Imagine that you’re planning your dream vacation – the trip of a lifetime! You decide to go in June and be away for six days. You plan to spend $1,500. You also plan to Airbnb for two nights and stay in hotels for the others. You decide to travel by train, and then rent a car to get to your final destination.

The only problem: you haven’t decided where you’re going. Which makes all of the other details pretty obsolete.

After all, without a destination, you really can’t plan for budget, travel arrangements, accommodations, activities or timing...or if you do, you certainly can’t be sure it will get you anywhere.

You might laugh at the idea of planning a trip that way and wonder what sort of person – especially an intelligent planner-type – would ever take that approach. But chances are, you’re likely doing something very similar when it comes to your marketing.

You see, the items most often associated with marketing – things like websites, advertisements, billboards, SEO, Google ads, mail pieces – are the details, or tactics as we call them in the marketing world. They’re tools to help you get where you’re going, but they’re not the destination. And without a destination or a plan for the best way to get there, those tactics alone end up taking a lot of time, energy and money without delivering a lot of results.

Many organizations make the mistake of starting with tactics without investing in strategy: 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 smart way. It’s so simple that it’s often overlooked, but it’s absolutely critical to success. Here are five reasons why strategy is a MUST:

It creates a sense of direction – and gets you where you want to go.

Strategy begins by setting goals, and then mapping out the best way to get you to those goals. In short, it’s your road map to get from Point A to Point B. Without a strong understanding of where you are (Point A) and a clear (and, dare we say, realistic) vision for where you want to go, you cannot figure out how to get there – which will have you driving in metaphoric marketing circles, not ever really going anywhere.

It integrates your efforts.

Rather than investing in one-off tactics, having a strategic roadmap ensures that all your efforts work together to accomplish a purpose or achieve a goal. Focusing on your audiences rather than the tactics ensures your marketing includes multiple touch points with an audience and moves them through a process of awareness, cultivation and engagement. It’s the difference between sending a random email, running an unrelated ad and buying a billboard or an integrated campaign where an audience member receives a mail piece with a corresponding email, sees a Facebook ad with the same message online, and then receives a series of strategic communications after he or she fills out a form. Which do you think is more effective?

It helps you prioritize – and know when to say no.

In marketing, there is always more you can be doing – more ads to run, more pieces to create, more places for your brand to show up and more dollars to be spent. Especially in a cluttered digital world, prioritizing your efforts keeps marketing cost-effective and keeps you focused on the efforts that will drive results. When you invest in strategy, your marketing plan becomes your plumb line, with every decision being filtered through the questions of “Is this in line with our strategy?” and “Does this help us get closer to the goals we’ve set?”. It frees you up to say no to ideas (even good ones) that aren’t part of the bigger picture.

It provides accountability.

In the past, marketing’s success was primarily measured by impressions: how many people saw an ad or campaign. Measurement often took months, and it was difficult to tell what was really working: you had to do marketing for marketing’s sake, hoping to see the bottom line increase over time. But with today’s technology, measurement happens in real-time, and we’re able to not just measure the reach of a campaign, but its effectiveness –  everything from how many people clicked on an ad to what pages on your website they went to and if they filled out a form or made a purchase. Having a strong strategy in place gives you a baseline to check these real-time KPIs against. You can quickly see if your efforts are working – and if they’re not, you can hold your team accountable, shift directions and adjust your tactics to align with your strategy.

It saves waste.

The bottom line: tactics take time and money. If they’re not part of a larger strategy, it’s likely that you’ll invest in tactics that are unnecessary, ineffective or meaningless in context of the bigger picture of where you’re headed. While strategy often requires an upfront investment, it saves you money in the long-term and helps you be the best steward of your resources and your mission as possible.

At The A Group, we often say “we’re a strategy first organization”. Everything we do, whether mapping out a website or developing a multi-year marketing plan, begins with strategy. If you come to us asking for a website or a brochure, our first question will be “why?”. We’ll want to know what goal you’re trying to reach, what campaign it’s a part of, what other communications the audience receives. And whether that leads us to a StratLab together, a full marketing plan or years of partnership, there’s nothing better than embarking on an adventure with a clear plan and a couple good companions for the journey.

Have more questions about where to go from here? Click below and we will be more than happy to answer any questions, have a quick chat or walk further through this process with you! 

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