By William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club,

Every business needs a strategy, whether it’s a formal, written and generally agreed strategy or a more ad-hoc approach.

Strategy is about change, a plan of action to get there and a framework for taking that action.

There are 10 key activities every business should engage in if they want to have robust strategies for business development:

1) Have complete clarity about your starting position
Without knowing exactly where you are it’s not possible to plan a direction to where you want to be. Spend some time to map out clearly the current situation that you’re in; the state of the business, the business model and so on. Understand who your target market is, how you’re trying to reach them, and understand the problems that they have. This clarity will ensure your strategies are more robust and likely to succeed.

2) Marketing strategy, Part I
Identify the nature of the issues that your clients face, not in your language, but in theirs. It’s really important to understand how your market expresses its problems so that you can speak directly to that conversation with your solution.

3) Marketing strategy, Part II
Having identified the problems that you solve in the language of your customers, demonstrate how your solution will not just solve their problem, but how it can be embedded in their business so the problem does not recur. Drive directly to making their lives easier and meeting their needs precisely.

4) Marketing strategy, Part III
Consider carefully how to measure and identify which elements of your marketing are working particularly well and which are working less well so that you can adapt, improve and test further.

5) Sales Strategy, Part I
The emphasis now shifts to sales. Identify the triggers that indicate when somebody has decided that they may wish to do business with you. Think about the behaviours that will be exhibited by a potential customer. For example, sharing articles on social media, commenting on blogs, or signing up for a newsletter all indicate greater attention on your business.

6) Sales Strategy, Part II
Don’t seek to sell to anybody who steps forward wanting your product; be selective, make sure that they are right, that the product will serve meet their need. Otherwise there is a risk that they will consider that your product or service was poor value and they’ll share that information with others, and that will damage your reputation.

7) Sales Strategy, Part III
Design the processes that transfer the customer to the operational element of the business. Think through the steps that have to take place now that somebody has become a customer. Businesses that are seen as mediocre often fail to make this transition; expectations are high but delivery is poor and the customer immediately feels disappointed and let down.

8) Operational Strategy, Part I
The first element of an operational strategy should always reflect how customers will be handled within the business. The strategic delivery at the right time of the first product or service in that relationship is possibly the most important delivery that any company can make to any customer.

9) Operational Strategy, Part II
Think about how to develop the relationship with the customer so that they will advocate your service and refer other business to you. To do that, think about what drives your customers to make recommendations, and design your service to make sure that that framework exists. It’s the design of the framework that is the strategic element of what you do. Get that right it will serve you for years; get it wrong and growth is very hard.

10) Operational Strategy, Part III
Think about suppliers and partners important to successful delivery. Automating where sensible, insourcing and outsourcing the relevant elements to drive the best possible service in the context of what is expected and the reaction that you seek is key.

Strategic design of a business is tough. Every element of every strategy is linked. If the marketing changes, the sales strategies need to change. If the sales strategy changes, the operational strategies need to change.

Markets change, customers’ needs adapt and move, technology moves on, partner opportunities change over time. It’s important to be both nimble and nuanced; nimble to change course when required quickly, nuanced by applying knowledge, skills and experience to do so brilliantly.

The most successful companies nuance the experience of their staff, leverage it to be adaptive and responsive to change, and deliver strategy as a core competence.