Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Marketing tactics without a strategy is a recipe for disaster

Mar 26, 2024

Is your digital marketing plan based on a real strategy - or is it just an expensive to-do list?

The saying “marketing is an experiment” is being used increasingly.

It’s absolutely true - BUT all too often it’s served up as an excuse - a rationalisation for expensive, avoidable marketing process failures.

Marketing IS an experiment. However - as in science - a good experiment isn’t conducted in a vacuum.

Scientists don’t just throw mud at the wall to see what sticks. They start by:

  1. Stating the hypothesis they’re testing.
  2. Then they state the results they expect to see that will prove their hypothesis.
  3. Then they design their experiment to test their hypothesis.

(And yes, sometimes serendipity strikes and you get penicillin - but the context was set by a clear hypothesis, deep knowledge of the field, hard work and a robust experimental process).

What’s the hypothesis on which your marketing experiment is based?
Before you start your marketing experiment, the first thing you need to do is write down your marketing strategy (your hypothesis).

Don’t dive into lots of to-do items - write down the hypothesis you want to test.

Your hypothesis (strategy) needs to put the basics of your business proposition into words - answering question like these:

  1. Who do you think is going to buy from you?
  2. Why do you think they’re going to buy what you plan to sell them (and at a rewarding price point)?
  3. Why are they going to buy from YOU?

This is NOT about spending a motza on a massive marketing document - but you do need some key principles put in writing. When your strategy is written down, then your whole team can potentially work from the same playbook. (Including your digital marketing agency.)

If your strategy is not in words then it doesn’t actually exist (except as wishful thinking). You can’t share what you can’t describe, and everyone in your marketing process will fill in what THEY think your business is about.

Most marketing plans DON’T HAVE a strategy
Most digital marketing plans are super short on strategy - if they have it at all. They’re actually oversized to-do lists. They’re full of actions like:

  • Publish 1 article a month on XYZ platform
  • Post a copy of each article on your website
  • Do on-page SEO to optimise the article for Google
  • Run a social media campaign

That’s an action plan. It may or may not deliver results - however it IS NOT a strategy.

Without a clearly stated hypothesis about who your ideal customers are, what online platforms they inhabit, how they look for solutions, where they look for solutions and what will convince them to choose you as their solution supplier, you don’t have a marketing strategy.

You don’t have a single, coherent “hymn book” to inform everyone in your business what goals your business has set out to achieve.

This isn’t new - it’s as true as it was when Michael Gerber wrote about it back in 1986. That’s when he published The E-Myth : Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It.

Strategy is HARD - and all too easy to avoid
It’s uncomfortable - it can make us feel exposed, inadequate and uncertain. It’s actually much easier (emotionally) to dive into “doing” using “everybody knows” actions and wait and hope.

But strategy development is the core of the real work of business success. And the costs of avoiding it are high.

As the Cheshire cat said to Alice (in Wonderland):

“If you don’t know where you’re going, then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

If you don’t have a marketing strategy, your marketing spend is going to be an ongoing black hole.
Without a coherent, consistently executed marketing strategy, you can’t design a good website, let alone choose the right digital marketing agency. You certainly can’t give your service providers a brief that will enable them to help you succeed.

As Roger Martin says in this HBR video A Plan is Not a Strategy, a strategy defines a competitive outcome you want to achieve, including:

  1. Your playing field and why you chose it (your market)
  2. Who your good customers will be - the ones who will pay you a price that enables a good profit (your specific target market)
  3. What your customers will want so much that they will buy it at a high-margin price (your value proposition).
  4. Why customers in that market will choose a given supplier (you) over the competition (your USP).

When you know this, THEN you can write a marketing plan that identifies WHAT you will do/be/become to be better than anyone else and win customers and sales on that playing field.

The core work you do in creating a robust, coherent marketing strategy is figure out how you believe you are going to win first - then you can write an action plan.

DO NOT expect your digital agency to be able to create your strategy.

It’s your business, it’s your market. It’s your product/service with the features and benefits you have designed into it. The customers will be your customers - so you have to deliver the strategy.

If you can’t write this strategy, then get an actual marketing expert to help you put your strategy into words.

Your digital marketing agency can build a plan to execute your strategy, but they’re technical experts. Your digital marketing agency is NOT expert in your industry and your market.

Marketing IS an experiment - so put some science into your marketing
Without a coherent, high-level marketing strategy, you could end up spending a whole lot of time and money doing a whole lot of different activities - but you won’t be able to test and measure whether your hypothesis is valid. So you’ll just keep spending and hoping and spending some more.

How can you “test and measure” if you don’t know WHY you’re measuring what you’re measuring - and if it’s worth measuring?

Don’t start behind the 8-ball. Check your SEI score today and get real data and real advice to build your marketing strategy for 2024.