“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
― Michael E. Porter

It is important for every company to engage in strategic planning at various stages of the corporate life cycle. This planning involves asking important questions, collecting the correct data to answer those questions, and choosing among good alternatives.

Each company will have to ask questions unique to their organization and their specific needs at the time. In this article, we will present some basic queries in several different categories. These are designed to stimulate questions relevant to your own organization.

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A number of these questions can be followed by the question, “How do we know that?” Meaning, what is the empirical evidence or metric used to answer that question. You should not be pulling answers out of thin air. Rather, there should be something to support your responses.

Let’s take a look.


The following questions all concern your target audience, customer, or market:

  1. Who exactly is your target customer for whom you will concentrate your efforts and resources?
  2. What are your customer’s values and/or needs?
  3. Do you meet that need?
  4. What buying criteria does your customer have?
  5. Are there customer needs that you aren’t meeting?
  6. Are you absolutely clear about who your target customer is so as not to spread yourself thin?
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Product or Service

The following questions address the customer value proposition:

  1. How is your product or service different from your competitors?
  2. To what degree does your customer value proposition meet your customer buying criteria?
  3. In order to deliver your unique customer value proposition, what capabilities or competencies do you need to develop?
  4. How developed are these capabilities or competencies in your company already?

“In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.”
― Jack Welch

Market or Industry

The following questions relate to your organization’s relevant market or industry:

  1. What size is your market?
  2. How is your market or industry defined and divided?
  3. Are you losing, gaining, or holding market share?
  4. What are your opportunities for growth in either your core field or in adjacent fields?


The following questions address the unique values your company possesses:

  1. Is it possible to define the unique benefits that you try to provide to your target customers?
  2. What is the price or cost you expect your target customer to bear?
  3. Are you effectively communicating your value proposition to your target market?
  4. Can you clearly identify where your organization can be distinctively competent?


The following questions focus on your competitors:

  1. What does your competitive landscape look like?
  2. Is the competitive landscape concentrated or fragmented?
  3. Who exactly are your competitors?
  4. What share of the market do your competitors hold?
  5. What distinct or competitive advantages do your competitors possess?
  6. What economic models are being used by your competitors and do they have significant cost advantages?


The following questions relate to how your organization measures success:

  1. What key metrics should your company regularly monitor in order to determine whether you are on track and making progress toward achieving your goals?
  2. Are the metrics only financial, or has your company determined deeper causes and factors that will lead to success?
  3. What elements should you maximize in order to provide value for your customers, high returns for your shareholders, and benefits for your employees?
  4. Are your leaders held accountable for delivering targeted results?

The Future

The following questions concern the future of your company:

  1. What strategic goals do you have for the next time period (depending on your organization)?
  2. What outside threats or opportunities exist that could hinder or help in achieving those goals?
  3. What internal threats or opportunities exist that could hinder or help in achieving those goals?
  4. Which strategic objectives need to be attained in order to achieve those goals?
  5. Are there supporting tactics to be implemented in order to achieve those goals?
  6. How can you gain agreement and commitment from key shareholders to engage in this strategy?
  7. Do all members of your organization understand your overall goals?
  8. Do all members of your organization understand how his or her job contributes to achieving your goals?

Remember, these questions should be used just to stimulate your strategic planning. They can be edited, adapted, and expanded on to suit your particular needs.

Want more help with your business?

If you like the above tips, you are going to love working with Success Harbor.

See the many ways we can help your business on our “Hire us” page.

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photo credit: Sourdough 003