What you’re doing isn’t a strategy.
If you have more than one strategy, then you don’t have any strategy. If you have a social media strategy, a search strategy, a backlink strategy, an email strategy, a content strategy, a mobile strategy and a video strategy, then you don’t have a strategy.
You have a big mess. And you know it.
Well, OK, not you specifically, gentle reader. I mean the people who have all those things but aren’t reading this column. Those other people don’t have a strategy. Let’s talk about why those other people don’t have a strategy for a bit, lest we ourselves fall prey to their folly.
Most organizations can, at best, implement a single strategy at a time. The reason for this is simple: In the managing of the myriad things that need to be done in the course of a day, cross-checking everything against multiple strategies creates a significant amount of overhead.
If there are several people out there doing stuff to achieve business goals for you and they are constantly checking their activity against more than one strategy, then they are going to be too busy doing that to get all of their actual work done. If they had a single strategy from which to work, then they’d have more time to actually do stuff.
The myth of multitasking — coinciding with the rise of digital "productivity" tools and services — has the tendency to erode and distract focus. Reversing this tendency requires focus.
Implementing more than one strategy at a time doesn’t preserve focus, it disperses focus. It removes time that could be spent implementing a strategy.
Many people, in an effort to feel important, will determine that the channel they understand best is so new and so unique that it requires a bold new understanding and reorganization of the entire business so that this channel is at the center, and everything else revolves around it. Some of those people will be selling you something.
Because regardless of whatever new technologies are introduced, people are still people. Their arms are typically 2 or 3 feet long, and they like to hold things they read within that distance. They don’t like squinting, and they don’t like waiting.
Put another way, evolution hasn’t yet had time to select physical traits in the human gene pool based on the use of computer technology. It probably never will. Given this situation, it’s highly unlikely that whatever new technology that has come along is so mind-bendingly important or "disruptive" that your existing business needs to reorganize around this technology immediately.
Which isn’t to say that businesses shouldn’t change or adopt new technologies, mind you. It’s just to point out that developing a "strategy" for each thing that comes bumping down the road might not be fruitful.
Better to understand how new and "disruptive" technologies relate to customer experience and your business. How can new technologies be utilized in the context of your existing strategy? Do new technologies significantly alter the topography of the customer experience and thus influence your strategy?
You see, strategy is bigger than any one channel (unless you happen to be a channel-specific consultant, publication or vendor).
Which brings me to a secret relating to the word "convergence."
This is a word that’s bandied about frequently. It used to be that "convergence" referred to the mythical realignment of digital devices, formats and distribution platforms that would bring us back to the glory days of broadcast media. This would have been fantastic for advertising agencies and the companies that outsource their brand stewardship to those agencies.
As we all know, however, that didn’t happen. There are more devices, formats and platforms than ever before. And agencies are still very much playing catch-up to figure out how to maintain relevance in a world of fragmented communication delivery options.
Recently, the idea of "convergence" has been resuscitated and applied to types of media (as opposed to devices, formats or platforms): paid, owned and earned. While this is certainly easier to envision as mass media struggles to reinvent itself, it’s still a very agency-centric view, falling in the spectrum of public relations, advertising and content marketing.
This will tempt the overstrategizers to concoct convergence strategies, and paid strategies, and owned strategies, and earned media strategies. Like channel-driven strategies, these will sap focus — but the bill will be for entire support consultancies, assistants and branding shops.
Convergence-driven strategies are an enterprise-scale drain of focus.
What you’re doing isn’t a strategy.
What you’re doing is working your plan. You may have several plans: one for each channel, one for paid or earned or owned, one for each format or device or distribution platform, one for each customer segment, one for each step of the customer decision journey, until you’ve run out of hours available within your team.
When plans are examined, the areas where they align and reinforce one another draw the outline of your strategy.
If nothing is aligning and reinforcing, then there is no strategy — it’s a jumbled mess. It’s tactics masquerading as strategy. It’s the noise before defeat. Probably an expensive defeat, too.
You, gentle reader, have one strategy that outlines how your business generates meaning in the world. Your plans for everything you touch reinforce and align with that strategy. Your advisers and team are able to operate with agility and conviction because they know and understand the strategy. They can play with, implement and absorb new technologies because they know the strategy.
Your strategy is what you’re doing.
Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt.
|Contact Gahlord Dewald:|
|Letter to the Editor|