Although objectives and goals are still the true measure of success for marketing, I have seen an evolution in the approach that advanced marketers take toward strategy. Instead of strategies being outlined as having the answers that will achieve objectives and goals, advanced marketers now see strategies as the path to finding the answers.
Let me back up a little to give context. There are many ways that I have seen marketers put together a marketing plan, from a 1 page document all the way to 100+ page presentations. But to simplify things there are three primary items I see most advanced marketers focus on: objectives, goals, and strategies.
The approach advanced marketers take toward objectives and goals has not changed much — figure out what you need to achieve (i.e. objectives) and determine how to measure it (i.e. goals). But outlining what they are going to do in order to achieve their objectives and goals (i.e. the strategies), has evolved significantly.
The Rules for Strategy Have Changed.
Advanced marketers no longer treat strategies as absolutes. Instead of stating “we will do A to achieve our objectives and goals” you now see an approach of “we will test A, B, and C” or “we will figure out if A, B, or C will work.” It seems like a subtle difference, but it is not.
The old way to thinking about marketing strategy is predicated on already having the answers and just executing on them. “A will work, so just do it” is much different than “we will learn what works best to apply it forward.” The mentality toward marketing as a whole is truly different – it is now about constantly learning.
The new way of thinking about strategy is scary for most. As a marketer, it could be hard to admit that marketing does not have the answers. But when framed correctly, it becomes very clear that our job is to use the tools and resources available to find a way to the answers.
Why Have the Rules Changed?
Digital makes everything much, much more fluid. So when a marketing team puts together a plan, they are working within an environment that has the following:
- Customers, partners, and competitors are reacting in real-time
- Data is available at unprecedented amounts
- New solutions for marketers to use are becoming available almost daily
- Expectations for marketing results are no longer a nice-to-have, they are a must-have
What does this all mean? It means there is a constant change occurring across many dimensions that makes it impossible to have an absolute right answer. What worked before might not work again. Which means every marketer facing this uphill battle focuses on what can be controlled –> what you plan to learn and apply forward.
Sounds Great, But I Am Not Sure I Buy It.
All you have to do is look around at the 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape by Scott Brinker and you will see it loud and clear. A majority of the categories are focused on delivering insights as well as real-time “experiences” back to the market. And if you look at the evolution of this landscape since 2011, you will see not only new companies, but completely new categories have surfaced due to this change in the marketing environment.
So Now What Should I Do?
Look at your marketing plan. Are the strategies outlined meant to find the answers or are they giving them? If there is no hint at experimentation, learning, or some type of testing of assumptions, then you might want to revisit what your actual plan is setting you up for in the long term.
Spoiler Alert: Then My House Burned Down
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