In our latest Lunch & Learn, our senior strategist, Holly Grenvicz, talked about strategy and read us the endearing children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

If you’ve never read the book, here’s a little recap for you: A generous host invites a traveling mouse in for a cookie. The mouse accepts and asks for a glass of milk to wash down the treat. Noticing the crumbs, the mouse requests a napkin to clean up, which leads to checking the mirror for a milk moustache, and then, seeing that its hair is rather long, asks for a trim, and… Well you get the idea. The story continues on and on until the mouse discovers it’s thirsty from all the endless activity and asks for another glass of milk. And what happens when you give a mouse a glass of milk? Most likely, it’ll also need a cookie.

We all chuckled a little as we thought about marketing processes and how often we all end up needing a proverbial glass of milk to go with our proverbial cookies. So how do we stop that? In the world of marketing, is it possible to avoid being a “mouse” who keeps needing just one.more.thing?

For example, let’s say you’re struggling with brand awareness (not enough eyeballs on your business/non profit), but rather than investing in strategy to solve the issue long-term, you turn to a quick fix and buy a new website. You cross your fingers that people will be more interested.

You see the new site, and you realize that you probably need better SEO to accompany it. So you invest in SEO and to make it worthwhile, you decide to do a pay-per-click campaign. Then you ask for analytics, and when you get your analytics back, you realize that your site traffic didn’t change nearly as much you thought it would.

SO, you might do a brand renovation next and you might buy a new logo. And then you meander into a direct mail piece to announce the new brand… And on and on, until eventually you come full circle and realize that your current website doesn’t actually portray what you REALLY want to say to your audience.

So do you buy another new website or do you finally decide to give strategy a go?

If you want to stop being a mouse, running around, continually chasing just one more task only to end up exhausted and back to square one, you have to invest in strategy.

If you’re not getting enough site users, simply buying a new website won’t solve that issue.
If you have unsatisfied customers, purchasing a Google ad won’t end customer dissatisfaction.
If you lack donors, sending one random direct mail piece will not boost your numbers.

Now, we aren’t saying that those items—like a new site, advertising and direct mail—aren’t important, because they are; we’re saying that if there is no strategic plan driving those items, then they’re nothing but small Band-Aids on gaping wounds. They might help a little bit, but in a few months, you’ll be back in the same position, staring down the same problem.

So what DO you do? Let’s start by redefining marketing.

From now on, think of marketing as tools in your toolbox. In your box you might have your website, advertising, public relations, social media platforms, content, direct mail packages, pay-per-click advertisements, etc. What you do with your tools is your tactical implementation. What you build or create through that implementation is what will achieve your pre-determined goals.

But the most important piece is strategy: Strategy is the plan that outlines organizational goals and then details the steps to reaching them by putting all the tools within your toolbox to use in a meaningful and strategic way. Think of it as the blueprint and the IKEA-style assembly instructions that tell you what tools to use and how to use those tools to make sure you end up building what you intended to build.

An architect never dives into a new project, whether it’s $5,000 or $5 million, without a plan. No one cooks a filet mignon for the first time without researching recipes, finding tips, and then setting up a plan. So why try to solve your business or non profit issues without a plan?

Strategy = your plan.

It is your blueprint, your recipe to success. It’s so simple, yet so many people still skip it. The next time you find yourself facing a marketing need or issue, will you take time to invest in strategy or will you chase after a quick snack and then demand a glass of milk?

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