Strategy. Why is it the first corner we cut?


By Marcia Degnan, CEO and Creative Director of Vivid Creative

Why is Strategy the first corner we cut when we run out of time?

It is a familiar tale. The holidays take over and from mid-November to January any work that you are able to accomplish is a bonus. Then, for most of us, January brings a quiet spell. Our consumers are recovering from end-of-year expenses and business sales take a subtle dip. February and March come and go and with a blink of an eye you find yourself in April. You are comparing sales to last year and perhaps are not at the benchmark you intended to be. You place an ad in a local newspaper. You call your web developer to make a few updates to your website. You remember that you have a Facebook page and, after a few failed login attempts, reset your password and begin a flurry of posts. May is now at hand and you place a few more ads with a few more local papers and wait patiently for 31 days to see the results from your newly instated marketing efforts. Sales are average but there is no distinct impact from your newspaper ads and Facebook isn’t bringing in any leads. What do you do now?

Many new clients that we meet with around this time of year will recount a similar situation.  The frantic feeling of ‘I’ve tried everything!’ only to realize that their sales have not improved from last year, or worse, they are lower. Our job is then to retrace the steps and find out what pieces of their approach are not working. We look into frequency, outlets/platforms, targets, keywords, etc., but I will tell you, nine out of ten times the culprit is the same – the strategy, or perhaps, lack of strategy.

Why is it that when we feel like we have run out of time and money, the first corner we cut is the strategy? I say ‘we’ because I was as guilty at doing this as any other person. We get into this panic mode and start throwing spaghetti on the wall hoping that SOMETHING will stick. We feel like we don’t have a minute to stop, breathe, regroup and develop a strategy. Strategy has come to feel as though it will take months to develop and fine tune. Why?

There is a lot of strategy that goes into a business so I will narrow this down specifically to marketing strategy. It is no secret that a strong and effective Marketing Strategy takes time to develop. It also requires access to a business plan and the long-term and short-term goals of the business. Additionally, you get into things like annual budget, how results will be measured, the anticipated ROI, the target audience, the messaging, etc. Marketing strategies are overwhelming. It’s true. But I submit that you will lose more time and money driving blind than developing a strong and targeted map to success.

The tricky part is that life and business do not stop so that you can develop a plan. We must learn to work and strategize simultaneously. Ideally, you would spend your business’s quieter times working on strategies. But if you are reading this anytime after May, chances are you are moving full steam ahead. Don’t skip the strategy!

Create an interim plan. This plan will take you through your busy season and up to your next lull where you will have the opportunity to develop a broader and more in-depth marketing strategy. The interim plan should only take you a few hours – yes, it is important that you make time for this. Answer questions such as;

  1. What is my goal?
    This answer should have some numbers in it: Gain 10 new clients, draw in $40,000 in sales from July to October, partner with 2 new businesses, etc.
  2. What are the top markets I want to drive sales in?
    Pick a specific region so that you can focus your attention.
  3. What am I trying to sell?
    Be very specific with this answer! I understand that you want sales to go up across the board but pick one or two things that you can really push that will drive sales for now.
  4. What is my message to those markets to sell those items?
    This vital question helps you target your message so that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.
  5. What is my marketing budget for this interim?
    Set a realistic budget for what you can afford and what you hope to see as a return on your investment.
  6. What outlets are best for marketing in my industry?
    Determine where is your audience. Are they reading newspapers, on Facebook, at the local coffee shop, etc?

Once you have created your interim plan, anything new that comes up should be run by this plan to make sure it fits within the goals you have set out to accomplish. This will prevent the spaghetti method from taking shape and save you money in the long run.

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