What is strategy?
If you’re a business owner, you probably feel like you need a marketing strategy. Perhaps you had a strategy when you first started out in business, and now you realize you need an updated one. Or maybe you never developed an official strategy, and you’re tired of feeling like your marketing is all over the place without clear direction.
So, you sit down to make your marketing strategy. Where do you start?
Before we get into how to make your marketing strategy, let’s first take a look at what strategy even means.
Strategy has become one of those words that gets thrown around a lot – a buzzword as it’s called. It sounds good, so why not use it? But what good is a word if you don’t really know what to do with it?
What do we really mean when we use the term strategy? What does it mean, and what does it actually look like? How is it different than a goal or the tasks used to reach a goal?
Some time ago, I got to thinking about this a lot. I dove into one of those rabbit holes (and we all know that can be dangerous) and became generally obsessed over the meaning of strategy. It got to be like when you keep saying a word over and over until it sounds like a made-up word.
It turns out that not all rabbit holes are completely dangerous. Through this particular one, with much perseverance, I came up with a way to describe strategy and how it fits into goals and tasks.
Rather than bore you with straight definitions, I’d like to define strategy with an example. Let’s talk about Thanksgiving Dinner.
Whether or not you have ever been in charge of preparing a big Thanksgiving meal, I bet you have a decent idea of how big an undertaking it can be. Let’s pretend that you’re hosting your family’s Thanksgiving celebration and are in charge of planning the meal.
Your goal is to have food for people to enjoy together. Fairly straightforward, right? Or is it?
You have a goal, but there are many ways to achieve it. Before you can plan the tasks that get your meal to the table, you need to consider the various paths that will help you get to your goal. We’ll look at just a few paths:
You could take the more traditional path and cook all the food yourself.
You could order all the food from a local restaurant.
You could organize a potluck and have each family member bring a different dish.
Each of these paths would get you to your end goal - having food on the table for people to enjoy together. These are the strategies.
Strategies are the different paths that allow you to achieve your goal. The important point here is that each of these strategies will have a different set of tasks that you need to do in order to fulfill the goal.
For example, if you choose option #1, you’re going to pull out grandma’s recipes. With option #2, you’ll need to start finding out what local restaurants are offering for Thanksgiving takeout. If you select #3, you need to make a menu and make sure all of your guests can handle their assignment. The strategy you choose to achieve your goal dictates the tasks that follow.
The relationship goes: Goal → Strategy → Tasks
With that way of defining strategy in mind, let’s think about a marketing strategy in the context of a business example.
You’re a pediatric dentist, and you just started your own practice. Your goal is to get 50 new patients over the next quarter. How do you do that? Let’s explore two paths:
Market directly to your end consumer, which is the patient families themselves.
Develop partnerships with other businesses that serve a similar audience, such as pediatrician offices, daycares, and preschools who can promote your business to their customers.
Each of these strategies could get you to your end goal. Whichever you choose is going to require different tasks. If you choose #1, your tasks may include demographic research and a direct mail campaign. If you choose #2, you’ll need to develop a list of local businesses who serve young families. Once you choose the strategy that will help you achieve your goal, your next tasks become clear.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Why can’t I do both of these?”
Simple answer: Because you have limited time, money, and resources.
You might be able to do both strategies at some point. But once you start choosing multiple strategies, you’re splitting your resources and might not be able to do any of them effectively. This isn’t to say that you can never run multiple marketing strategies at once, it’s just important to be realistic about the resources you have.
Tune in next month when we dive into how to start crafting your specific marketing strategy!
Want to get started working on your marketing strategy? Sign up for one of our upcoming Marketing Foundation workshops!