15 Elements of a Brilliant Business Strategy
September 1, 2020

15 Elements of a Brilliant Business Strategy

by Brian de Haaff

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” This is a quote from business strategist Michael Porter. His name might be familiar to you — he created Porter's Five Forces framework in 1979. More than 40 years later, those words remain applicable to anyone taking on a major work effort. Strategy helps you prioritize the work and investments necessary to generate meaningful results and weed out the rest.

Strategy is a vital component of any type of plan, but it can also be incredibly difficult to do well.

It is difficult because it forces you to consider long-term outcomes and every possible consequence of taking a certain direction. You have to question everything and have hard conversations about what is most important. Even if you want to put in the time to do this deep thinking, the demands of your day-to-day job often get in the way.

Strategic thinking is gritty work — it requires both the knowledge of how to do it and the tenacity to get it right.

With any big concept, I find it helpful to break it down into discrete steps. So I thought I would do the same here. It is important to note that few efforts will require you to start entirely from scratch. For something like a product launch, you can refer to what has already been documented at the product or business level before getting started.

Here are the 15 elements of a brilliant strategy organized into three key phases:


Strategy is ultimately a plan for how you will get to where you want to go. But before you can chart a path forward, you need to establish a starting point. It is no different than locating where you are on a map and where you want to go before following any directions. What customer needs are going unmet? What strengths could help you stand apart? Collect all the information you can, such as:


Now you need to assess your findings. Look for factors that will affect your trajectory, such as opportunities or obstacles. These will help you set achievable objectives and create a realistic plan moving forward. Use your findings to formulate the elements below:

  • Business case

  • Growth opportunity

  • Investment required

  • Positioning

  • Pricing


Based on your assessments, define exactly what you want to achieve and how you will get there. These imperatives will serve as the foundation for your plan moving forward. This is your guide for decisions around timing, investments, and the prioritization of work. Think of these elements as your landmarks for tracking progress and defining your plan:

  • Vision

  • Goals

  • Initiatives

  • Key messages

  • Go-to-market

Strategic planning is a culmination of research, analysis, and a definition of exactly what you want to achieve — so you can get busy with how you will do it.

Deep thinking upfront is fundamental to success, especially before you get into implementation. But strategy is not something that you define once and cast aside to age and wither. You may need to revisit your findings periodically to ensure they are still accurate. This is the critical last step — making your strategy dynamic and evolving, bringing it into everything you do.

How do you take your strategy from good to brilliant?

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Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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