Why develop, follow and revise Business Strategy

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Everybody in an organisation who makes decisions that can effect the performance of the business should be aware of certain key things that make the business strategy. A very popular way of looking at strategy is via five questions: What do we want to achieve? Where will we play, How will we win? What capabilities will we need, What management systems do we need to support that capability.

  1. Strategy is not some song we all sing round the piano, but a statement that defines how we stand out as a business and continue to provide our customers with value. It  is not however,  worded as a positioning statement, but  rather in terms of how we achieve it. 
    Your strategy underpins both the products, or services you offer your customers and the perceptions you create around those offerings. This makes a critically important input to everything the business does and naturally, no marketing strategy can be developed in isolation from this key strategic ingredient. If it is neglected and in need of revision, evident often from differences of opinion among high level management, then it should be revisited and resolved. It answers the question, what do we want to achieve?
  2. These direct every decision about changes in tactics and implementation of the strategy. For example if our values guide us to play at the top of the market with high quality products, then we have little difficulty deciding which of two proposed products to develop. It answers the question, what do we want to achieve?
  3. Where we want to be at a time in the future. This answers finally the question, What do we want to achieve?
  4. How will we get there?
    The answer to this question is about tactics, but it is expressed as rules rather than a tactical plan. These rules will guide the tactical plan and they will support any forced changes along the way. How well assumptions are researched and understood in the beginning will influence how serviceable this strategy is. While the previous sections provide the motivation and research behind the decisions, the answer to this question is effectively the strategy. It answers the question, how will we get there?
  5. After this comes KPIs and strategic monitoring supported by programs and plans to execute on the strategy and the capabilities and management systems needed.

Developing or revising strategy for any part of a business has a two way relationship with higher level strategies. The reason very simply is, that lower level strategies highlight constraints and opportunities that effect the constraints and opportunities used as assumptions in developing higher level strategies and their assumptions.
For example if the business is pursuing a strategy to  remain in market A for as long as it is profitable within specific parameters and they rely on an assumption that web marketing, and in particular PPC will continue to produce at the same level and cost, then a discovery that costs are rising steadily and destined to almost certainly keep rising would need to be taken into account and the business strategy revised before anything could be finalised with Digital Marketing strategy. Failure to attend to this sort of communication is a prime reason alongside of poor research and planning to start with for the failure of businesses to set a strategy and execute on it.

The alternative to his approach means that you risk following a strategy with flawed assumptions and a high risk of failure or simply operating tactically with no respect for the business aims. Neither situation is ideal.

Does a strategy need to be written down and how big should it be?

No the most important thing is that key player know and trust the strategy and know when to discuss things again. This is infinitely better than a beautifully written document by an expensive consultant that sits on the CEOs drawer ignored by all. The commoner situation.

Some strategies are incredibly simple one liners because the options are limited or the best option is very obvious.

What does a Digital Marketing Strategy look like?

Having discussed the subject of strategy this answer is much simpler, though it respects the latter and follows the same sort of framework.
1. What do we want to achieve in a stated time frame?
Revenue, margins, channels, impact on Brand and Customer base, etc
In answering this we will respect the higher-level strategy.

  1. Where will we play?
    The answer will cover product positioning, audience segmentation and marketing and communication channels and if appropriate geography.
    In answering the question we will respect the previous strategy and we will also rely on many assumptions about the performance of channels and market segments and we will establish rules about how react if our assumptions prove wrong and when to book the war room for a revision.
  2. How(why) will we win?

The answer to this is effectively testing most of the assumptions relied on in the previous question.
Ideally such an answer would include models like PEST and SWOT to ensure we are not glossing over key inputs.

  1. What capabilities will we need?
    In a Digital environment this can range from strategic marketing, to content, to SEO day to day, technical skills, customer service, research and engagement and of course partners.
  2. What management systems will we need?
    Here we identify the information systems needed to support all the activities we have outlined but without yet defining precisely how any shortfalls can be met.

Once this process has been completed, left to brew for a week or so and then reviewed and signed of by the right stakeholders, we are ready to start  on the as-is and to-be analysis and gap analysis that identifies what needs to happen tactically and who should do it and what precisely any new capabilities and systems need to look like, how long it will take, budgets, ROI etc.

All of this sounds like a lot of extra work but in reality it is three or four man days for the consultants and one day for the internal management team. Even less, if a recent and accurate strategy is available to begin withE


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