I’ve spent the last week at my parents house in a little town in Los Angeles called LaCrescenta. It’s been the first time I haven’t been in an office for over 1 week in 10 years (side note: this is the first time I’ve been at my parents for this long for almost 5 years). It has been good to take some time and reflect on things and do a little bit of looking at things from that 10 thousand foot view. Which has led me to thinking about why it is ever so important to take time, take a step back, and think more strategically.
Looking at things strategically
As it turns out, having your head down and not taking the time to create a strategic approach to things isn’t always the best…well…STRATEGY. I’ve learned a lot about how to think more holistically and strategically over the past 4-5 years. This has created opportunities for me to truly be strategic, innovate, and lead teams, while also delivering value tactically on a daily basis.
As we all know, much of marketing and creating great products is really understanding an industry, verticals within it, the overall market, and/or a customer and their needs. The creation of the new types of media, such as social media sites like Twitter, has truly shined light on how important a customer is. You can find many posts around the web talking about engaging customers, honesty, and being transparent (funny thing is, thats all some social media people talk about, but I digress). The point is, the days of shouting at people via television ads isn’t really “moving the needle” the way it use to, and, as consumers really look to at different forms of consuming media, we have to understand the people we are looking to reach even more.
Being strategic provides opportunities to see what you might have missed.
We are all in “go mode” and trying to make things happen daily, trying to “provide value.” There are so many days that I sit there and engage in social media, work on editorial calendars, and put together plans, etc. for the companies I am working for that I don’t have the time to think strategically. This becomes a problem because a lot of things that are glaring situations or opportunities tend to pass you by.
But, the question is, when you are spinning your wheels just trying to get stuff done, are you really providing value to your organization? Your Client? and even more so, the consumer?
In my opinion, you are not. That is why being more strategic provides opportunities and more value in the long run. Being strategic means stopping what you are doing, analyzing a consumer, and finding out what they are actually looking for. Analyzing a journalist and finding out what they would write about, what they would link to, who they would reach out to. Even better, looking at data to understand patterns, user behavior, etc. that will truthfully provide value to a consumer. Which means you, as a strategic thinker is providing more value by obtaining more customers or actively engaging, re-engaging, and retaining more customers.
Set aside time to think strategically
Taking the time out daily or weekly, gives you an opportunity to think more holistically as a marketer. Take time to think about what people want. Marketing is not about pushing a message or advertising your product. Marketing is truly understand what is important in any given marketplace. Marketing is the process of creating value in an industry that will ultimately lead to obtaining customers and retaining customers.
An example of this can be a product you offer or a template that you develop for your website. Some time ago, I was putting together specifications for pages that should be built on a site. I threw them together from an SEO perspective. Title Tags, alt tags, URLs, etc…you name the technical requirement, and I had it spec’d out. The problem I didn’t think through was, am I really creating value? Am I really understanding what people want out of those pages? Would customers be happy? Would the Media? Would Social Media Users? Overall, that was the problem I was not thinking through and that is an order of magnitude greater than any title tag or url in the long run.
I hit this realization that I should not just try to get stuff done and should actually take some time to think through a problem. Now that I have, I have made sure that I dedicate time to actually blocking out periods of time to think more strategically on a weekly basis. During that time, I switch my surroundings and either go to a coffee shop, lock myself in a conference room at the office, or something of that sort.
Consultants can help with Strategy
There are three ways that bringing in consultants can help with the problem of thinking strategically as an organization:
Consultants can provide a fresh set of eyes that are not tightly integrated with your business, along with being able to be objective about features, content, etc. because they are not vested in the design, for example. Hiring a strategic consultant also means they will not be inundated with trying to deliver on daily traffic goals, daily product meetings, etc. They will be able to work externally, analyze a business, an industry, and the consumer and make recommendations that you can implement.
Hire consultants that are tacticians to help alleviate your daily support needs. Whether you are managing communities, doing something tied to SEO, managing PPC campaigns, etc. All that matters is that you are bringing someone in to alleviate the fact that you need free time to think more strategically. Many times, a business has learned so much about their industry that they have all the research necessary to think strategically and just needs to time and ability to step away from day to day processes to actually do just that, think strategically.
Being a consultant now at days is no longer about specialization and more about strategy. Todd Malicoat just recently wrote about being a Business Management Consultant and I think its so important to think that way now. Just being a PPC consultant, SEO or Social Media Marketer isn’t going to cut it going forward. It is the exact reason that I am happy that I have prided myself in becoming a generalist in technology and the Internet. Understanding all facets of project management, product development, ideation, marketing, etc. is so important. But, be careful, because, just like the ever so popular “Social Media Experts” that can talk about being one, but, don’t really understand it. The same goes here, being a business consultant and advising businesses isn’t just knowing a few things, it’s being a generalist that understands all aspects deeply enough to truly provide holistic feedback to an organization about their market, their product, etc.
Overall Web Strategy is crucial
Overall, it is important to start thinking more strategically as businesses start to evolve online. Being strategic, being a leader, and understanding a market is more important now than it ever was. Being a true marketer involves understanding an industry and providing value. We should all be striving to provide more value to organizations going forward.
Have you spend enough time on web strategy? Are you hoping to spend more time on it? I want to hear what people are thinking about thinking strategically overall!
There are 14 comments
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We’re in heated agreement. Great post and on point both about setting aside the time for strategic thinking and gaining the necessary skills. Thanks for putting it out there.
This week: evaluating our priorities… much needed.
Michael, thanks for the comment! Glad we agree! 🙂
"Set aside time to think strategically"
Such a simple thing to do but often so hard to 'find the time'. Thanks for the reminder….
so simple, so important, and yet we never take the time out to do it…something im going to do a lot more of in 2010. 🙂
Thanks Tony, it's so hard to look at the bigger picture sometimes, yet so easy to get caught up in details. I vote we all start using "think strategically" rather than "think outside the box" in 2010. 🙂
“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” You are right on about getting so caught up "doing" and not necessarily having a strategic sense of why you are doing it internally and what your customers want.
It's sooo important to know what customers wants and needs are and yet we never end up addressing them. I love when I get the opportunity to look at and figure out the wants/needs of people online, from customers to bloggers, etc…
One of the things I have vowed to do more of in the upcoming year is focus. Your ideas on strategic thinking fall right in line with that. Like you stated, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day matters of your job. That can get distracting and if you're not careful and end up pulling you in a direction which is not inline with the ultimate goals and strategies of the organization. I've also set up time on a reoccurring basis to hole up in a conference room with a big white board and note pad to "check myself"….to take a moment to elevate to that 10,000 foot view. It's been really helpful and honestly – I look forward to it every time! (Excellent for brainstorming too)
Kudos on addressing this topic so well!! As the buzz around SM inevitably fades and it integrates more fully into each org. this holistic approach will become increasingly critical. Those that don't understand will be … well … playing catch up for quite some time!
Great post! I think one of the most important things that you hit on is the fact that you need to outsource. In your post you leaned really heavily toward hiring a consultant to free up some of your time but that does not necessarily have to be the case. You can hire out for any of the tasks that take up your time on a day to day basis. Consultants are often very expensive while hiring a college student to monitor social media site, post comments, social bookmark pages etc. for you is very cheap and will free up time for reflecting on strategy.
Awesome post Tony. I think you make some really relevant points, especially as we roll into a New Year & many of us are searching our daily habits and asking ourselves how we can streamline our efforts and increase productivity.
I must admit that often my strategy sessions end up as a byproduct of meeting a new person in the space or getting involved with a new event, and too rarely are they a result of me setting aside the appropriate time to really evaluate where I am going & how I am getting there.
By taking a step back and asking yourself "where can my strategy be improved and optimized," we can see new avenues worth pursuing and ones to avoid. Thanks for the reminder Tony…great stuff.
Kristy, your comments are spot on…"this holistic approach will become increasingly critical"…it's so true that people that don't have a holistic view of the online space will be, as you said, playing catch up…
Nice post Tony. One thing I learned from a few brilliant strategist in my Corporate days is to treat Strategy as an ongoing dialogue. This can be very difficult and frustrating for people, but to me it is the essence of 'The Pivot'. The days of 5 yr plans and annual strategies are over – success depends on the teams ability to navigate, not fixate. Someone on the team has to have the ability (and responsibility) to be in a constant state of 'strategy' – all while executing – so you see the twists and turns before they happen. Strategy matters so much more than many understand. Keep the dialogue going…
There are a lot of marketing strategy processes that a company can use to develop a strategic marketing plan. But, it really comes down to making sure that every marketing program is designed to improve each customer's quality of life.
Every potential customer has needs, wants, desires and problems. It's easy for everyone on the team to think strategically when we visualize those customer feelings as we add a feature, develop marcom materials, or go into a sales call,