Strategy is how to get desired results with the least amount of resistance in making them happen. Strategy also ensures you use your resources most effectively. And strategy is what positions you with your customers but distinct from your competitors.

On the one hand, competition is so ‘last year’ because, when you’re marketing properly, you have no competition. On the other hand, anything your customer sees that diverts their attention from your services is competition. Competition includes everything from other online solutions to their work day, from their grocery store run to their dog needs a walk. Strategy is the key to unlocking their attention so it’s on you as a resource.

Now strategy is NOT a marketing plan! The marketing plan is what executes on the strategy. The common challenge in determining strategy is avoiding the trap of what’s urgent today vs. taking the time to stop and think strategically.

For example, how does what you do differ from online mortgage services? You know who they are… I don’t need to spell that out. They are getting the attention of your customers – and they’re starting to advertise everywhere – tv, radio and online ads. So what do you do about that strategically?

How do you get attention from your customers who are searching online anyway? Is it still possible to be seen by your customers in a sea of online noise? What’s the strategy for online visibility without stalking somebody?

How can you reach out and ‘touch’ every one of your current and past customers every three months without spending hours doing it? What is the strategy behind making that kind of contact personal and relevant?

The good news is that I have answers to all those questions, and you’ll be seeing that soon in much greater detail than I can share here.

The point is that you need to think strategically, then apply that strategy, to grow your business with the least amount of effort.

How I Started Thinking Strategically

Strategy results from considering several factors, like analyzing your market audience, knowing your unique differentiators, seeing opportunities, having the right infrastructure and business model in place, and envisioning the future. Once you get the right strategy in place, it looks effortless because it’s so natural and obvious. But when you’re working through it, it takes original thinking which doesn’t feel so effortless.

Way back when, before I knew mortgage had a ‘t’ in it, I first began my venture into the mortgage business as a loan officer. As I learned the business, I streamlined the traditional methods everyone was using – including me – into what I call a ‘paint by numbers’ approach. As a result, I became the top-producing branch out of approximately 336 branches nationwide. My technique helped loan officers retain more closings while working less hours each week. And I still use it today, along with a lot of other things I’ve learned along the way, to help loan officers be more successful in less time.

How did I do it? I looked for the hidden value in leveraging my abilities. What was I really good at? And what was I NOT so good at? I have always recognized the value of hanging with people who are smarter than me – and my team today proves that. I figured out that I needed to be building relationships vs. handling the paperwork. And that meant figuring out how to build the best team infrastructure, which went against the grain of every good traditional loan officer in the business back then.

I also realized that I wasn’t in the mortgage loan business – I was in the ‘helping people achieve their dreams’ business. It’s about relationships. How could I build relationships if I was stuck in paperwork? Now, I have the greatest respect for people who are good at that kind of detail – especially because that’s not me. But I also realized that there are people who only want to do that kind of work and don’t want to go beat the streets and connect with people. The marriage of those two kinds of people makes it rain only good things for everybody in business. Today, I would call that ‘lateral thinking’ – where a problem in one environment creates a solution for someone else.

How You Can Start Thinking Strategically

Good strategy makes business frictionless; great strategy adds more value to your customers’ experience in solving their problems. So start by thinking about what your customers are dealing with daily because their problems are your opportunities. What are the conversations they’re having? What do they think the trends are in buying a home? What do they think is a problem when thinking about buying a home?

For example, one woman wanted to buy her first home but thought she had to be completely debt-free, with a large down payment, to do it. Her credit score was 760, she had verifiable six-figure income, a small down payment, and was living on a month-to-month lease. But she thought she could never qualify – until a creative realtor put her in touch ‘just to see’. Within four hours, she had a pre-approval in hand; within six hours, she had an offer on a house.

There are many lessons in that story. First, your realtor partner referrals are a big key to success, and your relationships are the key to those spontaneous referrals. Second, that customer was working off the information her parents gave her from their experience from decades ago. Third, what she thought was a problem – less than $20k in debt and ‘only’ a 760 score – was a signal of her fiscal responsibility. But she didn’t know those things… so she didn’t even try to qualify. And she’s not alone. How many customers are working off old, bad, incorrect information or beliefs that are preventing them from even trying to get a loan? THAT is your opportunity.

Here are five things – beyond knowing your audience – you need to consider in putting together a cohesive business growth strategy.

1. Unique Differentiators

What you do uniquely is based on your core competencies. What do you do well AND are really good at doing? Your answer will determine the best use of your time, money and resources. It will also play into your positioning through marketing messages that show your distinction from any other solution.

2. Opportunities

When the market is ‘zigging’, you need to zag. If your market is talking about how easy it is to get pre-quals online, you make sure you’re dialed in on that – and then amp up the personal touch that an online system can’t replicate. When your referral partners mention they are buying leads instead of working the ones they already have, let them know you can help. Find a way to be of more service and add greater value to your relationships to create or leverage new business opportunities.

3. Business Infrastructure

Your business infrastructure is what allows you to do more with less effort. Your infrastructure means the right people, in the right roles, with the right tools and technology, with the right processes and the right authority to get things done. Get your infrastructure right for greater agility in implementing your strategies.

4. Envisioning the Future

See where your business, your market and the industry are going to determine how you will position to take advantage of emerging trends and opportunities. This also ensures you will remain relevant with your customers, despite changing market conditions.

By taking the time to identify your business strategy(s), combined with knowing your business capabilities inside and out, you create big potential for growing your business faster, easier, with less effort and resources. You don’t waste time doing what won’t, ultimately, serve your business. And your business will no longer be ‘vanilla’; instead, you will get the attention of the people you want to serve.

After all, that’s what this is all about anyway, right?

Strategy can be learned from many places, including history and other industries. What strategies have you learned about or admire? For example, Netflix revolutionized the personal entertainment industry, AirBnB up-ended the accommodations industry, and Duluth Trading Company is defining a new level of comfort for men’s clothing.

Carl White, Chief Officer of Coolness
Article Originally Posted on LinkedIn

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