By: Scott Wright and Jack Bowen
Temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing colors, and you can almost hear the sounds of the crowd cheering at the high school homecoming game. With these and other harbingers of the calendar’s fourth quarter, you’re likely about to sharpen your pencil, corral your executive leadership – and engage in your strategic business planning process for 2024.
Despite the performance of your particular product or service in 2023, you – and other CEOs and entrepreneurs like you – are puzzled about what impact economic and political uncertainties will have on your prospects for growth.
In fact, the NFIB – a trade group for small businesses – recently recorded a 20th consecutive subpar month in its Small Business Optimism Index, a measure of the furrowed brows of your C-suite contemporaries. In that survey, more than 23 percent of small business owners cited inflation as their biggest concern.
But, as the adage goes, a failure to plan, is a plan for failure. Even the world’s most burdened CEOs agree that, with the right strategic formula, accelerated growth is well within reach, regardless of market forces that cast their looming shadows.
Generating more revenue – and more profit – need not be elusive, in good times or in bad. That’s why some extra effort at the strategic business planning phase will go a long way to how you’re optimizing your approach to market forces, competitors, and the customers who are loyal to your products and services.
"Faced with volatility, proactive leaders spot opportunities while others shrink back," says Keith Weed, Unilever CMO. "By taking decisive action, they gain competitive advantage coming out of downturns."
That’s why the two of us are here. We’ve come together to author an eight-part series that is part advisory, part roadmap – and full throttle encouragement to dive in today and build the best possible growth acceleration plan you can muster.
Strategic business planning need not be a heavy lift – in fact, it can be an empowering exercise that helps you draw the best from your senior leadership, your data, and your vision. This last point is important: For your business to grow, you need to leverage that attention to detail and laser focus that got you here to begin with.
That said, we see strategic business planning as both an art and a science. With decades of combined knowledge, we've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of a meticulously crafted, forward-thinking growth plan.
The first thing to understand is that we’re not asking you to aim for an unreachable star. Annual business planning, in our view, is a process that sets forth measurable, achievable goals for the business that should be delivered by the choices you’ve outlined in your plan.
We’ll also encourage you to revisit your progress on this plan each quarter, so you can factor in real, actionable data when traveling through your business realities. You’ll be able to take a pulse on the economy – how it’s impacting your customers, your category, and your marketplace. And you can respond to competitive forces as they are leveraged against the foundations of your business.
We feel that we are uniquely qualified to help see you through this annual business planning process. In our combined 60 years of executive experience, we’ve seen a variety of attempts to jumpstart the annual business planning process – and we can tell you, the companies that have done it well have reaped myriad rewards.
As we travel together on this journey of discovery, we will draw not only from our extensive expertise, but also from the insights of industry thought leaders.
Notably, we’ll bring to the fore insights from marketing luminaries like Neil Patel and Ann Handley, who have extolled the pivotal role of strategic planning in propelling business growth. Patel's comprehensive guide on "The Definitive Guide to Strategic Marketing Planning" and Handley's invaluable insights in "Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content" have been useful for us and for our clients, and we know you’ll find them helpful as well.
In this series, we’ll put our collective marketing minds to your test – outlining key strategies and steps that we have seen work wonders for entrepreneurs and CEOs like you. We will cover essential topics like optimizing your marketing budget, leveraging customer insights, aligning sales and marketing, and measuring performance. Here’s a sneak preview of where we’ll go together in the remaining seven chapters:
By the culmination of this series, you'll possess a comprehensive toolkit crafted to propel your business towards unprecedented growth in 2024. More importantly, you’ll be armed with data that will convince your stakeholders, leaders, board, and employees that you are stepping forward with an enviable level of preparedness. The result is not just a temporary boost but a new growth trajectory and the capacity to sustain and further enhance growth over the long term.
We believe that with the right plans and execution and a well-reasoned marketing investment, you can thrive in 2024 regardless of broader market forces. Let's get planning!
Jack Bowen and Scott Wright are Fractional Chief Marketing Officers with Chief Outsiders, a national fractional CMO and CSO consulting firm. Bowen is an engaging, roll-up your sleeves leader who draws on 20+ years of C-level marketing leadership and growth experience with significant expertise in data-based, direct-to-customer (B or C) performance-marketing, driving both topline and profitability throughout – acquisition, conversion and sales operations. Wright has decades of executive leadership experience leading B2B and B2C businesses to accelerated growth across numerous industries. He works with CEOs and leadership teams to develop customer-centric strategies for brand differentiation and awareness, effective targeting, lead generation, customer experience, and the repeatable processes and core capabilities that create a foundation for sustainable growth.
Together, they are part of a team of more than 120 seasoned and battle-tested Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Sales Officers who have guided over 1,850 B2B and B2C companies across more than 70 industry verticals.
Chief Outsiders executives have the experience to help businesses quickly figure out how to accelerate growth. They work alongside CEOs as members of the leadership team to develop strategies, build organizational and technical capabilities, and execute marketing and sales initiatives that create growth engines. Contact us today to accelerate your growth. Learn more about Scott Wright here and Jack Bowen here.
Stay tuned for more insights and strategies in our series on "2024 Annual Growth Plans."
Full series on strategic business planning:
| Scott Wright
Partner & CMO