According to SmartInsights, less than 50% of brands have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy. If the percentage is so low for merely setting it, imagine how small it must be for actually executing it.
I would argue that’s partially due to the fact the internet is filled with articles and e-books such as “15 E-Commerce Strategies That Will X” and “7 E-Commerce Strategies to Make Your Customers Y.” Don’t believe me? Try Googling it.
The reason why this is inherently wrong lies in the fact that your company should have one strategy — one strategy and several different tactics.
Let me explain what strategy is, and what strategy definitely isn’t.
The strategy is a roadmap you follow that outlines the direction you’ll take. It comprises a clearly defined plan and goals you’d like to accomplish by executing on that plan. Very well put together strategy helps users (your team) understand the market, ideal buyer and the way of avoiding roadblocks between your company’s maximum profit and sustainable growth.
Don’t Confuse Strategy and Tactics
The strategy is an overarching plan. Changing it is much like trying to turn around an airplane mid-flight — it can be done but not instantly.
Tactics are the specific steps you undertake to accomplish your strategy. For example, your strategy might be expanding into a particular market. In contrast, your tactics might include learning more about that market’s dynamics, researching your competition, seeking out a person who would oversee it or making adjustments to your product so that the locals embrace it better.
That’s much theory. Can we talk about concrete advice? I thought you’d never ask.
One of my favorite books on building a great strategy is “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick” from McKinsey consultants Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt and Sven Smit.
While there are many gems they unravel, here are my top three.
1. A Strategy Is Less “Annual Planning” and More “Ever-Evolving Journey.”
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that no strategy should be set in stone. Customers’ needs, wants and expectations are changing, and they are changing fast. That means your company should be able to adapt at the same rate. In case you are not adapting, trust me, in one of your competitors’ boardrooms, there’s somebody who has zero problems with thinking long term but acting now.
To stay relevant, make sure to hold regular strategy dialogues and monitor a rolling plan. All of your managers should be equally clear on the role they play in executing a plan and delivering results.
2. It’s Not About Approving Big Budgets. It’s About Making Big Moves.
And let me be very clear. Big moves aren’t measured by how uncomfortable you are making them. They need to be big versus the world, so you have to base your decisions on what the best competitors are doing. That may mean radical change.
You might need to get your web shop running faster than imagined. You might need to address an integration issue when you realize your business is too siloed to operate effectively and profitably. Maybe one of your competitors made a change that set a new industry standard (remember the first toothpaste maker who added fluoride that helps to prevent tooth decay; neither do I, but it’s an industry standard now!). Maybe you need an express package for your services, and maybe you need to figure out how to get a curbside pickup.
In a world of many needs, always remember that you are not investing based on the connection between budgets and targets; you are investing based on whether a move is big enough to make a dent in the market, ultimately making your customer (and you) happy.
3. Sounds Cheesy? It Is Until You Get Moving. So Move Now.
Let me wrap it up by saying there is nothing as important as movement. A strategy is often thought of as a “fluffy” term because people tend to perceive it as something that happens “somewhere, sometime, in the future.” In reality, a strategy should be running your everyday decisions, movements and actions.
Move in a way that will force you to review the plan and roll back the future into six-month increments. Put a disproportionate focus on the first step when discussing long-term plans. By focusing on the action in the beginning, rather than results, you get to results faster.
Strategy will always be hard work — and it will always require creativity — but if you focus on creating incentives that get everyone to act in the best interests of the company and its stakeholders rather than their own interests, you have a shot at creating better outcomes for everybody involved.