What Makes A Successful Business Strategy?

We ask the experts


Business has evolved and with it so too has the nature of what it means to be a 'brand'. We are operating in a more complex and global environment than ever before. We no longer sell products in local markets, where we only need to know how the demographics of a local community support a brand. Today, the proliferation of the internet and the connectivity it has enabled means that your brand can be positively or negatively impacted around the globe in seconds.

This has brought with it a raft of challenges that organizations have to confront if they want to form a meaningful, lasting connection with consumers. Firstly, how do you, as a brand, represent yourself to a diverse population and engage them? You can't be all things to all people, at least not without diluting your identity to the point of irrelevance. The solution to this is not simply to turn it into a numbers game. You can't think of your audience as a commodity and try and hit as many people as possible with little concern as to whether this translates into sales. The challenge is understanding the conversations you need to get involved with to grow your brand while distinguishing the signal from the noise.

Ahead of the Chief Strategy Officer Summit, taking place in Melbourne on the 15-16 March this year, we asked five experts speaking at the event what they felt were the most important components of a successful brand strategy.

Jacques Markgraaff, GM Strategy, Planning & Innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil

I don’t believe there are any sure-fire components given the degree of uncertainty in business today but rather tests or hallmarks that I’ve learnt are crucial to any sound strategy:

  • Executive management must have a clear understanding of the case for change facing the business – context matters!
  • Know what the business’s inherent capabilities, privileged assets, proprietary insights etc. are, how relevant these are likely to remain and how these can be further built upon to exploit your competitive advantage.
  • Know your customers better than anyone.
  • Have a deep enough understanding of your business economics and how this may evolve over time.
  • Learn from and anticipate your existing (and emerging) competitors.
  • Gauge and set the ambition of the business – are we talking incremental growth/shareholder value or ‘step change’/reinvention?
  • Describe the strategy in terms of clear and measurable operational outcomes.
  • Needs to be executable by the business – is the business aligned with the strategy, does the executive have a winning mindset and are there the requisite capabilities around to pull it off?

Tam Nguyen, EO Research at St Vincent's Hospital

A successful business strategy, in particular in the health and medical research (HMR) industry should include three key components: purpose, planning and people. Key component of planning should focus on the agility and adaptability of the strategy. In a highly disruptive environment, adaptability links with survivability. Purpose is central in a successful business strategy as you need to sell the compelling story of health and medical research to numerous stakeholders including investors, funders and end-users. Thirdly, in addition to external stakeholders, people as internal stakeholders such as researchers, busy clinician researchers, or clinicians/surgeon inventors need to be proactively engaged via appropriate education, motivation and effective facilitation structure.

Shawn Wilkey, Director Of Strategy & Development at Aboriginal Victoria

There are many but the elements that are particularly important when considering strategy in business include:

  • Governance
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Objectives
  • Deliverables
  • KPIs
  • Infrastructure (including human, financial and technical)

Craig Buszko, Strategy Lead & Advisor at World Vision International

I think there are several but I’d like to highlight two I think are most critical. The first one might sound unusual coming from someone working at a non-profit, but I believe what’s most important for business strategy is clearly delivering customer value. I believe in taglines like “relentless pursuit of customer needs”. At World Vision, our customers are 2 types: the supporters who give us money to do work in the field, and the people in communities we benefit. Strategically, we have to start with these two customer types, frame these groups just like you would customers, and use this as your primary lens for value creation and capture.

The second most critical component is the fundamental role of strategy: make clear choices! This might sound trivial, but I feel this fundamental is often lacking in business strategy. This is the space where organizations have to make choices. Choices may be exciting; revolving around growth, innovation, what the “digital future” might look like (through the customer lens) and, how we choose to create and capture value. But there are also difficult choices, ones around what you won’t do, or might have to stop doing. The role of business strategy is to successfully get an organization, particularly senior executives and the board, into a space where they can make clear, strategic choices and hold the organization to those choices.

In this digital age, contexts are often fluctuating and changing. Organizations are grappling with their transformation into more agile or 'lean' organizations, so I think we need to remind ourselves that good strategy is about making clear choices.

Jo Clancy, Senior Strategy Analyst & Innovation Lead at Transport Accident Commission

1. Being crystal clear on the vision and key purpose of your organization before you embark on any strategy development. This means the 'why' behind what you do for your customers and why you fundamentally exist - these are crucial guiding lights for strategy development. If you don't have it or it's vague and unclear, spend valuable time with your CEO and Executive team to lock this in.

2. Synthesise findings from environmental scanning and customer discovery. The latest research and evidence in your industry and beyond are vital input for strategy development

3. Facilitate, facilitate and facilitate with groups of people from across the organization (and stakeholder outside of it!) to get their input on your growth strategy. Be really open to new ideas or changing direction - it sets up a foundation for engagement and provides tremendously valuable insight

4. Once set, communicate, engage and communicate - you can't do this enough but it cannot be completely up to you. Ensure your organizational leaders are stepping up to this and singing in harmony

5. Now the really hard work begins - cascading your strategy down to the corporate strategic objectives and initiatives to form your corporate business plan. Ensure key success measures are based on OUTCOMES not just milestones and then PRIORITISE. Most organizations don't control the breadth of their strategic intent to enable the right focus for ultimate success.

6. A portfolio management approach can help you organize your strategic initiatives into the right timeframe horizons. This will help you match and refine your organizational resources to the right balance for your strategic vision. Have you got the right focus for the immediate and medium term delivery while keeping a handle on the future horizons? Is it the change that will be necessary for any disruption and future evolution of your industry and organization?

7. Set up a regular and formal review process based on success or outcome measures. This will ultimately assist you and your Executive team to objectively assess your progress (without bias) and make some hard decisions as the strategy is executed, but will be very hard. Building this into an annual strategic review and planning cycle for your company will help to keep up this disciplined approach.

You can learn more from leading experts such as these this March at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne. Register for your ticket here. You can also enter our raffle for a chance to win three complimentary passes. 

BONUS CONTENT: WATCH Claudio Ludovisi, VP, Head of Strategy & Business Planning at Disney ABC Television Group, discuss how to design our strategic planning process to cut right to bigger, disruptive strategies

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