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08/04/2011 Do you really want a strategy?

Most of the articles you read about strategy really talk about tactics. People who promote themselves as strategists end up talking mostly about tactics and platforms rather than strategy. It’s not surprising then that many business have a hard time working with or even desiring strategy.

  • A strategy describes what you’re going to focus on and how you’re going to act. 
  • A strategy plans a route for you to attain certain goals. It doesn’t always plan the meals and hotels along the way.
  • A strategy means choice. It means choosing to do certain things and choosing not to do others.
  • Because strategy is a direction, there’s lots of room for learning and iterating along the way.

Many of those descriptions make people nervous. Describing how to act involves change. Making choices means commitment and standing for something. Learning along the way might mean you uncover amazing opportunities and it might mean you accept that not everything you do, all the time, is correct.

When your social media strategy comes down to agreeing to create your social media channels and an editorial calendar, you haven’t created a strategy. You’ve created an executional plan, which is good. You have something concrete to show your boss, which could be good for your career. Who knows, it might even help your business, but don’t count on it.

For those contemplating hiring someone to help them with a strategy, consider these questions:

  • Are there areas in your market that you believe are untapped reservoirs of business? Either with new prospects or existing customers.
  • If you found out something new about peoples’ needs or how they used your product, could you actually use that information in new ways for your marketing or business?
  • Is there anyone focused on insights within your company?
  • Is it possible to change your standard operating procedures?
  • Are you willing to allow consumer behavior to drive your initiatives?

It’s easy to answer a quick yes to all of these but it’s harder to really mean it. I’ve seen companies in desperate need for strategy, including those faced with sinking revenues and even lawsuits. Even when they had actionable strategies, what they ended up focusing on was a new Web site design. It was much easier to understand.

Strategy, though, is a great tool to transform your business and to use as a lens with which to measure actions and success.

I think strategy is work. If you want to change or adapt who you are, you need to look deep and commit to an ongoing process. That’s when you can use a strategy.

If you’re more comfortable buying a new dress, rather than working on your personality traits, then forget the strategy and hire designers or an ad agency. It will make your life easier, but probably not more successful.

040726.lead_(BTW, I love Tom Fishburne's cartoons)


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