Getting your growth strategy right is the most important part of any small business growth plan. And yet, it’s the least understood and too often the weakest link in the overall plan.

Before we offer three tips for developing great strategies, here’s what we mean by Strategy. Strategy is all about how you deploy your scarce resources to create sustainable competitive advantage in the market

Let’s break that down.

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Create sustainable competitive advantage: Your prospects will buy from you when they believe you are the best solution to solve their particular problem. So you have to demonstrate that you are different and better than the competition. You want to find the intersection of three things: a) what your company is really good at, b) that solve the prospect’s problem really well c) that your competition doesn’t do. Make sure you understand marketplace dynamics: the competition, the relative power of buyers of and suppliers to your company. And you have to be objective about what your company is really good at.

So here are three tips to make sure you’re creating great strategies:

  1. Follow the “Law of Meaningful Opposites.” You’ll know you have a good strategy if the opposite of that strategy isn’t true. For instance, if your target audience is Left-Handed Lithuanians, it can’t also be Right-Footed Romanians. A good strategy forces a choice. Or, for fans of the early days of Saturday Night Live, you can’t be a dessert topping AND a floor wax.
  2. A Strategy doesn’t tell you exactly how you’re going to get something done. A strategy might be “concentrate marketing funds in social media.” But it’s not, “Facebook ads running in the newsfeed on Tuesday’s and Thursdays.” Strategy guides or informs how things get done but doesn’t specifically spell it out. That level of detail is called “Key Actions” or “Tactics.”
  3. A Strategy normally doesn’t change very much if at all during a plan year. Because Strategy involves the concentration of resources, it’s messy and time-consuming to make a big shift every couple of months. Strategies are like big stakes you’re putting in the ground. You want to leave them in place so you have time to create market impact. On the other hand, the things you do to implement your Strategies (the Key Actions) might change a lot as you react to market conditions, results, etc.

Getting strategy right is the biggest challenge for any small business. It’s also the biggest opportunity. When you create sustainable competitive advantage and can execute behind it, rapid growth is the natural outcome.