When I was young and inexperienced, I used to think that having a business strategy meant having a business plan.
I crafted the perfect document for my very first business. It was well over 40 pages, detailing my mission statement, industry and competitor profiles, SWOT analysis (all the rage at the time) and marketing strategy.
I showed it to my partner, my accountant, and mumsies. They were quite impressed. It was very beautiful.
And devastatingly useless.
I tried using it as a guide through the first six months of my business. But over the years, it wiggled its way down to the bottom drawer of my office…
And it gathered dust happily ever after.
So much changes in business. You start with starry-eyed, preconceived notions of what you THINK your business will do. Then you actually live, breathe and work in the heart of your business every day.
You learn. You adjust. You throw out your business plan.
A business strategy, on the other hand, is a guiding formula. More like timeless wisdom than an outdated glossy document.
It grows with your business, and guides your business to growth.
Why Traditional Business Strategies Fail
The problem with the business strategy formulas you’ll find nowadays is that they’re essentially still business plans.
The same old, tired concepts – like the Four P’s of Marketing from the 1940s – are still touted today.
Do you think the marketing tactics that worked in the 40s are still relevant today? Perhaps some. But would it be wise to ignore all the changes over the last 80 years and plan your business strategy like that?
And then there’s the ever-popular SWOT Analysis, from the 1960s. It was meant to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your business.
Sounds like a good place to start building a business strategy, right? But in reality, it’s a no-brainer. As in, it requires no deep thought and, quite frankly, produces nothing enlightening.
As BizJournals have clearly stated, it’s an utter waste of time.
The Good Life Business Strategy
A better way to approach your business strategy is to base it on core concepts that don’t date with the development of new technology.
The Good Life Business Strategy is based on four simple foundations. Tried and true, these foundations might strike you as remarkably simple. I’d argue that they are uncommonly simple.
Great business wisdom doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
The concepts that make up the Good Life Business Strategy are straightforward, and free of fancy business school jargon. Your business strategy should be simple enough that you don’t need to reference a 40-page business plan to remember it.
Here’s how you can structure your own business for right-sized growth and success based on the following four foundations:
#1 - SELL SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL
The very first pillar of small business strategy is to offer services or products that are more than just ‘good enough’. Better than ‘good’.
Make your offering exceptional.
That means high-quality. Not average. Definitely not shoddy in any way. Not common-place. Not run-of-the-mill.
It’s gotta be unique. Doesn’t mean you have to be the only one offering the thing. Instead, it means you have to do it so well that people would take notice. You need to offer something that stands apart. People need a reason to choose you over the crowd.
Make the best bread in your state. Sell the absolute finest handcrafted ceramics or most beautifully finished garments. Offer the most rejuvenating massage or customers-so-satisfied-they-could-cry dining experience.
The easiest way to self-test whether your offering is exceptional is the Damn Good test. Try it out:
The 'Damn Good' Test
Throw out your business name and replace it with the words “damn good.”
Can you put the words “damn good” in front of your offering and really mean it?
Damn good coffee.
Damn good glassware.
Damn good music.
Damn good furniture.
Does it stand out above the competition? Is it exceptionally beautiful, simple, delicious or useful?
Don’t lie to yourself. If your product is damn average, you usually know it.
If what you make, do or sell doesn’t fit the Damn Good test, you need to figure out how to make it better or sell something else.
#2 - CHARGE PREMIUM PRICES
Now that you’re offering exceptional products and services, you’d be a fool to charge anything less than premium pricing.
If you go into your small business charging low or even average prices, you doom yourself to suffer every economic downturn, natural disaster or unfortunate outside circumstance within grasp.
That’s not smart, and it’s not bad luck. It’s just poor planning.
You gotta be brave. Stop worrying that you won’t get enough customers. Low to average prices attract low to average customers. Is that what you want? Headaches and whingeing and refund requests?
Premium prices attract loyal, loving customers.
Give people something to value, something of value and worth valuing, and your right customers will react.
Price too low, price out of fear or industry averages or self-doubt and you run the risk of always struggling, always working too hard and just getting by.
The ‘big risk’ of premium pricing is actually less of a risk than trapping yourself in the race-to-the-bottom of mundane pricing.
Of course, you need to figure out what you can charge. But then get out of your comfort zone, throw on your big girl panties and price your goods for long-term success.
#3 - TELL A STORY THAT MATCHES
Once you have a damn good offering, and pricing to match, you need to ensure every single aspect of your business communicates a message that matches.
That means everything from your business name to your signage, the colour of your walls, the font on your business card, the staff you hire, the quality of your website, everything.
Every nook. Every surface.
Every tangible, intangible, conscious and subconscious point of contact with the outside world of potential customers – it has to be ‘on brand’.
And what that means is different for every business. There’s no right font or colour or style for cafes or wineries or clothing boutiques.
It all comes down to what sets you apart, and finding ways to communicate that visually, verbally, and can’t-put-my-finger-on-it ambiently. The music you play in-store, the texture of your packing paper, the Canva template you used for your latest sale advert, the description on your instagram posts – all of it needs to communicate the same high-level story to match your quality, style and value.
This is what marketing and branding are all about. And it’s also the deepest crack undermining the foundations of your business.
It’s all too common to see a great business idea crumble from poor marketing and branding foundations.
#4 - ACT PROFESSIONALLY
The fourth pillar is professionalism. At some point in your business, you transition from the testing-it-out phase to full-blown, orders flowing, business mode.
When that happens, things start to get rushed. If you haven’t learnt the basics of running a proper business, here’s where it really starts to show.
The basics might be boring, but they’re integral to your success. You have to be professional in every aspect of your business.
Be consistent, show up on time, keep your shop spotless and your staff passionate about the brand. Offer exceptional customer service, commit to your hours/brand style/promises/quality, and for the love of Godess, fix the leaks in your biz – the cold lighting, cheap plastic packaging, the pixelated logo on your invoice, your product descriptions and the thrown-together copywriting on your about us page.
Do you find yourself apologising for the state of your website or storefront? Are you justifying things not-yet-done or done poorly because you don’t have enough time, money or know-how?
That’s not professional.
You’re in business now. Act like you mean it.
Present your offering with pride, run your business with integrity, impress the hell out of your customers.
If you run your business from simple, tried and true foundations, you put yourself in an excellent position to grow and succeed.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these concepts. They’re incredibly powerful and effective.
These concepts are the core of any good small business. The Good Life Business Strategy is what I use in my own businesses and my client’s businesses.
And now you have a formula to run your own small business.
Test your current business offering against this strategy, and see where you fall short. Don’t be dismayed if you find gaps and problems – consider yourself lucky you found them before your customers did!
Every business has blind spots.
If you need assistance finding the cracks in your own business, I can help you with a brand audit. Once you’ve adjusted your business to match this strategy, you’ll easily refocus your efforts on the most important and rewarding work.
I wish you the best of success in your business.
HI, I'm SARAH
I’m here to help you work smarter, not harder. I teach passionate business owners how to charge premium prices, attract the best customers, save time and make money with ease.