Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, yet few are. Early in my career, I confess that I was more of an instinctual marketer. To be a strategic thinker, we need to learn to slow down and organize our thoughts. To use the five elements of smart strategic thinking, you need to a set a vision, invest your limited resources against an identified opportunity. And, then you need to create a market impact that can be leveraged into a performance result.
1. Set a vision of what you want for your brand
A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a clear result or purpose. Write a vision statement in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot. It should steer everyone who works on the brand to focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers that will lead to power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you do not know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?”
To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize the future. Imagine it is five or 10 years from now and you wake up in the most fantastic mood. Visualize a perfect future and write down the most critical milestones you need to achieve. Even think about words that will inspire, lead and steer your team towards your vision.
As strategic thinking starts with asking questions, a smart strategy must ask interruptive questions that frame the issues in terms of what you want to achieve. By raising those issues early on, you can focus the team on the significant problems that need to be solved to get you on the path to your vision.
2. Invest resources in a strategic program
Think through the options of where you should invest to move your brand into a more powerful and profitable position. The programs you choose should solidify the brand’s core strength, build a brand idea that tightens the consumer bond, battle competitors on positioning, or address the situational challenges and opportunities.
3. Focus on an identified opportunity
Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity you have identified based on a potential change in the market, including changes to consumers, competitive situation, technology or sales channels.
In today’s data-driven world, everyone has access to the equivalent information and in turn, can see the same opportunities. You must use speed to seize the opportunity before others can take action, and then that opportunity is gone.
The best brand leaders never divide and conquer. They force themselves to focus and win. The smartest brand leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and.” If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize doing a little of both, you are not strategic. Force yourself to make choices.
Many marketers struggle to focus.
Myth 1: The most prominent myth of marketing is to believe that your brand will get bigger if you have a broader target market.
Reality: Too many marketers target anyone. I will always argue it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. You have to create a tight bond with a core base of brand fans, and then use that fan support to expand your following.
Myth 2: The second myth to becoming a more prominent brand is to believe a brand stands for everything. Some brands try to say everything possible with the hope the consumer hears anything.
Reality: Hope is never a strategy. To be loved by consumers, a brand must stand for something with a backbone and conviction. Trying to be everything to anyone just ends up becoming nothing to everyone.
Myth 3: Your brand will be bigger if you try to be everywhere, whether in every sales channel or on every possible media option.
Reality: If you went to Las Vegas and put a chip on every square, you would be bankrupt before midnight. The worst marketers lack focus because they fear missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will drain itself and eventually end up being nowhere.
Every brand has limited resources, whether they’re financial, time, people, or partnerships. Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders limit their choices to match up to their limited resources, to focus on those that will deliver the highest return.
When you focus, five amazing things happen to your brand:
- Stronger return on investment (ROI): When you focus your dollars on the distinct breakthrough point or against a program that you know will work, you will see the most positive and efficient response in the marketplace.
- Better return on effort (ROE): You must make the most efficient use of your limited people and resources. Find the Big Easy! Focus on the ideas with the most significant impact that is the easiest to execute. Avoid those ideas that are small and difficult to implement. While you may not always have the data to calculate your ROI, you should have the instincts to figure out your ROE.
- Stronger reputation: When you limit your audience and brand message, you will have a better chance to own that reputation among that core target audience.
- More competitive: When you focus your message to a specific target audience, your brand will start to create a space in the market you can defend against others from entering that space.
- More investment behind the brand: When you focus and deliver business results, your management team will ask you to do that again. They will give you more money and more people resources. Even with increased resources, you must take the same focused approach.
4. Leverage the breakthrough market impact
A smart strategy turns an early breakthrough win into a shift in momentum, positional power or tipping point where you begin to achieve more in the marketplace than the resources you put in.
Many underestimate the need for an early win. I see this as a crucial breakthrough point where you start to look at a small shift in momentum towards your vision. While there will always be doubters to every strategy, the results of the early win provide compelling proof to show everyone the plan will work. You can change the minds of the doubters—or at least keep them quiet—so everyone can stay focused on the breakthrough point.
The magic of strategy happens through leverage, where you can use the early win as an opening or a tipping point where you start to see a transformational power that allows you to make an impact and achieve results in the marketplace. A smart strategy should trigger the consumer to move along the bug journey from awareness to buy and onto loyalty, or it can help tighten the consumer’s bond with the brand.
5. Performance result that pays back
The shift in positional power in the marketplace moves your brand toward your vision and creates a future pathway to building a consumer bond, brand power, and brand profitability.
A brand can become powerful compared to the consumers they serve, the competitors they battle, the channels they sell through, the suppliers who make the products or ingredients, the influencers in the market, any media choices and the employees who work for the brand. We explored these eight sources of power in the opening chapter.
You can drive profit through premium pricing, trading consumers up on price, finding a lower cost of goods, using lower sales and marketing costs, stealing competitive users, getting loyal users to use more, entering new markets or finding new uses for the brand. We explored these eight ways a brand can add to their profitability in the opening chapter.
For a strategy to work, what pays off in the marketplace must pay off in brand power or business results.
At Beloved Brands, we run workshops to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a Workshop on Strategic Thinking, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:
Beloved Brands: Who are we?
At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.
The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.
We help brands find growth
We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.
We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.
To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching
We make Brand Leaders smarter
We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.
To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training
If you need our help, email me at email@example.com or call me at 416 885 3911