Credit unions and banks get caught up in the length of their strategic plan. Should it be 10 pages or 50 pages? Should it contain PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide of data? Should it be in a thick three ring binder or summarized on a 3×5 notecard?

According to Dick Cross, author of Just Run It, your strategic plan should fit into four categories on the back of an envelope. Cross says, “Each of the triangles formed by the folds represented one of four dimensions that describe all businesses.” The four key areas of your strategic plan are:

(1)    Customers

(2)    Needs

(3)    Positioning

(4)    Competencies

We could probably spend one blog each on the above the categories. However, for simplicity’s sake, let’s see what Cross says in his book about each of those areas and how we can apply them to our strategic plan.

“The most important thing about your customers today has a lot more to do with how they think versus where they live, their incomes, whether they own or rent their homes, how many children they have, their ages, and their ethnicities. Begin your ‘Back of the Envelope’ exercise by categorizing customers according to how they think.”

  • Credit union and bank strategic plan application:  Scrap all that customer and member data you’re bringing to your strategic planning session. Instead make a list of what is important to your target audience. Keep going until you get to what it is your financial institution offers. Stand in your members’ or customers’ shoes for awhile.

“What do your target customers need that is within your zone of influence? How can you satisfy them better than any of your competitors? And how can you differentiate yourself in their minds so compellingly that they will consider no other choice?”

  • Credit union and bank strategic plan application: Make two additional lists on a flipchart during your planning session. On one, list your target audience’s fears that you might be able to do something about. On the other, list the opportunities you have to make them feel better about themselves.

“How does your business need to be ‘seen’ by outsiders? How will it become ‘known?’”

  • Credit union and bank strategic plan application: Bring some of your marketing material to the strategic planning session or pull up your website during the session. Are the messages focused on facts, features and prices of your products and services? The best positioning statements today do not focus on your products and services but rather on who you are. How are you positioned in the marketplace?

“What skills does it actually take to deliver the goods, to do the things you’d like to promise?”

  • Credit union and bank strategic plan application:
    This is where the process can get hard and may even require you to start at the
    top again. In this phase, have an honest assessment about your people,
    technology, systems, products and pricing.

There is far more to Just Run It than Cross’ back of the envelope theory. He also offers a great deal of insight into the vision > strategy > execution model. If you are seeking to improve your strategic planning process, consider reading Just Run It.