How realistic strategic planning can help SMBs support annual performance goals - ClickZ

30-second summary:

  • Keap is an email marketing and sales platform for SMBs with CRM tools that include: SMS text management, appointment scheduling, and invoice/payment automation.
  • Keap’s sales-focused tools include pipeline management and marketing automation features.
  • The strategic planning eBook is informed by Keap’s internal and very successful strategic planning process which has helped grow the company over 10 years into a $100 million enterprise.
  • Keap’s planning process involves five steps: identify your business’s purpose, analyze results, understand how strategy guides planning, establish a meeting rhythm, and involve and motivate your employees.
  • Keap’s 2020 Strategic Planning Guide is available as a free download from ClickZ for a limited time.

Headquartered in Chandler, Arizona, Keap is an automated email marketing and sales platform for small businesses. The platform provides tools focused on CRM such as SMS text management, appointment scheduling, and invoice/payment automation. Their platform also includes sales-focused tools including pipeline management and marketing automation features. Keap currently supports over 200,000 users and has recently experienced tremendous growth which is a credit to their strategic planning process.

Neil Patel, a New York Times bestselling author and  Digital Marketing Strategist, is a Keap Pro user and a proponent of the platform. He referred to Keap as “The one tool to power up your website”, and in a 2019 article wrote,” “the flexibility you’ll gain by using Keap will help you make more money.” Keap’s all-in-one platform includes everything you need to grow your business.

They channeled their knowledge of strategic planning into a new eBook. The 2020 Strategic Planning Guide aims to help SMBs create their own successful strategic plan.

Keap Strategic Planning Guide

Content produced in collaboration with Keap.

Guidelines for strategic planning (Read more...)

Keap’s strategic planning process for SMBs includes three key elements—a detailed walkthrough of the planning process, a roadmap for the planning process, and a worksheet of tactical next steps to facilitate your plan.

Per Keap, “In this strategic planning kit, we’re going to look at the strategic planning process Keap employed to grow the company over 10 years into a $100 million enterprise. By following these guidelines, your business can do more than just survive—you can thrive.”

In this post, we’ll summarize some key points from Keap’s 17-page guide which is available for download from ClickZ. The eBook breaks down the planning process into five steps which we’ve elaborated on below.

Step one: Identify the purpose of your business

It’s important to clarify the vision for your business. This is a process that should involve everyone in your company. Keap lists three elements that a business vision should have, per Jim Collins’ book, Business Entrepreneurship. These are:  purpose, values, and mission.

Keap writes, “Every employee at Keap knows our company vision from the start. We also reference our purpose in conversations, meetings, email exchanges, and more, so it shapes our work each day.”

Step two: Analyze results for continuous improvement

Keap uses a process they call SWOT+ when looping employees into the planning process. As most businesses know, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The + is a reference to their inclusive, collaborative approach to planning.

A SWOT+ approach ensures:


  • Everyone’s voice is heard—This is a celebration of successes, a chance to learn from mistakes, and an opportunity to move forward as a team.
  • Perspective—A company facilitator ensures that, although everyone’s POV is heard, planning is viewed from the company’s perspective.
  • Participation—During the planning process, everyone’s input is important, and thus everyone should be encouraged to speak up and participate.

The eBook contains a detailed outline of Keap’s full SWOT+ process, a four-step approach that begins with listing accomplishments and ends with addressing strategic issues to tackle in the coming year.

Step three: Understand how strategy guides planning

Keap emphasizes the importance of understanding all the resources available within your business when formulating a strategic plan. The starting point for this process involves performing an inventory of assets that focuses on 3 to 5 core assets of your company.

Keap writes, “While it’s true that resources can be scarce for many small businesses, annual planning is really about making the best use of all your resources so that nothing is forgotten or ignored. This kind of strategy will help put you ahead of your competitors.”

The strategy planning approach will help your company connect its overall vision to its daily operations. The process itself can be summarized in the following outline (each element is elaborated on in the eBook):

  • Mission
  • Strengths to leverage
  • Strengths to develop
  • Annual priorities
  • Quarterly priorities or tactical operating priorities
  • SMART objectives (SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound)

Step four: Establish a meeting rhythm for success

Once strategic planning is complete, the focus should be on achieving your plan’s vision. Keap recommends scheduling “a steady rhythm of productive meetings” to assess and learn from both your successes and failures.

Since all businesses are different, there is no specific meeting schedule that everyone needs to follow, but consistency is key. Identify the meeting rhythm that works best for your business, then stick to it. Meetings should be structured so that there are clear deliverables and priorities established regardless of how frequently you meet.

Keap recommends devoting at least two full days each year to create your annual priorities, one full day per quarter for Quarterly TOP and a half day each month to assess SMART objectives.

“Work with your team to identify a cadence of ongoing meetings that will support your defined goals and objectives. The sooner you get your business into a consistent planning and execution rhythm, the sooner you’ll be able to delegate more responsibility to your team,” writes Keap.

Step five: Involve and motivate your employees

The final step in your strategic planning process focuses on employee involvement. Involving your team ensures that your strategic plan is relevant to the day-to-day activities of all team members.

Per Keap, “Daily relevance is also a key for employees who aren’t in leadership roles. They need to be aware of how their job affects the mission of your business. Each person matters. People need to know why and how their daily activities support the mission.”

Keap employees a methodology they call “Big 3”—a reference to the three primary responsibilities associated with each employee’s role. The Big 3 can be a moving target for some employees, changing quarterly. For others, the Big 3 may remain the same for a year or longer.

The value of establishing and monitoring the Big 3 for each employee is that it helps employees understand how their performance impacts the company, instilling confidence and ensuring that each employee understands their role in the company’s overall mission.

Keap’s 2020 Strategic Planning Guide provides a more comprehensive overview of their strategic planning approach and includes a detailed worksheet to help SMBs establish meeting schedules, tackle issues and set milestones for success.

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