Strategy is your journey to a position of advantage. Don’t get lost.

I’ve heard people say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and hoping something different will happen. I’ve reflected on this statement recently in the context of how some people appear to approach their marketing.

There seems to be two camps. First, those marketers who make an ‘industry’ of being busy and second, those that have a ‘plan in pursuit of their goal’. Which one are you?

I’ve also reflected on how and what has inspired some businesses and brands to successfully break free from their competitors with transformational outcomes.

I believe it’s probably the most exciting time ever to be in marketing because of the diversification of just about everything from technology to data and brands. Yet with so many new tools like Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Outbrain among others, it is remarkable how few companies are doing anything markedly different strategically or embracing fresh thinking and big ideas. Responding to market conditions yes but businesses proactively harnessing the strategic opportunities presented is a far rarer beast.

How much time do marketers really spend thinking about the big issues with a good old-fashioned depth of perspective beyond the limited number of characters in a tweet or a tabloid-esque infographic?

As a marketing professional I have an insatiable thirst for a deeper understanding of our craft and the commercial and social implications it can have. For me there’s never been more information at hand to expand my knowledge and understanding. The challenge has always been to apply common sense to sift through what is relevant and effective. Today the application of the right social tools in this context can be nothing short of enlightening.

Experience has taught me that there are four things that you need to do be an adept strategic marketer. If you frame your thinking along the following lines I believe you can improve your chance of success on many levels. It’s built around thinking about how we can build on timeless fundamentals and incorporate innovation and adaption.

Doing the same things again and again is good for consistency and conventionally that has always been good. However, there is a balance to be found, consistency alone is potentially risky if devoid of innovation.

The strategic model I have devised espouses the following stages and I’ve called it 4sight. It blends the conventional with the requirement to be super responsive:

Stage 1. Immersion in your market is vital. First things first, you really do need to understand what strategy really means in your market space and what success looks like for your business. What are the market trends? Who are the incumbents? And who are the new kids on the block? Who if anyone is challenging the status quo? What is your uniqueness?

Stage 2. Articulation of the opportunity is crucial. This is the second important thing you need to define. Who and what are the potential game changers? Where are the gaps and opportunities in positioning, functionality, channel, consumers and ultimately in the value that you can deliver? It could be a myriad of things in combination so a broad open minded and informed perspective is crucial. An appreciation of strategies and examples from outside your market can be useful here too. Keep this in context of what success looks like for you?

Stage 3. Creation and communication of a clear plan will be empowering. If you understand the space you’re in and the opportunities for game changing activity the next piece is to develop action plans with clear roles, responsibilities and metrics defined. Break it all down into bits and life becomes easier and momentum flows.

Stage 4. Act with open mindedness, courage and flexibility to compete. It’s important to act on the plan but it’s also important to not be focused to the extent that you become myopic to the changing environment around you. Be aligned on the end game but be prepared to jump on ideas that can get you there quicker. Have the courage to kill ineffective programs early too.

With an appreciation of your market, the opportunities available and alignment to the end goal then your strategy will have a better chance of success and you will be better able to recognise creative ideas and champion innovation.

Now that’s strategy and your journey to a position of advantage.

 

Duncan Wakes-Miller
BY Duncan Wakes-Miller ON 20 March 2014
Duncan Wakes-Miller is chief marketing officer of Duncan Wakes-Miller Consultancy, a specialist marketing consultancy helping clients achieve distinctive, lasting, and substantial performance improvement. A pioneer of marketing strategy and digital innovation, Duncan has successfully managed some of Australia’s iconic brands through transformational change. His experience includes senior marketing and sales strategy roles at Dell Computer, Monster.com, 3 Mobile and the Australian Rugby Union and most recently as managing partner of one of Australia’s most progressive strategy and creative agencies.