We Need A Strategy

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If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “we need a strategy” — whether it was a marketing, Web, database marketing, analytics, advertising, IT, or you-name-it strategy — I’d be rich. If I had to pay a nickel for every time the ensuing strategy-development effort failed to materialize or pay off, I’d be in debt for the rest of my life.

The problem lies in the different interpretations of the term strategy. Thesaurus.com defines strategy as “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.” But when used in practice, we often use the term to mean “a solution to a problem”.

What’s important, here, is recognizing what’s causing the problem in the first place: Misalignment. Misalignment between the lines of business, and between functions like marketing, analytics, advertising, and so on.

You need a strategy, all right — at the business level. But at the LOB and functional level, what you need is a plan that aligns with the strategy. “Well, that’s what we’re trying to do”, you say.

But the reason you’re not succeeding at effecting any change — or remediating the problem — is that your “plan” or “strategy” isn’t calling out the elephant on the table. That is, the specific points of misalignment as they relate to budget allocation, project priorities, IT interdependencies, skill gaps, and (often one of the biggest contributors) incentives and compensation.

Marketing’s strategy has to start with a expose of where the alleged business strategy falls short. An online channel strategy that espouses cross-selling a firm’s products isn’t going to succeed if the product “owners” (product managers, LOB execs, etc.) aren’t willing to bundle their product or concede margins by giving some customers discounts.

Exposing the weaknesses in corporate strategy is a dark and nasty job — but Marketing has to figure out how to do it in a tactful way.

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