Most business owners think marketing and immediately think email, copy, Facebook and promotions – you know, tactics. Heck, most marketers do the same thing.
I’ve been working with business owners for over twenty five years now and I’m here today to once again affirm that none of the tactics matter until you are crystal clear about a handful of things. If you’ve heard me talk at a conference in the last ten years then you’ve heard me say repeatedly – strategy before tactics is the simple road to success.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about systematically and consistently rolling out tactics, but only those that support a strategy that you can commit to. Once you nail the strategy part you can confidently go to work on strategy with tactics, but you can’t have one before the other.
I will go as far as to say, however, a simple, maybe even common set of tactics in support of a powerful strategy beats a brilliant set of tactics with no real strategy at all most every time.
So, how do you make strategy simple? Answer these three questions and get everyone on your team aligned around the answers.
1) Why do we do what we do?
This is the age old mission question. Until you can get very clear about the one, overarching purpose for your business, things will always seem a bit muddy. When you can grab onto your “why” you have the basis for every decision you make and a thread that can define your brand and a magnet for building a vibrant community around your business.
Ponder this question for a moment as it might help bring some clarity: What is joyful to you about the result your business brings a client? There are many variations on this one, but it might help your get started.
Perhaps the greatest challenge with purpose and mission is that it can’t be faked. You can’t copy it, it simply is what you stand for – so dig deep on this one!
2) Who do we do it for?
The tricky part about this one is that the answer should be as narrow as possible. If you nailed the first answer above, know that some percentage of the world out there won’t be attracted to your why – and that’s okay. Now your job is to go even narrower and start really understanding who you can help, who gets the most value from your unique approach.
Here’s a tip: Look to your most profitable customers that already refer business to you. Find the commonality in this group and you should be able to develop a very narrow ideal customer profile that entails both physical description and ideal behavior.
A secondary element of this answer applies to your staff. Who fits your why, your culture? Who can come to your business with the mindset to serve the mission you’ve so eloquently laid out above?
3) What do we do that’s both unique and remarkable?
The last piece of the puzzle is about what you do. But, it’s not simply about defining what business you are in. That’s important to understand, but more important is to find and communicate how your business is unique in a way that your ideal client finds remarkable. In a way that allows you to stand apart from everyone else that says they are in the same business as you.
This isn’t as simple as it might sound. Most business owners don’t fully understand what their customers truly value. It’s not good service, fair pricing and broad selection. Those fall under the category of expectation and everyone can and usually does claim them. The difference is in the details, the little things you do, the way you do it, how you treat people, how you make your customers feel. It’s in the surprises, the things that exceed their expectations.
Of course, this assumes you provide something that actually is unique and remarkably done, but I’m guessing you do, you just don’t know how magnificent it is and how you should make it the message you lead with.
Here’s my advice: Go talk to your customers, they know what you do that’s unique. Listen carefully and don’t be afraid to embrace the little things you do, that’s where you are different in a way that matters.
Spend time with the process of answering these three questions, get your entire team involved and make it a game. This is the essence of strategy. It doesn’t have to be an academic process, but it is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your business and certainly something you should do before you even consider your next great idea for how to use Pinterest.
Now, say it with me, Strategy Before Tactics!