I had a great discussion yesterday with a new client that got me thinking about strategy - why it's important and why it's been at times maligned or misunderstood.
I'll be the first to say that I've seen marketing strategy be an endless process of research and "thinking about" work rather than getting the show on the road, and in that context it gets a (well-deserved) bad rap. But the reality is that, done correctly, strategy is a vital foundation to everything we do afterward.
Dr. Steven Covey suggested that we "Begin with the end in mind." To me, that's the most succinct, best way to sum up good strategy. Before we start winding our way through the trees, let's make sure we're in the right forest.
Some things I look for in a good strategy:
A well-defined end goal.
This could be a revenue target, a growth target, a number of unique viewers to a website, etc. Most importantly, it needs to be something on which all stakeholders agree. Nothing kills a project like fundamental disagreements on purposes.
Can the goals we've defined be mapped onto a grid and numbers kept to see if we're achieving them? If not, we need to define at least some that can be measured this way. Otherwise, we don't know if we're succeeding, and this creates fatigue and distraction. We all like to feel that we're "getting somewhere" with our energies.
Good agreement on when things will be completed is as important as agreement to complete them. Better to set a later target and meet it than to set one that's unrealistic and miss it.
I think it's really vital to take the time to clarify all details of our strategy and goals. Whether due to misunderstood terminology, new technologies that are unfamiliar, or just the complexity of the online marketing process, I find that it takes a great deal of time and communication to ensure that my clients and partners truly understand where we're going and why. I see many marketers omit this point, or worse, make their activity "mysterious" in order to justify their fees. We owe it to our clients and our peers to make our processes transparent and understandable, and to make education and training a vital cornerstone of the services we provide. In my experience this is what builds long-lasting relationships and gets the best results.
These are just a few point to get the ball rolling – it would be great to hear your input on what is most important to you in a marketing strategy - please share your comments here!