Marketing strategists have an interesting job.
We need to bridge the gaps between the business and the market—helping both sides get precisely what they want. Or, at least as close to it as possible.
Meanwhile, we aren’t usually the ones doing the execution. We’re guiding it. Overseeing it. Remaining impartial to anything but the results.
And that presents some interesting challenges.
Below are some of the questions I consider within the three core stages of the strategic process: strategy, planning, execution.
During the strategy phase, our job is to get clarity on questions like:
- What are our goals?
- Who is this for?
- Who are the other stakeholders?
- What do they want, feel and believe?
- Where can we find our ideal clients?
- What do we observe about them in our research?
- What are their motivations and challenges?
- Who are our competitors?
- What makes us unique?
- What single thing do we want to be known for?
- What are our strengths and weaknesses?
- What unique advantages do we have?
- What are our opportunities and constraints?
- What resources do we have available?
- What observations can we make about the market and our place in it?
- What is our key insight that drives all decision?
These are just a few of the questions we consider at the strategic level. They put the “market” in “marketing”.
The better we answer them, the better we can do on the next parts.
Strategy and planning are not the same thing.
Now that we know what we’re working on and have a good idea of the landscape, we can begin to plan the tactics that will fulfill our strategy. In other words, we create a plan.
A marketing strategist asks seeks to define answers to questions like:
- What are our goals for each channel or activity?
- What is the timeline to achieve them?
- What measurable metrics can be assign to each goal?
- What can we systemize?
- Who will do the work?
- Who will manage the work?
- When will it happen?
- What channels will we use?
- How will we use them?
- Are the tactics aligned with the strategy?
- Who is responsible for the results of this work?
- What do we do in-house vs. outsource?
- Do we have the capacity to actually execute this plan?
A plan is only as good as the execution. At this point, the strategist’s job is to ask questions like:
- Are we executing this plan correctly?
- Are we measuring everything properly?
- Are we getting the results we expected?
- What is working and what isn’t?
- How can we adapt our plan for better results?
- Do we need additional resources?
- Do we need to do more research/find more examples?
- Was our core strategic insight correct?
- Are we helping or hurting the brand long-term?
- Are we documenting our learnings along the way?
There are probably a long line of other considerations, but these are the main ones I think about.
Strategists have a difficult job. It’s typically a leadership, not a management role. Usually, we’re responsible for the results—even though we’re not doing the tactical execution.
The better questions we ask, the better the answers we’ll get. Clear questions prompt clear thinking.
Good strategists write down answers to these questions to the extent it helps. But don’t write a book that never gets read. Keep it simple.
And remember: document the key insights about the market.
Insights drive strategy which drives everything else.