The Strategic Puzzle: 5 Steps Toward A Strategic Plan

I have been working as a Junior Strategic Planner for the last 18 months. 18 months of watching, learning, doing – and yet I felt like I was missing a piece of the puzzle. I felt like I needed a plan. A plan that guides me in a project from nothing to something close to a strategic direction.

When I was in New York City beginning of this month, I had the chance to talk to Ana Andjelic, Digital Planner at Droga5. The lovely Ana – read more from her here – was kind enough to share with me her experiences and ideas of planning.

Now, after almost two weeks, I finally dared to cross her inspiring thoughts with my naïve ignorance and outlined a plan from there.

No, I have to disappoint you, I haven’t found the missing piece. Yet, I deem the result worth sharing with you: my first draft of a planning plan.


(Download as PDF)


Challenge [1]
We usually don’t start to plan unless there is a (business) challenge to solve – or a great opportunity benefit from. (So this journey might as well start at [3]). This challenge most often is not what our clients give us in their briefs. It is a deeper challenge: some kind of changed human behaviour that suddenly is visible in our client’s numbers. Shrinking sales figures are not a business challenge, they are the visible result of changed human behaviour.

Insights [2]
This is where we try to find the answer to the changed behaviour with as many useful information we can find about the brand, the category, and the users. What is the brand doing differently from other brands? Which developments can we observe in the category? Are there interesting startups disrupting the industry? How do users interact with our brand, competitors, or products? How did they hack our products?

Opportunity [3]
Somewhere among the mass of information and insight, there is the one amazing opportunity: the biggest leverage to trigger the desired behaviour among people. (There might be two or three opportunities, however you probably have gotten a pretty clear idea which one is more powerful in the process of getting here.)

Strategic Direction [4]
This opportunity, this leverage, is the essence of the strategic direction. The tagline, the theory that describes how we build towards the desired change. The strategic direction defines where the brand goes and how it behaves in a rather abstract way.

Brand Behaviour [5]
The brand behaviour is a more detailed description of small steps that will shape the brand in the future. It determines every single action taken by the brand. Each action has to complete a task and will be delivered through a certain channel (Twitter, Foursquare, Website, TV, and so on). This way you can break down something fairly intangible like a strategy into something more feasible like actual behaviour in smaller steps that have a clear focus. And this way you ensure that every step you take actually leads somewhere.

This is it for the moment. I haven’t tried this plan in an actual project. So this is basically a mere theoretic construct based on a 45 minutes talk in a busy Manhattan coffee shop. I’m happy to hear your opinion on this in the comment section below.



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