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Begin At The End, For Better Strategy

One of the best starting points for a strategy session is at the end of it. Starting by clearly expressing what the end results should be, serves as a clear target for participants to aim for. I’m talking about more than the objective, but what the experience will be for customers and employees.

The sketch below was in my planning notes for a series of sessions I led for Starbucks Coffee some years ago. We were building their annual marketing promotional calendar and each promotional season needed to be thought through.

I needed the team to think through the eyes of the customer. How the customer would be “changed” as a result of each seasonal promotion. What would the customer feel? What would they now know? What should they do? This exercise helps if a team seems to get caught up in what “they” think is neat or cool versus what would be effective and meaningful for the customer.


[pre-meeting sketch]
 

To be playful, I drew a comic character representing the customer for each promotion. I used ‘word balloons’ as the space where participants would write what the customer should know, feel, and do, as a result of the marketing programs.

Periodically, we would refer to these future visions/end results to gauge whether we were still on target with our ideas.


[Fall Promotion]
 


[Winter]
 


[Annual Brewing Sale]
 


[Spring]
 


[Summer]
 

These cartoon “customers” worked well. It made the point without forcing it.

Maybe a collage with images from the internet, newspapers, or magazines will work for you… A demographic mood board. Some companies set an empty chair at their conference table, representing the customer. Some invite real customers in to get real-time feedback.

One way or the other, don’t let them become some abstract “thing.” Find ways to make your customers real when building your plans for them.

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