What are the most successful companies doing to get ahead?
Our strategy reporting software can help you reach your goals (here’s how), but you also need a solid strategy in place to get you moving in the right direction. Looking for some inspiration to apply at your own organization? We did some research on successful business strategies and examples of those in action. Below is a roundup of what we believe are four of the best business strategies and the well-known companies that use them. We’ll also offer some tips on how to use ClearPoint to support their execution.
If, after reading this, you have questions about our software, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We’d also encourage you to peruse our Learning Center for more articles on strategy planning and execution, and resources you can use to get started.
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A best-in-class example of this business strategy is Etsy. Etsy is an e-commerce company that focuses on selling handmade vintage items and craft supplies. In 2021, it connected roughly 7.5 million sellers with more than 96 million buyers, and was named one of the 100 fastest-growing companies in 2022.
Etsy’s mission is to “keep commerce human”:
“We continue to emphasize the role that humans play in every aspect of our business. What makes the Etsy marketplace special isn’t just the unique items in our marketplace; it’s also the stories of how those items were brought to life by the hands of real people. Our buyer experience allows Etsy buyers to work with Etsy sellers to personalize or customize items to their exact specifications. We believe that fostering and elevating the quality of these human connections will continue to enable us to drive buyer engagement, loyalty, and purchase frequency, thus differentiating Etsy.com from other places you can shop.”
Content marketing plays a huge role in accomplishing this mission. Etsy produces a steady flow of content that spotlights its user base and gives coverage to the broad variety of goods sold. It has also created a user forum on how to build traffic for Etsy shops, which serves not only to strengthen its community of sellers but also to remove the burden of developing some content from Etsy’s own ranks.
But beyond its blog and user forum, Etsy has also heavily invested in developing its on-site SEO. That’s because Etsy faces a unique challenge among companies: figuring out how to connect buyers and sellers when its products tend to fall outside the categories of traditional, mass-produced goods. Overcoming this challenge is central to the success of its platform, which relies on these connections to facilitate transactions—sellers need buyers to find them; at the same time, buyers need to find their desired items quickly and easily. To address this challenge, Etsy built its own customized search engine that uses machine learning to classify products. So far, that strategy appears to be working.
One common reason for failure to execute is a lack of alignment—departmental goals and projects don’t jive with organizational strategy, and everyone is trying to achieve something different. Without everyone working together, goals become more difficult to reach.
ClearPoint helps you approach your strategy in an organized fashion: You’ll know what you need to do to meet your goals and be able to measure how you’re progressing. It supports numerous strategic frameworks, including the Balanced Scorecard and OKRs.
The below example illustrates a Balanced Scorecard view in ClearPoint. You can clearly see your high-level organizational objectives; the initiatives (projects) you'll undertake to achieve them; and the measures by which you’ll assess progress. Each department then develops its own scorecard to support those goals and initiatives so that everyone is working in tandem. In a company like Etsy, for example, it could be that:
There’s no better example of a customer-centric company than Amazon. The best way to explain its strategy comes directly from its website:
“We're a company that obsesses over customers. Our actions, goals, projects, programmes and inventions begin and end with the customer at the forefront of our minds. In other words, we start with the customer and work backwards. When we hit on something that is really working for customers, we commit to it in the hope that it will turn into an even bigger success. However, it’s not always as straightforward as that. Inventing is messy, and over time, it’s certain that we’ll fail at some big bets too.”
The reason for Amazon’s obsession with the customer is simple: They believe that customers are always “beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied” and continually want something better whether they realize (and express) it or not. Their assumed dissatisfaction provides the motivation to innovate. It is expected that company leaders will relentlessly try to deeply understand their customers, imagine what they might want, and experiment in pursuit of customer delight. They’ll also inevitably fail and learn from their mistakes. This strategy of iterative innovation “creates magic for customers,” and led the company to claim the #6 spot in Forbes’ Global 2000 list and achieve net sales of $469.8 billion in 2021.
Fun fact: Amazon provides a continuous reminder of its company strategy by famously leaving an empty chair in each meeting to represent the customer—that way, their input will always be considered. Also, before teams begin developing any new product they are required to create a future press release that explains why the product is important to customers and what problem it solves for them.
Strategy reporting isn’t just about the numbers; it should also include qualitative data—ideas, opinions, and behaviors (qualities rather than quantities). If quantitative data shows you’re not meeting project deadlines, for instance, you can gather qualitative data from people involved in the process to understand the root cause. This type of data is useful for telling the story behind quantitative data. In short, it gives context to why the numbers are what they are. In this case, managers could be encouraged to include the customer “voice” as part of their qualitative assessment of performance.
Collecting both types of data is crucial for getting a full understanding of how your business is performing. ClearPoint allows for the gathering and processing of data in both forms. It has numerous integrations and features that make data collection faster and easier. It also uses automation to pull in data on a schedule and email people for quantitative and qualitative data updates.
Developing mutually beneficial partnerships is another type of growth strategy, one that Starbucks has used with great success. Barnes & Noble was one of its earliest strategic alliances; since then, Starbucks has created additional alliances with:
Starbucks actively seeks out strategic partners that share its values, culture, and goals around community development. The partnership helps both organizations to extend their reach and move into new markets. In a PwC Leadership article which analyzed Starbucks’ relationship strategy, the authors said their research has indicated that:
“...winning companies define and deploy relationships in a consistent, specific, multifaceted manner.... top-performing companies focus extraordinary, enterprise-wide energy on moving beyond a transactional mind-set as they develop trust-based, mutually beneficial, and long-term associations, specifically with four key constituencies: customers, suppliers, alliance partners, and their own employees. Starbucks, we believe, exemplifies this new model of the relationship-centric organization.”
Large organizations with numerous aspects to track—like the alliances formed by Starbucks, in this case—need a simple way to understand and “see” performance quickly. Combing through spreadsheets to determine whether or not KPIs are on target isn’t a good use of anyone’s time, nor does it show the big picture of your progress. Even smaller organizations benefit from being able to quickly and expertly evaluate whether goals are being met. In ClearPoint, users can see how things are going at a glance with the help of status indicators (red, amber, and green).
These statuses are assigned automatically in ClearPoint, removing any guesswork or subjectivity surrounding performance assessments. (It also saves you the time of doing it manually!) Status indicators also make strategy meetings more focused because they quickly summarize the most important information leaders need to know.
ClearPoint dashboards (shown below) also help bring the most important information to the forefront. Both tools help you spend less time determining your results and more time managing and analyzing performance.
Zappos (which was purchased by Amazon in 2009 but has continued to run autonomously) is known for being more than just a shoe retailer—it’s also a company culture icon admired by organizations everywhere.
Its core values were developed via an employee poll (which is unusual enough!) and include things like “Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded,” “Create fun and a little weirdness,” and “Be humble.” One of their interview questions is, “How lucky are you on a scale of one to ten?” They also offer new hires $2,000 to quit after the first week, a tactic that leaves them with a pool of employees who want to be there, and have thought long and hard about that decision.
Interestingly, Zappos sees a strong company culture as a pathway to bigger things—namely becoming a leader in bringing customers joy:
“For all our emphasis on customer service, our #1 priority is company culture. It’s what makes us successful. And in our culture, we celebrate and embrace our diversity and each person’s individuality. We believe that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff — like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand or business — will be a natural byproduct.”
Its employee-first strategy has given the company a major competitive advantage and helped it come closer to achieving its goal of excellent service—75% of its business comes from happy, repeat customers.
Whether company culture is your main focus or not, it’s imperative to find ways to energize people about work; that means making sure they’re aware of your organizational goals and feel like they’re doing their part to make them come to fruition.
Because ClearPoint is so simple to navigate and understand, users tend to find that teams are more likely to engage with it on a regular basis. It’s not a chore for people to log in and see how things are going—unlike trying to access a complicated database or Excel worksheets. Being able to access performance data easily anytime gives teams a better understanding of their contribution, and motivates them to improve.
“[Managers] can actually take charge of what they’re doing because they can easily pull up the relevant data, and the insights are presented clearly and concisely. Managers now have a better overall picture of performance, and a better way to manage their departments.”
—Jennifer DeChellis, San Juan Regional Medical Center (a ClearPoint customer)
One company’s best business strategy isn’t always another’s. But whatever your current growth strategy, the key is to approach it in an organized fashion. Strategic planning frameworks have all the elements you need to develop a thoughtful strategy, and ClearPoint provides the discipline to help you stick with it over the long term. Adopting both of these tools significantly boosts your chances of success.
To get a jump-start on developing or improving your own strategy, first download our collection of strategic planning templates. It includes templates for eight of the most popular strategic planning approaches so you don’t have to start from scratch. Then, book a demo for ClearPoint. We’ll show you all the ways it specifically supports strategy planning and execution—and why it’s different from other reporting software—so you can finally say, “We did it!”