Strategy is a word that is thrown around a lot, and one that rarely anyone would argue its importance. So why is it that time and time again, marketing efforts fail, goals aren’t reached, or resources spent show little to return? While there can be many reasons for this, in our experience, it almost always boils down to ineffective strategy.


So, let’s start at the beginning. What is “strategy” exactly?


Strategy is essentially a roadmap to tell you how to get from where you are to where you want to be. It’s a plan of action to achieve a goal.


What is it not?


What a lot of people think of as “marketing” efforts are not strategies – they’re actually tactics. Ads, billboard, social media, etc. – these are just tools. They’re essential tools, but they’re just tools. If they’re not part of a larger strategy, they might or might not actually work for you.


A good strategy should define who you want to reach and what message you want to reach them with. Then you can figure out the best tools to distribute that message and how to use those tools in a smart way.


Why does it matter?


In short, it defines where you’re going and gives you directions on how to get there. Without it, you’re going to be spinning your wheels and spending a lot of time and money on tactics that might not actually get you results. We’ve broken it down into four reasons why you should begin being more intentional with your nonprofit or ministry’s strategy.


It defines the problem.


If the purpose of strategy is to get you from Point A to Point B, you first need to know where Point A is. If you don’t know what the real “problem” is, you’re not going to be able to put an effective solution in place.


“Problem” can mean a lot of things, and it’s not necessarily something you’re doing wrong (though sometimes it is). For example, a start up’s “problem” might just be that they’re brand new and need to increase brand awareness. Large organizations might have some systems or messages that really need to be adjusted or fixed. When you identify the problem accurately, you can more efficiently tackle the issue, and ensure you don’t spend precious resources on tactics that won’t move the needle.


It integrates your efforts.

Marketing is much more effective when all of your efforts work together to send a cohesive message. If you’re just throwing a bunch of tactics out there, there’s a good chance that your efforts aren’t going to be integrated.


Statistics show that someone has to see an ad 7 times to remember it. So, if you’re going to invest in direct mail, social media advertising, and sponsored email, it makes more sense to use all of those channels to send the same message to the same audience at key times, instead of engaging one-off drip marketing throughout the year.


You also want to think about the customer journey and what happens next for each tactic in your strategic plan. For example, let’s say you run an ad and reach a lot of people. What’s next for them? How do you move them to engaging with your organization and ultimately becoming a customer? A plan will help you map out each step – how do we get this person to discover us? Then how do we get their email address? Then how do we follow up with them?


It helps you prioritize and know when to say no.


There are so many tactics you can spend your time and energy on, especially as digital marketing increases and you feel like you have to be on email, social media, etc. It can feel overwhelming and be difficult to know where to put limited resources.


Your strategy helps you decide what to say no to and what to say yes to. You can run every idea – even the good ones – through your plan and ask if this effort is going to support the plan and the goal you’ve set out to achieve right now. If not, you can toss it or table it.


It provides accountability.


A good strategy should guide or define the actual work being done.


For example, at TAG, we take all of our plans, break them into tasks and put them into a spreadsheet with deadlines that we follow on a daily basis. Your plan should be that actionable. This can save you from either nothing getting done or a lot of busy work without a purpose.


Also, with digital marketing, we have the ability to measure much more quickly than in the past. So, you have practical accountability in terms of ‘did this tactic work?’ If not, you now have actionable data of which to make yet another strategic decision.


As you can tell, we are passionate about this topic. So passionate, in fact, that we decided to record a podcast with our Senior Strategist, Kristen Shoates, as she dives deeper into these concepts and also tells us about the three components of effective strategy for any organization. This is one you want to have a pencil and paper ready for—listen in on iTunes or on theAnother Way Podcast website.

The 5 strategies every growing nonprofit uses workbook