How to Make Marketing Strategy Real

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For as long as anyone that’s read this blog can remember, I’ve routinely uttered the phrase – strategy before tacticsTM. I firmly believe that lack of a clear marketing strategy is what leads many businesses to the ranks of the commodity.

In my opinion, developing and executing an effective marketing strategy is the most important job of any marketer and failure to do so is the single greatest threat to creating anything that looks and feels like business building momentum.

Most people understand the notion that an effective marketing strategy is key, but few get that in order for it to actually serve any purpose, you have to make it real, you have to drive in into every corner of the business, you’ve got to give your marketing strategy a personality that people in and out of the business can relate to.

Don’t just state it, define it

The fist step in bringing your marketing strategy to life is to figure out what it really is.

Here’s what I mean. A lot of people would look at software maker 37Signals and determine that their marketing strategy is to develop low cost, functional software and provide it in several versions with a 30-day free trial period.

But, closer examination would suggest their real marketing strategy is simplicity in all things. Of course, founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are very vocal about this characteristic, but I still think people miss the connection.

Make it purpose

37Signals has made the art of simple in software, simple in hiring, simple in pricing, simple in use – the purpose the business exists.

Take this excerpt from their stated values – Useful is forever – Bells and whistles wear off, but usefulness never does. We build useful software that does just what you need and nothing you don’t.

So, while it’s easy to simple in their UI, you can also see it their offices, their pricing, their hiring, their entire business model really.

Turn it into a mantra question

So, if you’ve developed a marketing strategy and now realize you can bring it to life by way of a defining characteristic, you might be wondering how to drive it deeper into the organization?

In my view, the only way for your real life marketing strategy to blossom is to make an integral aspect of everything you do. The simplest way to do this is to you use it as the leading question for every product, service, staff, customer, marketing and process decision.

Is this process simple? Does this product inspire? Does this decision keep fun alive? Is this pricing convenient? Does this new hire value community?

The one word people most often associate with Duct Tape Marketing is practical. And while I may occasionally miss the mark completely, I even ask myself if my writing is practical – and that keeps my marketing strategy and brand real and not just words in a marketing plan.

Install strategy filters

In order for your marketing strategy to reach full potential it must be the filter your entire staff uses for their work with each other, suppliers, advisors, and, of course, customers.

In my work with clients we teach them to install a process that staff members use when considering a project or even action step. This simple process allows them view anything they choose in the light of strategy impact and either change course or know for certain that they are taking real strategy action.

Create strategy scorecards

In addition to creating the key mantra question, teaching how to think with strategy and using strategy filters for decision-making, you have to find ways to keep real strategy alive in the everyday language of the organization.

One of the best ways to do this is to turn strategy thinking into a game. Create scorecards that reward people for thinking, employing and acting with marketing strategy.

If in the case of an organization where entertainment and surprise are the prime characteristics of marketing strategy, bonus points could be awarded for taking action that exceeded a customer’s expectations thoroughly or for chairing a meeting that was both productive and fun.

The point is that if the only place your marketing strategy lives is on a hard drive somewhere it will suffocate and keep your organization in the ranks of commodity provider.

If however, you turn it into a living, breathing, acting character in your business, it will become one of the most valuable assets your business possesses.


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