Strategy is part of the plan, part three of a typical marketing plan. The first two sections are Background and Objective. Only when they are both in place can you start developing a Strategy. The giant barrier to developing strategy is that there is part four, Tactics. People confuse Strategy and Tactics; their subconscious does it to them because Tactic is easy
For 10 years I have had the pleasure of teaching a major direct marketing course at New York University. Every year one of the three hardest things to do on the whole is the concept of Strategy.
Also, many of our clients never grasp the concept. One of them, which will remain nameless – my lips sealed – creates a strange hybrid they call “Strategic Purpose”.
Strategy is a big deal.
Strategy is part of the plan, part three of a typical marketing plan. The first two sections are Background and Objective. Only when they are both in place can you start developing a Strategy.
The giant barrier to developing strategy is that there is part four, Tactics. People confuse Strategy and Tactics; their subconscious does it to them because Tactics are easy. Due to difficult strategy, most people run into tactical and subtactical issues like budget, creative, colors, fonts, slogans.
Look for “Strategy” at Merriam-Webster.
If you look up strategy in the dictionary, you will find something like this: the science or art of planning and carrying out war or military campaigns; a carefully designed plan of action to achieve a goal, or the art of developing or executing such a plan.
At NYU we started with a simpler approach: Generals strategizing; everyone’s doing tactics, based on the General’s strategy. And there’s a trickledown effect: your boss’s strategy becomes your goal and so on the bottom line. In an organization, the whole strategy and tactics are like a pyramid scheme. Strategy started at the top among some experts (in theory). The people who run the strategies develop their own mini strategies.
It starts with understanding the goal. What, exactly, do we want to achieve? Exactly means numbers, dollars, timelines:
“Sold 250,000 widgets for an average price of $ 29.99 in 2012.”
“Recover 25% (500) customers who are defective (2,000) by Q3, 2012.”
“Increase the average order size by 10% in Q2, 2012.”
“Move 50% of business to our website by the end of 2013.”
The goals must be realistic. If you only sold 2,500 widgets last year on a $ 50,000 marketing budget, you wouldn’t sell 250,000 in 2012 without a serious budget increase.
You can have dozens of goals – it makes people happy – but there’s always only one real goal and one suitable strategic statement.
At NYU we use the Trojan Horse example. To make a long story short, horses are tactics. The goal is to capture the city of Troy. The strategy is to get someone inside to open the city gates without the Trojans knowing about it. The Greeks undoubtedly considered a dozen or more tactics and finally settled on the horse. After that, all the tactics fell into place.
In other words, strategy is the legendary Big Idea. And that’s usually an obvious idea – once someone says it.
In marketing, especially direct marketing, there are many sub-strategies: testing, target audience, creative, lists, bidding, databasing, upsells, etc.
When we ran ford from Canada’s first direct marketing program, we spent a lot of time gathering information (Background) and we developed Goals based on sales of mid-range vehicles. So what?
We quickly realized we had to build a database of car owners (provincial registrations were – and still are – not available in Canada). And that’s our strategy: Build a proprietary database then pet it. The next program sells lots of cars, generating bottom line revenue the company won’t get 14 times the marketing costs. It won multiple RSVP Gold Awards from the Canadian Marketing Association.
We have no hope without a core strategy, which becomes clear once we come up with it.
What is your strategy for 2012?