When companies approach our firm and ask us to help them grow their businesses, we ask them what is your strategic planning process? As we have analyzed their organizations we found that learning and embracing strategic market planning was a key to strong growth that starts with asking a totally different set of questions.

The following are three primary questions that need to be asked and answered to drive business growth.

“What is your key differentiator that sets you apart from your competition?” This question typically causes great anxiety among the leaders of the company because for years they have been living without a true market advantage. They have simply relied on what was popular and followed their industry’s perceived needs and interests. So they wind up sounding and looking like their competition, or they make claims and promises that they are unable to fulfill which further damages their reputation and client-community engagement.

“What is your business model that drives your company into profitable growth?” If you ask this question to the financial people often they will provide overall financial P/L information but rarely is it linked back to a specific strategy. They simply cannot answer this question because they have not thought through their product to sales to profit strategy linking both their sales and financial results.

“Have you established specific metrics to drive your company’s growth?” The positive impact of this question is it forces the full team to determine what the definition of success is and the steps that are required to get there. Most company executives know where they would like to go, but they are not clear about how to get there. The saying, “Can’t see the forest through the trees” is often in play. This is because they enjoy studying two or three of their favorite trees with such intensity they forget about the full context of the forest-market.

As a strategic market advisor, you aren’t necessarily trying to provide all of the answers. Rather, we use a strategic process to end up with a winning strategic market strategy that the company can leverage to drive both short- and long-term growth. It is difficult for some executives to accept that strategic growth requires discovering new ways of seeing and marketing things. You need to be open to totally different ideas than what you are accustomed to using.

These types of questions and others like it such as “What is your top value to your customers?” – “What is the best way to drive shareholder value?” – “What did you learn last month that we could apply to this month?” – are all the best type of searching questions a company can ask of themselves. Knowing the right questions to ask can develop a favorable environment for both management and employees to work together toward developing a new set of objectives and strategies that will drive business growth.