• Force24
  • 16th September 2015

10 tactics for a game changing strategy-planning session

10 tactics for a game changing strategy-planning session

A killer marketing automation strategy is made up of two parts: the thinking and the doing. It's 50% about coming up with great ideas and 50% about implementing them, tracking their results and optimising going forward.

So before you jump in head first to running marketing automation campaigns, make sure you have a clear strategy in front of you. One that everyone is onboard with and supports, and one that makes sense in relation to your business's goals and aspirations.

But how do you create a truly bulletproof strategy? Unfortunately, guides and instruction manuals aren't enough. You need a team of powerful minds that work together to inspire and debate. To get the most of those minds, simply follow our 10 tactics. Disclaimer: some may seem a little unorthodox, but stick with us on this.

1. The magic number

The more people you can cram into a strategy meeting the better, right? Wrong. The chances are you'll be dealing with a group of very different personality types. Some would love to stand in front of a room full of people and tell them all about their ideas, good or bad. Some will be able to think of nothing worse. And the pressure will stifle those people, which is the last thing you want in a creative strategy meeting. Experts say the ideal number for a brainstorming session is as little as 7 or 8. We actually find the perfect number is around 3-4 people. 

2. Think outside the box... before you even get to the meeting

American author and scientist Isaac Asimov said 'The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren't paid to have great ideas.' Creative people are great, but it's their job. Stick them in a room with a million other creatives and run the risk of mass creative block caused by the fear of embarrassment. Instead, why not add into the mix the accountant you see in the kitchen substituting cauliflower as a healthy alternative to rice, or the office assistant who came up with an ingenious way of keeping track of staff holidays, reducing clashes and struggles with capacity. Whatever you do, don't pigeon-hole 'non-creatives' because they could surprise you.

3. Get out!

There's nothing worse than holding a creative brain-storming session in the same place that you and your team work, day in, day out. Looking around at the same walls, at your computer sitting with heaps of emails waiting to be cleared, looking at the fridge, wondering what's for lunch. The only way to get truly creative is to leave the space you're in. If you do that physically, it will be easier to do it mentally. The best option is have a specific room for strategising that avoids making it feel like a rare event and integrating into your work.

4. Strip yourself

No, not literally (although that would make for an interesting meeting!). Find a box, leave it outside the strategy room, and force everyone who enters to leave their mobile phones, laptops, tablets, pens, paper and old tin cans in it. Everything must go. The fewer things you have to distract you from the task at hand, the better. Ditch the distractions. 

5. Write BIG

But wait... you've just left your pen and paper outside the door... how are you going to take notes? Get a whiteboard, a chalkboard, a flip chart, smart paint (more on that later). Anything. Anything that involves writing your ideas big and being able to expand on them as and when you need to. There's nothing worse than having to stop the ideas flowing because you've run out of space on your notepad, or worse, word document as you type up notes!

 

6. Time is of the essence 

Block out what you think will be enough time. Then add an hour either side. Really. We know that time is precious, but a good strategy is invaluable. And getting the ideas flowing and the people bouncing off each other takes time. There's nothing worse than ending a strategy session when you're in full flow. Trust me, you probably won't pick it back up and you definitely won't finish it off as well as you could've if you do.

7. Take it from the... bottom?

It's tempting to start at the... well... start. But let me tell you, that is the wrong way to go. Starting at the start will land you in one of two scenarios: you'll either end up with an ineffective strategy, which looks and sounds great but ultimately flops, leaving you and everyone involved (including your boss) scratching your heads in confusion; or you'll get half way through and realise that somewhere along the way you've taken a wrong turn and will have to start again. A waste of everyone's time. So how do you avoid this? Start at the end. Start with your end goal. The objectives, the budgets and the deadlines. Then work your way back.

8. Appoint a referee 

Every meeting needs to be led, as much as you need everyone to get involved. This person has to be organised, calm and collected. They need to have an eye on everyone in the meeting to ensure all points raised are being considered and crucially they need to be harsh enough to park anything that isn't directly related to the priority subject. The best bit - the referee doesn't also have to be the player. They don't need to be involved in the project you're planning, and sometimes its better if they don't get it - this means they can ask questions which might seem obvious, but often are the ones we skip because we think we all know the answer... 

9. Grab a beer

Not during the meeting, of course, but make sure that your team is consistently interacting with each other outside of work where possible, outside of their comfort zone. Wherever it may be, whatever it may involve, a room full of people who are comfortable together makes for a room full of people who are ready to talk.

10. Hip, hip, hooray

When all is said and done, it's time to celebrate. Make the team feel good about what's just happened, about the conclusions you reached, and about the promise of another meeting to box off those you didn't. If people associate that happy feeling with your creative strategy sessions, they'll be more than happy to join in again, again and again.

The Force24 way

We practice what we preach, or in this case we preach what we already practice. A Force24 strategy planning session usually goes a little something like this:

  • Someone spots the opportunity and calls the meeting
    Whether it’s an account manager, our head of strategy or a content strategist, if they see an area that we could be adding value, they’ll initiate a meeting to discuss further with the wider team
  • They rally the troops
    Depending on what the meeting is about, a group of brainstormers will be selected and a time arranged when everyone is free
  • The room is set up
    With our own boardroom and break out pods throughout the office, all dedicated to meetings and brainstorming sessions, it’s easy for the staff to get in the zone. But before they enter, our dedicated office manager ensures the room is clean and clear of any distractions
  • Brainstorming begins
    With everyone poised and ready, the session starts and ideas start to flow, all being quickly and easily recorded on our smart painted wall, allowing us to make and remove notes as quickly as possible
  • Follow-ups
    All notes are photographed and written up into a strategy document with actions and follow-ups that are required
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