What is strategy? Actually, ask three marketers and you’ll find three completely different and often contradictory answers.
One marketer might say strategy is the tools – SWOT analysis, customer and competitor analysis, financial modeling and the like. Another might chalk strategy up to the big picture stuff – where we are going and why. And a third might say strategy happens when marketers change directions.
The only consistency among these vastly different takes on strategy – most marketers make strategy a lot harder than it needs to be.
Ironically, these three different marketers with three drastically different concepts on strategy would work great together – as strategy is more or less about all of these things. The problem is that many marketers focus on one strategy or the other. The right approach is doing a bit of work on all of them.
The best way to answer the question, “What is strategy?” is with another question – actually, a series of questions. Progressing logically from one question to the next, the following five questions take the guesswork out of building an effective and efficient strategy.
Five Questions to Build a Strategy
1. Every organization has aspirations and goals. The key to starting a strategy on the right foot is defining them. The first question to ask is, “What are our overarching aspirations and tangible goals?” Logically, the answer to this question paves the road for the next one.
2. Aspirations and goals defined, the next question to ask is, “Which markets will we go after (and which markets will we bypass)?” There are plenty of places to play ball – but you need to find your own home-court advantage.
3. Of course, you’re not the only one playing ball. So, the next question in the sequence is, “What’s our plan for beating the competition?” There’s more than one way to win – and it’s up to you to find the method to promote the greatest chances of success.
4. All great plans depend on the skills to execute them. The next question on the list is, “What skills do we need to carry out our plan?” The answer to this question will help you build and maintain a winning strategy. However, great skills are not always linear. They often need some fine-tuning.
5. All great ballplayers rely on a manager to keep their skills sharp. As a marketer, you too need to think like a manager. The last question when building a strategy is, “How can we keep our skills a step ahead of the competition?” An effective management system ensures you always stay on top of your game.
The Importance of Logical Sequence
The real power of these five questions is in their consistency and reinforcement. Failure to answer them in a logical and congruent sequence risks compromising the entire purpose of the questions.
For example, you could know which markets to go after and with what plan, but without defining your aspirations and goals, how will you ever know if your strategy is where it needs to be?
Fortunately, following a logical sequence is a lot easier than you might think. With a little direction, you can make the absolute most of these five strategic questions.
Putting it All Together
The logical sequence is best explained with a trickledown effect. Start with your aspiration and goals and move on to which markets to go after. Next, go back to aspirations and goals and make sure they’re still in line with the markets you want to go after. Then, develop a plan to win and again, revert back to the previous two questions to ensure logic, consistency and congruence.
Does the plan accommodate your goals, aspirations and preferred markets? If not, it’s time to adjust. If it does, you can move on to the skills needed to win.
Simply follow this process until all five questions form a complete, comprehensive and congruent strategy.
It might be new but with enough practice, you will find this method of building a strategy is not only extremely effective, but also saves headaches and wasted time. Now, go out there and win!