This post was written by chief boss-lady and littleBIG founder Sally Harley (née Urquhart).
We marketers love bandying around the word “strategy”. You’ll often hear us saying “our strength is our emphasis on great strategy”, “we’ve created a really solid strategy”, or, “it’s important the creative is working hand-in-hand with a sound strategy”. We ensure a “strategist” sets the plan for each client and that we always return to the “strategy” to ensure things are on track and to help us make decisions along the way. But I completely understand when clients and other ‘civilians’ get frustrated with the term.
“Strategy, strategy, blah blah blah,” they’re thinking. “Just get on with it guys!”
Let me put your minds at ease. We will never spend time (in other words, your money) creating a strategy for strategy’s sake. It’s for results’ sake and it’s something we think sets us apart from other agencies.
As I heard that super-legend Todd Sampson say in his Wilosophy podcast interview with Wil Anderson (I think, maybe I heard it somewhere else??? Anyway, listen to the interview, it’s the best.), (and I paraphrase) “Strategy is getting the boat in the right place, creative is getting the fish on the hook.” Got to get that boat in the right place people!
There are indeed times when we can just get on with it. Some clients have blessedly sound marketing (slash PR, social, web, brand, etc. – I’ll call it all “marketing” from here on in) strategies blissfully briefed to us. They say, “Our aim is to achieve X by Y. Your role in this is to Z.” If we’re on the same page, off we go and do. If we’re not on the same page, we’ll question and collaborate until we are confident we’re in the best spot to catch those fish.
Quite often however, clients aren’t quite clear on what the strategy is or should be. They might say, “we want media exposure”, “we need to rebrand”, “we want a radio campaign”, “we want to do ‘stunts’ and go ‘viral'”… When questioned why though, the answer is not always clear. This is where a sound strategic process is essential. We work together to really understand what the business, marketing and communications objectives are and ensure the marketing strategy is intelligently created to reach these objectives. This might require: a research process (budget allowing we’d suggest some level of research is mandatory but acknowledge it’s not always doable/essential, depending on the level of existing insights); an in depth month (or more) of strategic analysis, investigation, budgeting, timelining and planning; a couple of hours from a senior strategist to lay out a sound plan with realistic outcomes; brand and positioning analysis and clarification; some important pointed questions from us/you in the initial scoping process; and/or other initial groundwork.
When we work with clients to undertake this strategic process, we find the resulting implementation and, most importantly, results more efficiently achieved and tangibly advantageous.
It’s also important to note the importance of regular reviews of implementation/results against strategy. Is our plan coming to fruition? If not, why not? Should we change tack? Is a new strategy more relevant now due to unforeseen external factors? Is one element working better than others, hence should we reprioritise? A set strategy needn’t feel like being shackled, indeed inbuilt flexibility measures are essential.
So that’s why we drone on about strategy all the time. Forgive us. We only have your best interests at heart. We’ll minimise the marketing jargon within and won’t strategise for strategy’s sake. Promise.