. Make sure to review your plan regularly—meaning quarterly and annually—to ensure it’s still aligned with your organization’s vision and goals.

Keep in mind that your plan won’t last forever, even if you do update it frequently. A successful strategic plan evolves with your company’s long-term goals. When you’ve achieved most of your strategic goals, or if your strategy has evolved significantly since you first made your plan, it might be time to create a new one.

Build a smarter strategic plan with a work management platform

To turn your company strategy into a plan—and ultimately, impact—make sure you’re proactively connecting company objectives to daily work. When you can clarify this connection, you’re giving your team members the context they need to get their best work done. 

A work management platform plays a pivotal role in this process. It acts as a central hub for your strategic plan, ensuring that every task and project is directly tied to your broader company goals. This alignment is crucial for visibility and coordination, allowing team members to see how their individual efforts contribute to the company’s success. 

By leveraging such a platform, you not only streamline workflow and enhance team productivity but also align every action with your strategic objectives—allowing teams to drive greater impact and helping your company move toward goals more effectively. 

Strategic planning FAQs

Still have questions about strategic planning? We have answers.

Why do I need a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is one of many tools you can use to plan and hit your goals. It helps map out strategic objectives and growth metrics that will help your company be successful.

When should I create a strategic plan?

You should aim to create a strategic plan every three to five years, depending on your organization’s growth speed.

Since the point of a strategic plan is to map out your long-term goals and how you’ll get there, you should create a strategic plan when you’ve met most or all of them. You should also create a strategic plan any time you’re going to make a large pivot in your organization’s mission or enter new markets. 

What is a strategic planning template?

A strategic planning template is a tool organizations can use to map out their strategic plan and track progress. Typically, a strategic planning template houses all the components needed to build out a strategic plan, including your company’s vision and mission statements, information from any competitive analyses or SWOT assessments, and relevant KPIs.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. business plan?

A business plan can help you document your strategy as you’re getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running.

You should create a business plan when you’re: 

Just starting your business

Significantly restructuring your business

If your business is already established, you should create a strategic plan instead of a business plan. Even if you’re working at a relatively young company, your strategic plan can build on your business plan to help you move in the right direction. During the strategic planning process, you’ll draw from a lot of the fundamental business elements you built early on to establish your strategy for the next three to five years.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. mission and vision statements?

Your strategic plan, mission statement, and vision statements are all closely connected. In fact, during the strategic planning process, you will take inspiration from your mission and vision statements in order to build out your strategic plan.

Simply put: 

A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose.

A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose.

A strategic plan pulls in inspiration from your mission and vision statements and outlines what actions you’re going to take to move in the right direction. 

For example, if your company produces pet safety equipment, here’s how your mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan might shake out:

Mission statement: “To ensure the safety of the world’s animals.” 

Vision statement: “To create pet safety and tracking products that are effortless to use.” 

Your strategic plan would outline the steps you’re going to take in the next few years to bring your company closer to your mission and vision. For example, you develop a new pet tracking smart collar or improve the microchipping experience for pet owners. 

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. company objectives?

Company objectives are broad goals. You should set these on a yearly or quarterly basis (if your organization moves quickly). These objectives give your team a clear sense of what you intend to accomplish for a set period of time. 

Your strategic plan is more forward-thinking than your company goals, and it should cover more than one year of work. Think of it this way: your company objectives will move the needle towards your overall strategy—but your strategic plan should be bigger than company objectives because it spans multiple years.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a business case?

A business case is a document to help you pitch a significant investment or initiative for your company. When you create a business case, you’re outlining why this investment is a good idea, and how this large-scale project will positively impact the business. 

You might end up building business cases for things on your strategic plan’s roadmap—but your strategic plan should be bigger than that. This tool should encompass multiple years of your roadmap, across your entire company—not just one initiative.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a project plan?

A strategic plan is a company-wide, multi-year plan of what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years and how you plan to accomplish that. A project plan, on the other hand, outlines how you’re going to accomplish a specific project. This project could be one of many initiatives that contribute to a specific company objective which, in turn, is one of many objectives that contribute to your strategic plan. 

What’s the difference between strategic management vs. strategic planning?

A strategic plan is a tool to define where your organization wants to go and what actions you need to take to achieve those goals. Strategic planning is the process of creating a plan in order to hit your strategic objectives.

Strategic management includes the strategic planning process, but also goes beyond it. In addition to planning how you will achieve your big-picture goals, strategic management also helps you organize your resources and figure out the best action plans for success. 

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What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates

AJ Beltis

Published: June 07, 2023

In an era where more than 20% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.

Business plan graphic with business owner, lightbulb, and pens to symbolize coming up with ideas and writing a business plan.

Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?

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In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.

The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.

What is a business plan used for?

The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.

Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]

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Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.

Purposes of a Business Plan

Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:

1. Securing financing from investors.

Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.

All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.

Therefore, these investors need to know if — and when — they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.

To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies — from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.

These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.

business strategy in a business plan

Free Business Plan Template

The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.

  • Outline your idea.
  • Pitch to investors.
  • Secure funding.
  • Get to work!

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Free Business Plan [Template]

Fill out the form to access your free business plan., 3. legitimizing a business idea..

Everyone's got a great idea for a company — until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.

A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.

As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics — and that's exactly what the business plan is for.

It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.

4. Getting an A in your business class.

Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.

If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan — providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?

What does a business plan need to include?

  • Business Plan Subtitle
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • The Business Opportunity
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Target Market
  • Marketing Plan
  • Financial Summary
  • Funding Requirements

1. Business Plan Subtitle

Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.

2. Executive Summary

Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.

3. Company Description

This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.

4. The Business Opportunity

The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high-level information about your target market.

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5. Competitive Analysis

Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.

6. Target Market

Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.

7. Marketing Plan

Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice.

Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.

8. Financial Summary

Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all useful adds here.

So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The "team" section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.

10. Funding Requirements

Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.

Types of Business Plans

  • Startup Business Plan
  • Feasibility Business Plan
  • Internal Business Plan
  • Strategic Business Plan
  • Business Acquisition Plan
  • Business Repositioning Plan
  • Expansion or Growth Business Plan

There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans.

For even more examples, check out these sample business plans to help you write your own .

1. Startup Business Plan

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As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is for new business ideas. This plan lays the foundation for the eventual success of a business.

The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans often reference existing industry data. They also explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.

Because startup business plans expand on an original idea, the contents will vary by the top priority goals.

For example, say a startup is looking for funding. If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture.

2. Feasibility Business Plan

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This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include:

  • A detailed product description
  • Market analysis
  • Technology needs
  • Production needs
  • Financial sources
  • Production operations

According to CBInsights research, 35% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. Another 10% fail because of mistimed products.

Some businesses will complete a feasibility study to explore ideas and narrow product plans to the best choice. They conduct these studies before completing the feasibility business plan. Then the feasibility plan centers on that one product or service.

3. Internal Business Plan

businessplan_5

Internal business plans help leaders communicate company goals, strategy, and performance. This helps the business align and work toward objectives more effectively.

Besides the typical elements in a startup business plan, an internal business plan may also include:

  • Department-specific budgets
  • Target demographic analysis
  • Market size and share of voice analysis
  • Action plans
  • Sustainability plans

Most external-facing business plans focus on raising capital and support for a business. But an internal business plan helps keep the business mission consistent in the face of change.

4. Strategic Business Plan

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Strategic business plans focus on long-term objectives for your business. They usually cover the first three to five years of operations. This is different from the typical startup business plan which focuses on the first one to three years. The audience for this plan is also primarily internal stakeholders.

These types of business plans may include:

  • Relevant data and analysis
  • Assessments of company resources
  • Vision and mission statements

It's important to remember that, while many businesses create a strategic plan before launching, some business owners just jump in. So, this business plan can add value by outlining how your business plans to reach specific goals. This type of planning can also help a business anticipate future challenges.

5. Business Acquisition Plan

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Investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.

A business acquisition plan may include costs, schedules, or management requirements. This data will come from an acquisition strategy.

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

  • How an acquisition will change its operating model
  • What will stay the same under new ownership
  • Why things will change or stay the same
  • Acquisition planning documentation
  • Timelines for acquisition

Additionally, the business plan should speak to the current state of the business and why it's up for sale.

For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased. It should also include:

  • What the new owner will do to turn the business around
  • Historic business metrics
  • Sales projections after the acquisition
  • Justification for those projections

6. Business Repositioning Plan

businessplan_6 (1)

When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.

This plan will:

  • Acknowledge the current state of the company.
  • State a vision for the future of the company.
  • Explain why the business needs to reposition itself.
  • Outline a process for how the company will adjust.

Companies planning for a business reposition often do so — proactively or retroactively — due to a shift in market trends and customer needs.

For example, shoe brand AllBirds plans to refocus its brand on core customers and shift its go-to-market strategy. These decisions are a reaction to lackluster sales following product changes and other missteps.

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

When your business is ready to expand, a growth business plan creates a useful structure for reaching specific targets.

For example, a successful business expanding into another location can use a growth business plan. This is because it may also mean the business needs to focus on a new target market or generate more capital.

This type of plan usually covers the next year or two of growth. It often references current sales, revenue, and successes. It may also include:

  • SWOT analysis
  • Growth opportunity studies
  • Financial goals and plans
  • Marketing plans
  • Capability planning

These types of business plans will vary by business, but they can help businesses quickly rally around new priorities to drive growth.

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan — and the business it outlines — will be.

When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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BUSINESS STRATEGIES

9 business strategy examples (and why you need one ASAP)

  • Amanda Bellucco Chatham
  • Dec 14, 2023

business strategy examples

Most successful businesses start with a good idea. In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had the idea to make computers small enough to fit into people's homes and offices. Enter Apple, now the largest tech company in the world. 

But good ideas alone aren’t the catalyst to success—behind the scenes, a business strategy is at work. And a business strategy is something you need in order to complete the big picture and define how you plan to grow, operate and thrive.

In this post, we’ll define what we mean by business strategy, outline why it’s important and provide some tangible business strategy examples.

Set yourself up for success with a free business website  from Wix.

What is a business strategy?

A business strategy is a plan of action that keeps you focused on several things. Different from a business plan—which dictates how your business will be run from day to day—a business strategy tends to focus more on how, exactly, you will reach certain goals, milestones or achievements in running your business. 

You need a strategy when you want to start a business , as well as when you’re planning to grow or change an existing business. Your strategy defines your business goals and provides a framework for all of the moving pieces your venture needs to operate successfully.  

A business strategy typically includes the following elements:

Core product or service : What you're selling, your business idea or your service.

Target customer : A clear profile of who your business serves, including the problem that your product or service solves for them.

Competitive assessment : A summary of the competitive landscape including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). 

Financial plan : A financial projection that includes planned revenue, expenses and cash flow. 

Pricing approach : Your preliminary pricing for products and services offered, or your pricing approach (e.g., flat fee, hourly, fee-for-service, etc.).

Marketing and sales plan : An outline of how you plan to market your products and business, including a rough budget for paid media, details on how to make a website  and anything related to business promotion. It should also define some sales strategies focused on language meant to promote and differentiate your brand.

Staffing and hiring : An org chart that defines roles and hiring needs. Include any resources and personnel you have on hand (e.g. Is it just you? Is it a partnership?).

Growth objectives : A business growth  plan that incorporates your current goals, plus where you'd like the business to be in the next one, two or five years (e.g., markets, number of customers, revenue projections, etc.).

Pro tip : A business strategy and business plan go hand in hand in shaping the goals, objectives and achievements of your business. Looking for a business plan  instead? Check out our simple, customizable and free-to-download template.

8 key elements of a business strategy

3 types of business strategies

Any successful business starts with a roadmap that outlines how goals will be achieved. However, not all strategies are created equal. Let's take a look at three types of business strategies that can drive your business toward sustainable growth:

Corporate-level business strategy : This high-level strategy includes the company's vision, mission and key decisions. This might involve business choices, acquisitions or divestments, and resource allocation, for example.

Business-level strategy : A business-level strategy determines how a company competes in a market, considering product mix, customer segments, pricing, marketing and distribution. It aims to deliver value to customers and outperform competitors.

Function-level business strategy : A functional strategy focuses on the operational aspects of a business, like production, marketing, finance and human resources (HR). It supports corporate and business-level strategies by maximizing resource productivity.

Why a business strategy is important

Starting any type of business isn't for the faint of heart. There are many predictable and unpredictable factors to prepare for at every stage of growth. That’s why you need a business strategy to keep you on track.

As far as benefits go, a business strategy:

Helps you navigate market complexities : It provides a roadmap for staying ahead of the competition, plus external factors like supply chain issues and global events that may impact the market.

Provides insight into your customers' needs : When you know their pain points, you can align your strategy with real-world preferences and demands. 

Helps you anticipate small business challenges : Knowing about potential opportunities and issues will help you adapt to market changes—and be more resilient overall. 

Makes long-term success much more likely : A thoughtful plan takes the guesswork out of things like hiring, investing, growth and innovation.

9 business strategy examples

So, what does a business strategy look like? We’ve outlined nine examples below to inspire you as you iron out the blueprint for your business’s success.

Customer experience 

Cross-selling and upselling

Customer retention programs

Cost leadership

Differentiation

Acquisition

Social responsibility

01. Customer experience 

Companies like Zappos, Starbucks and Amazon are known for their exceptional customer experiences. They prioritize customer satisfaction, make doing business with them easy and (in the case of Starbucks) turn something as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee on your way to work into an immersive and satisfying sensory experience. 

Customer experience, as a business strategy, is beneficial for any small business owner . It creates loyal repeat customers who tend to become brand advocates, recommending your business, products and brand to their network of friends and family. 

02. Cross-selling and upselling

Focusing on selling more products to existing and new customers is a strategy that, if successful, has a direct and immediate impact on your cash flow, revenue and profitability. There are many ways to do this, including cross-selling and upselling  to shoppers as they browse your website, bundling similar products and using loyalty programs to entice past customers to return. 

Old Navy is a master of motivating return sales. Their Super Cash program awards shoppers $10 for every $25 spent on their website or in stores. The coupons become active at a later date, which encourages shoppers to hang onto them and return to shop again in the future.

Your rewards program doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. Wix merchant Jule Dancewear  offers customers five reward points for every $1 spent in the shop, with bonus points awarded for following the brand on Instagram or celebrating a birthday. Customers can then redeem their points for a certain dollar amount or percentage off a future purchase. 

jule dancewear homepage

03. Customer retention programs

Creating more customer loyalty is a viable and lucrative business strategy. It’s often more cost-effective to focus on retaining customers than constantly finding new ones. In fact, most brands have a 60-70% chance  of selling to an existing customer, but only a 5-20% chance of closing a sale with a new one.

Loyalty comes in many forms—e.g., retail loyalty programs that reward shoppers with coupons and discounts, or points systems like airline miles on credit cards. You build loyalty by being trustworthy, communicating clearly and creating high-quality products. Consistency is also key to building ongoing relationships. 

Perhaps no one does this better than Amazon with their Amazon Prime program. Customers buy into the program for a monthly or annual fee and are guaranteed fast, free shipping from Amazon sellers who opt into the program. Returns are also easy and Prime members get lots of other benefits, including a huge catalog of movie and TV shows, exclusive sales events and unlimited photo storage.

04. Cost leadership

Cost leadership is a strategy where a company offers the lowest prices in a niche or market. Companies like Walmart and IKEA are famous examples. They've mastered this strategy by offering products at prices lower than their competitors, while still maintaining profitability. 

This strategy isn't for everyone. Walmart's size gives it more leverage over suppliers (and wholesale pricing) versus a local mom-and-pop store. But even if you manage a smaller business, you can make a cost leadership strategy work by keeping costs low, creating your own products and being (incredibly) vigilant about your business costs. This is a strategy that takes a lot of planning and monitoring, so it’s important to do your research before jumping in.

05. Innovation

Innovation tends to be connected to categories like technology, pharmaceutical and business services industries. It's a business strategy that focuses on creating cutting-edge products or services that are either brand new (e.g., in 2007, Apple’s iPhone was the first smartphone introduced to a huge market of people who didn’t know they needed it) or best-in-class products or services in an existing market. 

Innovation, as a business strategy, isn’t limited to products or services. It can apply to a business approach—in other words, the way you offer your product or service. A perfect example of this is the rise of meal kit delivery services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. These companies provide “meal kits'' with fresh ingredients delivered as a subscription service to their customers (e.g., three meals per week). Or, take a look at Wix merchant Napa Wild , which offers weekly subscription shipments of fresh produce to areas surrounding Napa County, California. Their produce boxes are available in three different sizes to suit different households.

Some companies, like Tovala, include technology with their delivery service. Tovala’s smart oven works by scanning a barcode on the pre-made meal so that the cooking time and temperature are automatically set in the oven. When the meal is complete, the customer is notified via the Tovala app.

Napa Wild produce subscription box

06. Differentiation

Differentiation is about making your business stand out compared with your competitors. You do this by providing something uniquely special about your product design, features or quality. You can also differentiate yourself by creating a unique and meaningful brand story. When done well, differentiation gives you a lot of flexibility around pricing and approach—including the types of products and services you offer. An effective differentiation strategy helps your customers identify with your brand. They are either Coke drinkers or Pepsi drinkers, for example.

Or, take Starbucks as an example. Lots of places sell coffee, but Starbucks has taken coffee to an entirely new level with uniquely crafted (and premium-priced) drinks that are as much about lifestyle and identity as they are about getting your daily caffeine fix. 

07. Acquisition

Acquisition is a business strategy that involves purchasing another company (or companies) to fuel growth, expand market share or be more competitive. Acquisition can be a game-changer for your business, allowing you to quickly tap into new markets, acquire valuable assets and eliminate competition. 

Companies like Meta (formerly named Facebook) have effectively used acquisition as a strategy to maintain their dominance in the social media space. By acquiring platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, Meta expanded its user base. It also diversified its offerings, ensuring it remains relevant even when other platforms like MySpace and Friendster have flamed out over time.

Acquisition as a primary strategy isn’t for the faint of heart. You need a deep understanding of each of your target company's operations, culture, financial health and customer base. Integrating two companies can also be complex and stressful. There are often issues with merging technologies, company cultures and aligning operations. Thus, conduct thorough due diligence before making an acquisition or you could end up turning a beloved global brand into a classic example of what not to do when acquiring a legacy company.

08. Social responsibility

Social responsibility is important to all consumers, but particularly Millennial and Gen Z consumers  who often evaluate companies and products based on environmental impact and sustainability. Social responsibility helps businesses differentiate themselves because it fosters community, protects the environment and ensures you’re prioritizing ethical practices throughout your operations.

In fact, according to a Deloitte survey, a quarter of consumers  are willing to pay more  for sustainable products and packaging, or for products or services from suppliers that respect human rights and ethical working conditions.

Two examples stand out here—Patagonia and TOMS Shoes. Both companies built their brands around social responsibility. Patagonia pledges 1% of its sales to environmental causes and is well-known by its loyal customers for being sustainable and supporting the lifestyle it promotes (loving the outdoors). Meanwhile, TOMS Shoes has a "One for One" model, donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold.

Patagonia screenshot

Value is subjective, but it can be a guiding light that helps new customers find you and inspires existing customers to return time after time. With a value-based strategy, the goal is to present something that is not just different but also has significant worth or meaning (or both) to your target audience. 

Apple doesn't just sell technology; they sell an entire ecosystem. Apple products resonate with customers because Apple is as much about a lifestyle as it is about a device or feature. Their products, while technologically advanced, are aesthetically pleasing, easy to use and integrate seamlessly with each other. 

Remember, offering unique value isn't about being different just for the sake of it. It's about understanding what your customers truly desire and creating something that fills that need in a way that no one else can. This could manifest as unparalleled quality. It could be a novel feature, or it can focus on exceptional customer service. Think about the companies you love that do this well—Disney, Trader Joe’s, Lululemon, Ben & Jerry’s and Ikea. A company that promises value and then delivers on it attracts new customers. It fosters loyalty and even advocacy. 

Dig deeper : Want more information on how to start or grow your business? Check out our essential guide on how to run a business , which includes 10 steps for business success.

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Ecommerce · Strategy · Consulting

What is Strategy? Definition, Components & Examples Explained

Author Picture of Martin Heubel

by Martin Heubel

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The success of any business is determined by the effectiveness of the strategy it follows. A strategy explains how a company plans to compete in a market and how it intends to grow at a profit.

Businesses worldwide sell goods and services in competitive markets that require them to increase the value for owners and shareholders to secure their future existence.

This calls for a plan that helps managers guide their decisions and use resources effectively to achieve key objectives. This plan is also known as a business strategy.

This article will cover:

  • What a business strategy is
  • The difference between strategy and tactics
  • Corporate level strategies
  • Business level strategies
  • Functional level strategies
  • Why having a business strategy is important

Step 1: Define your vision

Step 2: set your top-level objectives, step 3: analyse your business and the market, step 4: define how to gain competitive advantage, step 5: build a strategy framework, types of business strategies, how to measure strategy success.

  • Business strategy examples

What is a business strategy?

The definition is as straight forward as it can be confusing when reading it first:

A business strategy outlines the plan of action to achieve the vision and set objectives of an organization and guides the decision-making processes to improve the company’s financial stability in a competing market.

In an attempt to reduce complexity, many online sources refer to a simpler definition of strategy as:

A high-level plan that helps a business achieve its goals.

While this is still accurate, it does not give a good understanding of how these goals are actually achieved.

To allow for a better and more granular understanding, I will refer to the former definition in the following chapters.

How is strategy different from tactics?

Before we get into the details of building a strategy, it is vital to understand how a strategy differs from a tactic.

While both terms are often interchangeably conf used, they are two entirely different things:

A strategy refers to an organization’s long-term goals and how it plans to reach them. In other words, it shows the path to achieve the defined vision.

A tactic refers to the specific actions taken to reach the set goals in line with the strategy.

For example, company A’s strategy might be to become the cheapest provider in the smartphone market. Their managers then need to negotiate with suppliers to reduce the costs of the electronic components used in production. This is a tactic to achieve the set strategy.

Or, as the English comedian and writer Frank Muir put it:

Strategy is buying a bottle of fine wine when you take someone out for dinner. Tactics is getting them to drink it. Frank Muir

Levels of business strategies

There are three levels at which strategies are typically used: The corporate , business and functional level.

Pyramid of business strategy levels

All three levels form the strategic framework of an organization:

1. Corporate Level: Corporate level strategies are the strategic plans of an organisation’s top management. They form the mission and vision statement and have a fundamental impact on the firm’s long-term performance. They guide decisions around growth, acquisitions, diversification and investments.

2. Business Level: Business level strategies integrate into the corporate vision, but with a focus on a specific business. At this level, the vision and objectives are turned into concrete strategies that inform how a business is going to compete in the market.

3. Functional Level: Functional level strategies are designed to answer how functional departments like Marketing, HR or R&D can support the defined business and corporate strategies of an organization.

It’s not uncommon for a firm to have multiple strategies at each level. In fact, this is essential to ensure that the different needs of each layer are accurately reflected.

Although multiple strategies carry the risk of conflicting priorities and objectives, these risks can be reduced if managed correctly. We will come back to this point in a second.

Why is having a business strategy important?

The existence of a strategy is a critical success factor for any business.

Essentially, it reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the company and answers how the company plans to respond to the threats and opportunities in the market in which it operates.

A strategy takes into account the resources at hand and how to best deploy them to achieve its set objectives.

That’s why a strategy is often called the lighthouse for a company’s management: It aligns the efforts of all functional departments and gives its employees a Northstar that guides their daily decision making.

To make this point even clearer, let’s say a business would not have a strategy on how it will compete in a market:

The absence of such a blueprint would lead to disordered actions in each department, limiting the organisation’s effectiveness as a whole. This incoherence always results in a loss of competitive power that will be exploited in the market.

The effectiveness of business functions is greater when a strategy is focusing the efforts of the different departments towards one goal.

How do you formulate a business strategy?

The above definition already gives some practical advice on how to build an effective strategy:

A strategy needs to outline the vision of a business, define its targets and how it is going to grow and compete long-term.

The strategy building process can be broken down into five steps:

Steps of formulating a business strategy

  • Define your vision
  • Set your top-level objectives
  • Analyse your business and the market
  • Define how to gain competitive advantage
  • Build a strategy framework

Most online sources suggest that strategy formulation should begin by defining the objectives of an organization. But this reaches too far too fast, as it presumes that the offering, the market and the target customers have already been defined.

For a strategy to be successful, it must first consider the company’s core values and its desired future position in the market. This is also known as the company’s vision .

Examples of vision statements from some of the largest companies include:

“Apple strives to bring the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals, and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software, and internet offerings.” Apple
“To be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Amazon

Based on a firm’s vision, the offer , its customers and the market can be defined.

This is an important step in the strategy building process because it ensures that the designed strategy reflects the actual needs of the relevant market.

Offer & Value Proposition

An effective business strategy builds directly on the company’s offering and value proposition.

The former lays out what goods and services are offered, while the value proposition explains why people should buy them in the first place.

Note that the value proposition answers why a firm exists and how it is different from its rivals. In other words, it explains how a firm plans to create demand and compete in the market.

To illustrate this with an example, take a look at Shopify . Their value proposition is to offer a single ecommerce platform that lets its customers sell across multiple channels.

Shopify's value proposition is to offer one platform that lets their customers sell across multiple channels.

Another vital step in building an effective business strategy is to define the type of customer a company serves.

Customers are either categorized as consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B).

Both groups have different criteria, reasons and motivations for purchasing goods and services. Knowing them allows a firm to accurately address their specific needs and wants in its strategy.

Target Market

Finally, strategy builders need to be clear about the market their offering and value proposition are targeting.

  • If a firm sells to consumers (B2C) , a market can be defined by demographic and socio-economic factors, such as gender, age, occupation, education, income, wealth and where someone lives.
  • If, however, the offering targets other businesses (B2B) , markets are typically defined by using factors such as the industry, business or sales model of the targeted customer groups.

I recommend reading this article from Annmarie Hanlon if you want to learn more about the specifics of segmenting a market.

After defining the vision, the next step in formulating a business strategy is to set an organisation’s top-level objectives .

These objectives are usually focused on increasing a firm’s sales and profits, as they ensure its existence and improve the shareholder value if publicly traded.

That’s why a strategy essentially aims to answer the question of how a business can compete in the market to grow its revenue, while also improving its financial position.

Note that the formulation of high-level objectives does not include any goals to achieve a company’s mission or to reflect its core values.

This is because the sole purpose of a generic business strategy is to increase the company’s economic value for its owners or shareholders.

The core values and mission are later taken into account when designing the lower-level strategies, such as the marketing or operational strategy.

Once the vision and objectives are defined, strategy builders need to become aware of their business’s strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and challenges in the marketplace.

This can be done using a SWOT analysis ( S trengths, W eaknesses, O pportunities, T hreats):

SWOT Matrix Overview

The information obtained in the course of a SWOT analysis serves as a basis for the strategy formulation that considers the company’s internal characteristics and the external situation of the market segment.

These insights allow decision-makers to ensure that a firm’s strengths exploit the opportunities in the market, while also addressing potential weaknesses and threats that can limit the organization’s long-term success.

SWOT Strategy Framework

The fourth step in the strategy formulation answers the question of how the set objectives are achieved.

Firms that sell in competitive industries need to define how they want to compete in the market, create demand and increase their sales and margins.

Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter identified three types of generic strategies that businesses can choose from when defining their competitive advantage:

  • Cost Leadership,
  • Differentiation, or

However, firms can also fail to pursue one of these generic strategies effectively. Porter refers to this as being “stuck in the middle” .

In this case, a company does not offer a product or service unique enough to entice customers to buy. At the same time, the price of the offering is too high to compete effectively in the market.

Failure to gain a competitive advantage will result in a poor sales performance, which threatens the future company’s existence.

Porter's Generic Competitive Strategies Framework

Let’s take a closer look at the different ways a company can gain a competitive advantage:

Cost Leadership

Cost leadership refers to a company’s ability to produce a product at the lowest cost in its industry.

This cost advantage can be achieved by using economies of scale, proprietary technologies or the ability to create and maintain cost benefits along the supply chain.

The cost leadership strategy requires a firm to effectively lower its cost structures while charging prices for its products that are in line with the industry average.

Example: Low fare airline Ryanair is a typical example of a firm that applies a cost leadership strategy. They successfully compete in the airline industry by driving down costs and utilize economies of scale. For that reason, Ryanair only operates one type of aircraft (Boeing 737-200) in its entire fleet.

Differentiation

In a differentiation strategy, a firm seeks to create a unique offer that is valued by its target customers. Buyers must perceive the offer as far more valuable compared to other alternatives in the industry. In return, a company is able to demand higher prices for its products.

Example: Starbucks is a great example of a firm that has successfully implemented a differentiation strategy. While it sells coffee as a widely available commodity, its well-designed stores, and the unrivalled number of flavour variations are the reason why customers are willing to pay a premium.

The generic strategy of focus aims at only a small number of target market segments. Porter’s matrix defines the competitive scope in these cases as narrow, as a firm only aims at a small portion of the wider market segment.

In that case, a company can either have a cost focus or a differentiation focus :

When a firm seeks to gain a cost advantage, it follows a cost-focused strategy. The firm’s offer is a low-cost alternative to the leading product in the market that still appeals to a specific group of buyers.

On the other hand, the differentiation focus seeks to cater to a specific need in a customer segment. This differentiation focus is the classic niche marketing strategy many small and local businesses follow to compete against the larger chains in their market.

Example: Small online shops that specialize in offering vegan and vegetarian products are a good example of firms that follow a generic focus strategy. Their narrow target scope allows them to become the preferred choice of environmental and health-conscious customer segments.

Based on the execution of the previous steps, a generic business strategy can be formulated.

However, functions such as marketing or finance will not contribute effectively to this generic strategy unless it is translated into more specific lower-level strategies.

A typical business strategy framework

The formation of these lower-level strategies that sit underneath a generic business strategy is called a strategy framework .

It ensures the success of the generic business plan, as it captures the vision and needs of the single departments and aligns them with the higher-level objectives.

Product, branding, marketing or operational strategies are only a few examples that contribute to the success of a firm’s overall generic business strategy.

business strategy in a business plan

Business strategies are successful when they are directly responsible for growth and improved competitive or financial performance.

The success of a strategic plan can be evaluated by monitoring a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

However, it is important that …

  • … these KPIs measure the level of achievement of the objectives defined in step two of the strategy formulation process.
  • … the KPIs are defined before the strategy implementation takes place to ensure accurate measurement.

Normally, some or all of the following KPIs are measured when implementing a new business strategy:

  • Sales revenue
  • Number of customers
  • Repeat customer sales
  • Customer retention rate
  • Conversion Rate
  • Average Order Value (AOV)
  • Business Volume

Competitive Position

  • Market share
  • Market position
  • Sales win rate
  • Brand awareness & press mentions
  • Margin position vs. industry average
  • Sales growth vs. industry average

Financial Performance

  • Gross Profit
  • Operating Profit
  • EBIT and EBITDA
  • Return on Assets
  • Free Cash Flow
  • Operating Cash Flow

In practice, companies may measure strategy success in a more granular way. This is because individual departments define their own lower-level strategies.

A more realistic KPI overview is shown in the following chart:

A practical overview of key performance indicators to measure strategy success in different departments.

Business Strategy Examples

To illustrate the earlier discussed principles, I have compiled two examples of companies that have successfully implemented their generic business strategy: Amazon and Reckitt Benckiser .

Example 1: Amazon

Amazon is known for its great customer service and fast shipping options.

And while its vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company , Amazon makes this a reality by continually innovating in existing and new markets. The result? Further growth and greater shareholder value.

In his first shareholder letter from 1997 , Jeff Bezos himself outlined the four principles that guide the company: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention , commitment to operational excellence and long-term thinking .

Amazon’s generic business strategy is to gain a competitive advantage by driving down costs (cost leadership), paired with its ability to innovate in competitive markets.

The focus is always the same: serving the needs of end-customers.

This allows Amazon to overtake its competition that often struggles to catch up with the tech giant within several years ( ST-Strategy ).

Its lower-level strategies (operational, marketing, etc.) all follow the generic strategy of focusing on choice, price and economies of scale to create value for customers.

This strategic framework has allowed Amazon to become one of the most successful tech companies in the 21st century.

Example 2: Reckitt Benckiser

Although the company’s name is not known by many consumers, Reckitt’s brand portfolio consists of major household brands, such as Finish, Dettol, Nurofen, Vanish, or Durex.

Faced with slowing sales and increased competition back in 2012, the company had to change its business strategy to return to a path of solid growth.

Under the new strategy, RB:

  • Focused on R&D for new product lines that allowed it to achieve its high-level objectives to increase sales and margins;
  • Increased its budgets in markets that grew above-average to stimulate further growth;
  • Overhauled its brand and marketing strategies and increased budgets in those areas;
  • Set and closely monitored multiple key performance indicators with the aim to increase its net revenue growth by +200bps vs. market average each year until 2017.

While Reckitt could not achieve all of its set targets, the modifications of its business strategy helped the company to grow its sales and profits above the market average.

As a result, RB grew £33bn in value for its shareholders between 2012 and 2017.

Still have questions about business strategy?

If you need help to come up with a strategy for your ecommerce business, then get in touch . I offer tailored advice that will help you get clarity about your vision, objectives and how to build a more effective business.

Enjoyed this article? Here are more things you might like:

Porter’s Five Forces Analysis – A complete guide to Michael E. Porter’s 5 Forces Analysis to help you assess your competitive landscape.

The Importance of the Product Life Cycle – A complete break down of the individual stages of the product life cycle to plan your next marketing moves.

Ecommerce Glossary – Stop the guessing. My glossary explains every ecommerce term in under 30 seconds.

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What is the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan.

It is not uncommon that the terms ‘strategic plan’ and ‘business plan’ get confused in the business world. While a strategic plan is a type of business plan, there are several important distinctions between the two types that are worth noting. Before beginning your strategic planning process or strategy implementation, look at the article below to learn the key difference between a business vs strategic plan and how each are important to your organization.

Definition of a business plan vs. a strategic plan

A strategic plan is essential for already established organizations looking for a way to manage and implement their strategic direction and future growth. Strategic planning is future-focused and serves as a roadmap to outline where the organization is going over the next 3-5 years (or more) and the steps it will take to get there.

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A strategic plan serves 6 functions for an organization that is striving to reach the next level of their growth:.

  • Defines the purpose of the organization.
  • Builds on an organization’s competitive advantages.
  • Communicates the strategy to the staff.
  • Prioritizes the financial needs of the organization.
  • Directs the team to move from plan to action.
  • Creates long-term sustainability and growth impact

Alternatively, a business plan is used by new businesses or organizations trying to get off the ground. The fundamentals of a business plan focus on setting the foundation for the business or organization. While it looks towards the future, the focus is set more on the immediate future (>1 year). Some of the functions of a business plan may overlap with a strategic plan. However, the focus and intentions diverge in a few key areas.

A business plan for new businesses, projects, or organizations serves these 5 functions:

  • Simplifies or explains the objectives and goals of your organization.
  • Coordinates human resource management and determines operational requirements.
  • Secures funding for your organization.
  • Evaluates potential business prospects.
  • Creates a framework for conceptualizing ideas.

In other words, a strategic plan is utilized to direct the momentum and growth of an established company or organization. In contrast, a business plan is meant to set the foundation of a newly (or not quite) developed company by setting up its operational teams, strategizing ways to enter a new market, and obtaining funding.

A strategic plan focuses on long-term growth and the organization’s impact on the market and its customers. Meanwhile, a business plan must focus more on the short-term, day-to-day operational functions. Often, new businesses don’t have the capacity or resources to create a strategic plan, though developing a business plan with strategy elements is never a bad idea.

Business and strategic plans ultimately differ in several key areas–timeframe, target audience, focus, resource allocation, nature, and scalability.

While both a strategic and business plan is forward-facing and focused on future success, a business plan is focused on the more immediate future. A business plan normally looks ahead no further than one year. A business plan is set up to measure success within a 3- to 12-month timeframe and determines what steps a business owner needs to take now to succeed.

A strategic plan generally covers the organizational plan over 3 to 5+ years. It is set with future expansion and development in mind and sets up roadmaps for how the organization will reach its desired future state.

Pro Tip: While a vision statement could benefit a business plan, it is essential to a strategic plan.

Target Audience

A strategic plan is for established companies, businesses, organizations, and owners serious about growing their organizations. A strategic plan communicates the organization’s direction to the staff and stakeholders. The strategic plan is communicated to the essential change makers in the organization who will have a hand in making the progress happen.

A business plan could be for new businesses and entrepreneurs who are start-ups. The target audience for the business plan could also be stakeholders, partners, or investors. However, a business plan generally presents the entrepreneur’s ideas to a bank. It is meant to get the necessary people onboard to obtain the funding needed for the project.

A strategic plan provides focus, direction, and action to move the organization from where they are now to where they want to go. A strategic plan may consist of several months of studies, analyses, and other processes to gauge an organization’s current state. The strategy officers may conduct an internal and external analysis, determine competitive advantages, and create a strategy roadmap. They may take the time to redefine their mission, vision, and values statements.

Alternatively, a business plan provides a structure for ideas to define the business initially. It maps out the more tactical beginning stages of the plan.

Pro Tip: A mission statement is useful for business and strategic plans as it helps further define the enterprise’s value and purpose. If an organization never set its mission statement at the beginning stages of its business plan, it can create one for its strategic plan.

A strategic plan is critical to prioritizing resources (time, money, and people) to grow the revenue and increase the return on investment. The strategic plan may start with reallocating current financial resources already being utilized more strategically.

A business plan will focus on the resources the business still needs to obtain, such as vendors, investors, staff, and funding. A business plan is critical if new companies seek funding from banks or investors. It will add accountability and transparency for the organization and tell the funding channels how they plan to grow their business operations and ROI in the first year of the business.

The scalability of a business plan vs. strategic plan

Another way to grasp the difference is by understanding the difference in ‘scale’ between strategic and business plans. Larger organizations with multiple business units and a wide variety of products frequently start their annual planning process with a corporate-driven strategic plan. It is often followed by departmental and marketing plans that work from the Strategic Plan.

Smaller and start-up companies typically use only a business plan to develop all aspects of operations of the business on paper, obtain funding and then start the business.

Why understanding the differences between a business plan vs a strategic plan matters

It is important to know the key differences between the two terms, despite often being used interchangeably. But here’s a simple final explanation:

A business plan explains how a new business will get off the ground. A strategic plan answers where an established organization is going in the future and how they intend to reach that future state.

A strategic plan also focuses on building a sustainable competitive advantage and is futuristic. A business plan is used to assess the viability of a business opportunity and is more tactical.

10 Comments

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I agree with your analysis about small companies, but they should do a strategic plan. Just check out how many of the INC 500 companies have an active strategic planning process and they started small. Its about 78%,

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Strategic management is a key role of any organization even if belong to small business. it help in growth and also to steam line your values. im agree with kristin.

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I agree with what you said, without strategic planning no organization can survive whether it is big or small. Without a clear strategic plan, it is like walking in the darkness.. Best Regards..

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Vision, Mission in Business Plan VS Strategic Plan ?

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you made a good analysis on strategic plan and Business plan the difference is quite clear now. But on the other hand, it seems that strategic plan and strategic management are similar which I think not correct. Please can you tell us the difference between these two?. Thanks

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Thank you. I get points to work on it

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super answer Thanking you

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Hi. I went through all the discussions, comments and replies. Thanks! I got a very preliminary idea about functions and necessity of Strategic Planning in Business. But currently I am looking for a brief nice, flowery, juicy definition of “Business Strategic Planning” as a whole, which will give anyone a fun and interesting way to understand. Can anyone help me out please? Awaiting replies…… 🙂

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that was easy to understand,

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Developing a strategic plan either big or small company or organization mostly can’t achieve its goal. A strategic plan or formulation is the first stage of the strategic management plan, therefore, we should be encouraged to develop a strategic management plan. We can develop the best strategic plan but without a clear plan of implementation and evaluation, it will be difficult to achieve goals.

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How Fast Should Your Company Really Grow?

  • Gary P. Pisano

business strategy in a business plan

Growth—in revenues and profits—is the yardstick by which the competitive fitness and health of organizations is measured. Consistent profitable growth is thus a near universal goal for leaders—and an elusive one.

To achieve that goal, companies need a growth strategy that encompasses three related sets of decisions: how fast to grow, where to seek new sources of demand, and how to develop the financial, human, and organizational capabilities needed to grow. This article offers a framework for examining the critical interdependencies of those decisions in the context of a company’s overall business strategy, its capabilities and culture, and external market dynamics.

Why leaders should take a strategic perspective

Idea in Brief

The problem.

Sustained profitable growth is a nearly universal corporate goal, but it is an elusive one. Empirical research suggests that when inflation is taken into account, most companies barely grow at all.

While external factors play a role, most companies’ growth problems are self-inflicted: Too many firms approach growth in a highly reactive, opportunistic manner.

The Solution

To grow profitably over the long term, companies need a strategy that addresses three key decisions: how fast to grow (rate of growth); where to seek new sources of demand (direction of growth); and how to amass the resources needed to grow (method of growth).

Perhaps no issue attracts more senior leadership attention than growth does. And for good reason. Growth—in revenues and profits—is the yardstick by which we tend to measure the competitive fitness and health of companies and determine the quality and compensation of its management. Analysts, investors, and boards pepper CEOs about growth prospects to get insight into stock prices. Employees are attracted to faster-growing companies because they offer better opportunities for advancement, higher pay, and greater job security. Suppliers prefer faster-growing customers because working with them improves their own growth prospects. Given the choice, most companies and their stakeholders would choose faster growth over slower growth.

Five elements can move you beyond episodic success.

  • Gary P. Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie Jr. Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation (PublicAffairs, 2019).

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U.s. department of commerce releases 2023 update to equity action plan, outlines new commitments to advance equity, office of public affairs.

Today the U.S. Department of Commerce released the 2023 update to its Equity Action Plan , in coordination with the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government equity agenda. This Equity Action Plan is part of the Department’s efforts to implement the President’s Executive Order on “ Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government ,” which reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to deliver equity and build an America in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.

“Homogeneity is the enemy of innovation. If we are to out-build, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the world, we need to ensure we’re harnessing and empowering Americans across the country by utilizing our greatest strength - diversity,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equity is so important and why I’m proud to see that reflected in this updated action plan. We fail to meet our full potential as a nation unless we harness the talents and strengths of all parts of the country, including those who have too often been left behind.”

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves will participate in an event at the White House this morning to outline the updated Equity Action Plan, where he will be accompanied by Donna Ennis, Co-Director of the Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM), who is a winner of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC). The presentation will highlight  workforce pipelines put in place to ensure all Americans, including people from underserved communities, can participate in the innovation economy.

“Thanks to President Biden’s continued and steadfast commitment to supporting underserved and underrepresented communities, this Administration has made historic progress to achieving equity centered initiatives,” said Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves. “Through investments in business grants and funding opportunities, the Secretary and I are proud of the Commerce Department’s efforts in promoting equitable and inclusive capitalism that will pave the path to America’s economic prosperity.”

In alignment with the Department of Commerce’s strategic goals , the Equity Action Plan includes real-life examples of how America’s economy and people are best served by filtering our work through a prism of equity. America’s diversity is its competitive advantage – but only if everyone has an opportunity to fulfill their potential and fully participate in our economy.

The equity strategies associated with each strategic goal will assist in designing programs that will address barriers to equity and meet the needs of all Americans, including underserved communities.

  • Equity Strategy 1: Mobilize our nation’s diversity to fuel innovation and sustain our global competitiveness across geographic regions so that all communities have equal access to opportunities.
  • Equity Strategy 2: Expand growth opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs, including in underserved communities.
  • Equity Strategy 3: Promote equitable economic development and career pathways to good jobs.
  • Equity Strategy 4: Use targeted investments and program design to address the climate crisis through mitigation, adaptation, and resilience efforts to ensure environmental and economic resilience.
  • Equity Strategy 5: Expand opportunity and discovery through data to inform and evaluate actions that improve community outcomes.

Since the release of its first-ever Equity Action Plan in 2022, the Department of Commerce has:

  • Released $3 billion in American Rescue Plan dollars across 780 awards through six innovative economic development programs.
  • Reduced the cost of bringing high-speed internet to unserved and underserved communities, and increased the resilience of internet infrastructure.
  • Invested $100 million to support the needs of tribal governments and Indigenous communities across 51 awards in 25 states and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Learn more about the Administration’s equity work at whitehouse.gov/equity and check out all Federal Equity Action Plans at performance.gov/equity .

To follow stories and posts across agencies, follow the hashtags #GovEquity and #GovDelivers on social media.

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Greg Clark speaks to members of the media

Tory former business secretary criticises successors ‘abandoning industrial strategy’

Greg Clark, with Peter Mandelson and Vince Cable, said UK must be ‘more active’ in approach to industry

A former Conservative business secretary has criticised his successors for abandoning industrial strategy, including an “unnecessary act of vandalism” in abolishing a council of industry leaders.

Greg Clark said on Tuesday that the UK needed to be “more active and deliberate” in its approach to industry, in testimony to the Commons business and trade committee.

Clark was joined by two of his predecessors, Labour’s Peter Mandelson and the Liberal Democrats’ Vince Cable, in bemoaning the lack of a coherent industrial strategy since 2019.

The US, EU and Chinese governments have in recent years launched expensive efforts to subsidise and promote their domestic advanced industries, amid increasingly open geopolitical rivalry. All three former business secretaries said the UK was failing to keep up, putting British companies at a disadvantage by failing to match rivals’ industrial strategies and leaving them uncertain over the country’s long-term plans.

The criticism of the government by a former Tory business secretary highlights the tensions within the Conservative party about how far it should rely on market forces over government intervention.

Clark served as business secretary under the former prime minister Theresa May between 2016 and 2019. He said he tried to build upon work done by Mandelson and Cable to give businesses stability, whereas his successors “abolished the plans”, resulting in “intermittent industrial strategy over many years”.

He said: “Just at the time – partly driven by security reasons – that countries have looked to make sure that they can guarantee supplies and prosper in the world, we went through a period of abandoning industrial strategy, which I think was a mistake.”

Clark, who still serves as the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, condemned the abolition of the industrial strategy council in 2021, when Kwasi Kwarteng was the business secretary.

The council, launched in 2018, had gathered business leaders for regular meetings to discuss government policy. It had included the former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane, the investor and GB News founder Paul Marshall , the former Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia, and the Marks & Spencer chair, Archie Norman.

Clark said: “It was an unnecessary act of vandalism to destroy a new institution that was doing good work.”

Mandelson, who served as business secretary between 2008 and 2010 under Gordon Brown , criticised the approach of the business minister, Kemi Badenoch, who has said she does not want the government to try “picking winners”. That phrase is closely associated with the former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

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“[Badenoch’s] living in a different rhetorical era, frankly,” said Mandelson. “She needs to join the 21st century and see what everyone else is doing in this new normal.”

Cable, who served as business minister under the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, said international competition from the likes of China would “only intensify”. However, he warned the UK against trying to match the US, a much larger economy. “There’s some danger in thinking you can cut and paste the [Joe] Biden model to the UK,” he said.

A government spokesperson said: “Those who say we don’t have a clear strategy in place are not paying attention. We’ve been working hand-in-glove with industry to ensure our plan provides the right support British businesses need.”

The spokesperson said the UK had a “historic year” for investment in 2023, including £29bn pledged at the Global Investment Summit, £4.5bn of government support for manufacturing, plus investments from Tata and Nissan.

  • Industrial policy
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