Strategic Sandbox – Set Yours up for Success in 2024

December 29, 2021

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What an interesting and turbulent year it has been for business. For some, they have been able to identify new, more profitable niches that have carried them through. Some had to take a sharp left or right handbrake turn into new areas they never even knew existed, and others unfortunately, had to close their doors as there was no room for what they currently offered.

What this year has taught us is that it’s imperative every company has a well-thought-out and aligned strategic business, branding, and marketing plan. And, I’m not talking about a 50-page document that sits on a shelf never to be used again, (yes you need to do the research and have this to begin with), however, I’m talking about a one-pager that gets reviewed quarterly, perhaps even monthly or daily at certain times, when needed.

It’s time to be clear on your Strategic Sandbox

Let’s keep this really simple. Think of a bunch of little kids bustling out of their kindergarten so excited to get out to the playground, the sandbox, and play. It’s their first day, they don’t know anyone, there is no judgment, there is no plan in play.

children playing

If you watch, you will see very quickly the kids who pair up immediately (the alliances) and off they go, the kids who combine individuals into groups (collaborators), those who quietly hang back lacking some confidence, those who take control, (the leaders) others are drawn to because they are more fun or more creative. The quiet ones might separate and remain alone and others may feel they don’t really belong in the sandbox at all.

After a while, everyone and everything settles down but then a new kid walks onto the playground and he says “I don’t like that sandbox, I’m going to build myself a new one over here that looks like this!! (the disruptor). It’s time to get uncomfortable because things are about to change. Are you thinking of how and where you might sit in your competitive business world right now?

Put your plan in place

With that analogy in mind let’s get to thinking about your strategic branding and marketing plan. Here are the questions you want to ask yourself:

1. Why are we looking for a sandbox to play in, in the first place?

This covers your why, your vision, your mission, and your business objectives.

emerging from a tunnel towards the sun

2. What does the sandbox we select look like, that we will play in?

This talks about the current and potential future landscape of your industry, and your environment. Who else is there (your competition), where will you fit in, will you fit in or do you need to adjust something to fit or carve a new niche and how well will that fit? This all relates to your brand positioning and market niches.

3. What’s the end goal of playing there?

As Franklin Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind”. You must know the numbers, the expected timelines, set strong, measurable KPIs, the milestones for success, and most importantly, the exit strategy. I find a quarterly review with priorities set for success, is helpful.

boy playing football on the beach

4. When will we enter the sandbox?

It’s so important to align your business objectives and timelines with business, branding, and marketing strategies and then track and measure progress to ensure you are on track to achieve your goals. Did you want to gain market share, did you want to increase your sales to current clients, or perhaps you want to shift your market altogether, this all affects your branding and marketing objectives and strategy.

5. With whom will we play?

This looks at both your competitors for alliances, your collaborators (or referral partners) as well your customer’s demographics and psychographics.

two happy children

6. Why will others play with us?

Investigate your points of differentiation and the outcomes you deliver both to alliances and to customers.

7. With what tools will we play?

What resources do you have on hand that will give you an advantage? It may be IT systems, your CRM or ERP, your processes, your staff, or other resources.

a toy truck full of sand

8. How will we play?

This covers your promises, your values, and the standards you promise to uphold. How you will conduct yourself as a brand, as a company, and as a team.

9. What friends will we play with and what roles will they play?

This is all about your team, your Management, your staff members, their positions, skills, expertise, and points of difference.

10. What will keep everyone playing and happy in the sandbox?

It’s important to understand staff motivation, future development, succession planning, etc.

two children playing together

Remember a strategic business, branding, and marketing plan is not static, it is very forever being adjusted (only if need be). Track, measure, adapt, and tweak and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals.

Feeling a little stuck? Don’t hesitate to reach out for a conversation, it’s always easier as an onlooker to identify opportunities. When we are in it day in and day out, sometimes we miss the great stuff.

About the author

Running businesses for 14 years, Michelle learnt early on the 3 most important lessons in business.
1. You have to know your numbers,
2. You have to have a strong 
brand and following and
3. You cannot be a success if you are a secret!
Notwithstanding you provide excellent customer service and products, of course. She believes a good plan and strong relationships will make any business

Michelle O'Hara

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