We read a couple of articles this week where the authors highlighted their ‘definition’ of strategy. Their approaches were very distinct; on the other hand, both of them were spot on and easy to read.
The first article is Five Questions That Make Strategy Real, it asked five simple questions [obviously!] – first and foremost, there was this quote: ‘In real life, strategy is very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.’
The second article was The 10 Most Abused Words Used by Marketers and listed on number 10 was ‘strategy’ – all of the usual marketing buzzwords were mentioned there and we did expect to distinguish the ‘strategy’ word. It does come with instructions – these words are fine to use yet we are warned to use them properly.
Do we use it excessively? Maybe yes; but it’s important that we know what it is. Most marketing plans or investments fail because CEOs forget, or just don’t understand, what marketing strategy is. They usually think their marketing tactics are their marketing – We are not sure if they think that is strategy, or if they just don’t know what marketing strategy is.
In addition, we will give you an example. When we ask our business owners/leaders the question ‘What is marketing in your business?’ we get a puzzled look and sometimes contemplative look, to begin with, then they put pen to paper. The lists are usually similar – websites, eNews, social media, PR, etc. – which are great marketing ‘tactics’, yet they are not marketing strategies.
Therefore, what is a marketing strategy? Coming after the form, there are 9 strategic areas of marketing, and therefore 9 questions you should know the answer to in your business to even think your marketing is heading in a strategic direction.
If you’re unsure of the answers to these questions, then you are still being tactical with your marketing planning and investment. Looking back to Jack & Suzy Welch’s article, it doesn’t need to be too difficult. Take the quote we mentioned earlier. ‘In real life, strategy is very straightforward. You choose a general direction and implement like hell.’ In a marketing context, ‘general direction’ equals strategy, and ‘implement like hell’ equals tactics.
Most Asked Business Strategy Questions
Growthology has taken each of these 9 questions and given a ‘best practice’ answer. What do we mean by that? If you are going to give your business a perfect 10 score, giving a big tick in the box, then this is what it needs to look like:
Q1: Are all of your business’ stakeholders clearly understand its market position?
A: Your business should be able to define [and list] its stakeholders. Then, ask yourself ‘Do they really understand what our vision is?’ [BTW, the position is more than vision, yet in this short article you’ll understand what we mean.]
Q2: Do you have the right level of marketing functionality in your business for future development?
A: If you have enthusiastic growth plans, your marketing team cannot be last week’s receptionists.
Q3: Have you identified the most effective channels that deliver clients to your business?
A: Your channels to market can be both third-party and ‘traditional’ marketing channels – they all require to be analysed and measured for the outcomes they deliver.
Q4: Do you understand why your clients are currently buying from you?
A: You should understand your customers’ behaviour, talking to them through stakeholder engagement surveys at least once a year. This means talking to them outside of the usual course of business.
Q5: Do you have a precise and consistent language pattern?
A: Your brand strategy and guidelines must help your communications to key stakeholders, being aligned and consistent.
Q6: Does your business have a precise sales strategy?
A: Your business must have a sales strategy that is connected and aligned to your marketing strategy – if they are working independently, they are not working!
Q7: Does your business often review what products and services it offers to the marketplace?
A: [This could be part of the stakeholder engagement survey – see Q4.] Your business should often review what it offers to the market, asking what else they would buy from you.
Q8: Does your company know how to open new markets?
A: Most businesses we meet have a knee-jerk response to opening new markets; your company needs to have the capacity to open new marketing with a strategy, not an ‘if we throw enough at it’ approach.
Q9: Do you know how many products and services your customers buy from you?
A: Your business must have this data and also asks the question ‘what else that we offer could they be buying from us?’ As everyone knows, it’s better to sell to existing customers than generate new ones.