I read an interesting discussion yesterday about the role of strategy within marketing. The discussion centred around a slide deck created by Episerver, posted to a local copywriter’s Facebook wall. The slide deck, included within the post below, essentially talks about the need for marketers to be more agile, and to stop going after ‘best practice’, ‘one size fits all’, marketing approaches.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the premise, I have some issues with the final conclusion that many of my contemporaries have reached, which appears to be that tactics are more important than strategy.
From reading through the comments on the original post there seems to be two major misconceptions in the arguments so far, one that you measure the value of a strategy by it’s weight, and therefore its size, and two that a strategy in some way restricts your ability to react to the fast paced environment we all work in.
It has always been my view that a strategy provides the backbone that allows us to react in the moment, the tactical implementation of that strategy is what moves and changes with the tide. This is only one small part of what we understand as marketing, and leaves aside the consideration of the specific challenges the business faces, and the ‘strategy’ to be used to overcome them over time. It is not so much the final document that holds the value to the organization, but the process followed in reaching its conclusions… a detailed consideration of the market, the environment, the aims and objectives, the organization, its assets and much more.
While I admit it is attractive to summarise a strategy on one page of A4, perhaps even as an infographic, I do not believe one page of A4 would be enough to provide the clarity and understanding of an organisation’s strategy so that it may be understood and implemented by the many people responsible for its delivery. Nor do I believe that many clients would be happy to follow my suggestions without some degree of workings to show how I reached such a conclusion.
It is a sad state of affairs in modern marketing that so many people have come to see communications as the start and end of marketing. In reality, the consideration of the wider picture is what enables us to add real value to our clients, we spend their money where it provides the greatest return, and we can only do that by understanding truly where the problems lie, and where advantage can be gained.
Too often I have sat in boardrooms and offices to find businesses wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on ineffective, badly planned marketing activity that was sold on the basis of the current trend. And while people continue to think that speed is a better option than thought I don’t see that changing any time soon. Which is great for strategists like us who pick up the pieces, not so good for the clients who have spent their budgets, their energy and their time on wasted promotion.