Chemistry session? Yes please. Off-site strategy day? I’ll get the team together. Brainstorm and ideas planning session? We need one of those.
It’s becoming a more regular feature of brands and agencies alike to spend several hours in a room with a Jenga tower of Post-It notes, more coloured pens than we had access to since being at primary school and, of course, the obligatory flip chart, in order to capture and build on new ideas to steal a march from competitors.
At Crafted, we’re advocates of dedicating serious time with clients to brainstorms, discovery days and strategic planning meetings in order to enhance marketing activity…with the caveat that the outcomes must be clear and actionable.
It seems to me that lots of people are ‘talking’ about strategy, but I wonder how often it gets confused with ‘doing’ tactics.
Kings, Queens and things that are dead
As Marketers, we can all be guilty of becoming pre-occupied, keeping up with the latest trend, and the day to day satisfaction we gain by ticking off items on our never ending ‘to do’ lists. So it’s no wonder we end up focusing on tactics (especially channel tactics) rather than the bigger picture – marketing strategy.
Several years ago, I distinctly remember attending a series of conferences on digital marketing in order that my brand could ‘stay ahead of the curve’. The titles of these talks went something like this (in date order to present day):
- SEO (or more specifically) link building is dead; content is king
A time when, according to Seth Godin, “Content marketing is the only marketing left”.
- Content is king but distribution is queen
It’s what you do with your content that counts and paid for content that natively mimics editorial is the piece de resistance.
- Content curation 101
We entered the era of content that a brand didn’t own and the ‘Paid, Owned, Earned’ model was born.
- Big data rules
Not just data; but big data…and getting it from everywhere, then combining it, analysing it and looking at it again and again, over time to continue to draw insights from it (they’ll hopefully be ‘big’ too).
- Context is everything
Less is more and, as one of our Senior Search Strategists puts it, ‘if Google didn’t exist, would your site still be there tomorrow’?
As brands digital team’s leap onto the latest ‘little black dress’ of digital marketing, each jump takes us further away from the bigger picture – the strategy stuff.
The connected consumer, not the digital consumer
So is it time to hit ‘Ctrl Shift F5’ on our marketing planning?
Marketing budgets frequently hold a separate line for ‘digital’, often for the purposes of tracking that specific spend so that it can prove it’s worth (being so much more easily trackable is also it’s Achilles heel). Digital strategy can also often be looked at separately from ‘marketing strategy’ which tends to encompass all other forms of traditional advertising such as broadcast, outdoor or (dare I say it) print!
Google estimates that, on average, consumers use 10 different sources during their research stage. By looking at the customer first: preferences, buying patterns, media exposure and so on – marketing (of whatever kind) can then serve to expose that customer to products and services that fit their needs via a mix of communication methods they find attractive and credible.
So, this might just be the perfect time to stop thinking about channel silos and instead start thinking of the customer journey.
Let us not forget about consumer insight
Market research has long been a staple of traditional marketing, and so it should be with modern marketing too. The number and diversity of tools has simply increased to include everything from Hitwise and Google consumer Surveys to YouGov Profiles and heat mapping tools.
This is where ‘big data’ comes into play. Using online and customer data could just help find that golden egg of consumer insight that informs the strategic vision.
At Crafted this involves a great deal of analysis of multiple data sources on behalf of some of our largest global clients to turn it into actionable insights. We extract trends that allow us to build a comprehensive profile of a given market to support our clients’ marketing and business objectives and highlight opportunities and test initiatives to drive ROI.
To cut through the jargon here, this means that we use all the data at our disposal to build personas and then use the right channel mix to reach them.
Attribution is important too
At a micro level, this could include building a picture for our clients to understand what activity is working and what’s not; and how things like content and landing pages might support the overall aims of the business.
The same approach can be applied at a macro level, assessing spend and ROI across multiple channels, against the objectives, that drive the tactics, to deliver the strategy. So we’d look at how the TV campaign performed alongside the Twitter conversations we had and the Facebook advertising spend to drive traffic to a website for example.
Time to regroup
Let’s recap and look at this practically with a real life example:
- A blogger outreach programme – that’s a tactic (not a strategy)
- Gain market share – that’s an objective (not a strategy)
- Increase brand advocacy – that’s a goal (not a strategy)
A brand’s objectives and goals are the bedrock for these. And in this example, a strategy would be to ‘build brand’.
On a most basic level: strategy is big, tactics are small. Strategy is long term; tactics are short term. Strategy is a vision, tactics is the doing.
Strategy tends to be consistent and fairly timeless (in healthy organisations), whereas tactics are reassessed, evaluated and changed much more regularly; as consumer behaviour and technology innovations come into play.
So what now?
Strategy is about lifting ourselves out of the everyday “thinking” and “doing”, resting on amber and taking a step back to look at things from the perspective of someone far far away from it all.
Strategy is simple, but often not easy.
My advice? Just go for a coffee with someone who’s curious enough to ask enough of the right questions to get you thinking. If that’s you…give me a call. Mine’s a flat white.