When we start talking about marketing and strategy, people start to look worried. It’s unsurprising, because the terminology used to describe strategy comes from warfare, going back to at least the 1800s, so it’s unfamiliar to us today.
It’s still worth bearing in mind, though, as many people get confused between a strategy and plan, especially when it comes to marketing.
In this series, The Practical, Unscary Guide to Marketing Strategy, we’ll cover everything from developing a marketing strategy to choosing your marketing tactics. First, it’s time to uncover the difference between a strategy and a plan as well as why you need a marketing strategy.
When is it a Strategy and When is it a Plan?
The first question is – when is a strategy not a strategy? It’s when you have a plan. I come across this all the time with clients, who have put a lot of work in and really care about their business, but have created for themselves a to-do list or tick list – a set of marketing actions that they need to carry out at some stage.
This is not a strategy! A strategy takes several steps back, to look at the bigger picture and also looks to the horizon to see what’s coming next. These could provide your business with an opportunity, or it may present a threat. A strategy takes you into the unknown and on a journey of discovery to open up infinite possibilities.
Often, the place clients think is the start is much further down the line, because there are other things they haven’t considered. A strategy is a great way to make change happen. To go back to the war analogy, a plan was designed to help you win a battle in the next few days, and in terms of your business it may take you through the next six months.
A strategy helps you to win the war, so it focuses on the next three to five years, allowing you to think far ahead and make some decisions about where you want to take your business.
Smart Businesses Have a Strategy
The smallest business I ever created a strategy for was a sole trader operating a catering company. The owner had big ambitions for herself, and didn’t want to be stuck in a kitchen on an industrial estate forever – she wanted to take her business out into the world and to export. She also wanted to create a niche for herself and to build a company which would grow with her.
We can see that a marketing strategy fits a business of any size. I’ve worked with large, national charities wanting to concentrate on one aspect of the organisation, to have a fresh pair of eyes bring a new perspective and develop a clear direction for where they’ll take that department.
Having a strategy makes it easier for you to say no. Something may look good on paper, but you know that it’ll take up a lot of your time and resources and be a distraction. It gives you a real sense of mission once you get clear on what you’re doing and helps you focus on who you want to work with, where the business is going, what you don’t want to do and what the best marketing and business tactics are to get you there.
Are you worried your marketing isn’t working right now?
If leads and enquiries are drying up, you’re not attracting the right customers or you’re not making enough profit – it’s time to investigate.