I gave two presentations at this years SMX conference in Munich. The first presentation is a version of a talk I have given several times in the past year about digital measurement strategy, and is also the subject of this companion blog post.
While I hope to cover all of the slides from this presentation in future posts, today I wanted to talk specifically about the need for strategy in digital marketing.
There is too much industry focus is on tactical marketing and tools to get the job done. I have been in countless meetings where the focus was around which tools we should purchase to perform the most efficient and desirable digital marketing campaigns.
That is the wrong question.
Tools are the last thing we should be choosing as marketers. Tools should be chosen to fit our strategy.
But all too often, we try to fit our strategies into the capabilities of the tools we have already chosen. This shoe-horn approach leads to poor marketing efforts every time.
Strategy first, tools last
Much of my presentation covers a results-based approach to setting your digital strategy. Call it the ethos of the modern digital marketer, or call it youthful ignorance, but there is very little thought given to the strategies behind most digital marketing efforts.
Most efforts employ a spray-and-pray or ready-fire-aim approach.
Throw (sh)it on the wall and see if it sticks.
That may have been acceptable as the world was figuring out web 1.0 and 2.0, but it simply does not fly in the modern digital world. Companies have stopped blindly putting money into digital efforts, and are instead focusing on making digital a profit center.
The web is 20+ years old now, and online marketing finally being forced to leave the house and enter the real world.
The safety net is gone: It’s time to forge our path to future success.
Start with the outcome in mind
Somewhere in my late 20’s (I am 33 now), I started to notice I had developed this weird capability. It came after taking thousands of meetings, being at hundreds of events, and watching my business grow exponentially. After enough repetitions, I was able to anticipate how things would unfold in most situations I came across.
Prospective customer making unreasonable demands before the contract is signed? 99.95% chance they will be an even shitty customer after signing the contract. Avoid!
You get an invite for coffee with someone you barely know? They want something from you, and they probably won’t respect your time. Set boundaries.
Expect to get amazing results from your marketing campaigns without putting in the efforts and making the right focus? Take your money, douse it in gasoline, and light it on fire.
With enough repetition, you eventually start to see the outcome of a project from a mile away. You also start to change the way you approach problems.
Instead of trying to get by with pure effort, taking a strategic approach starts making more sense.
Instead of looking at problems in the moment, you start to approach them from a 10,000 feet perspective.
In my presentation, I call this starting with the outcome in mind. I believe that this is the cornerstone of strategy.
What does it look like when you are successful? Better yet, what does it feel like? If you can’t answer that question, then you shouldn’t be marketing at all.
Strategy is simply being able to answer the question “what does success look like?” and work backwards to a list of tactics you need to execute to get there.
The tactics we choose are malleable. 80% of our efforts will only produce 20% of our results. The other 20% of our efforts will produce 80% of our results. Strategy is having the fortitude to focus only on the 20% of efforts that are working.
Strategy is a phase, our longest career phase
Last week I read a touching tribute from Kevin Hillstrom to his mentor, Don Libey. We should all hope to be eulogized in the same way at the end of our careers. I encourage you to read the entire piece, because it really puts our long term impact into perspective.
If you just want the part relevant to this post, I have provided it as a quote here:
I spent a lot of time last fall working with a technology company outside of the catalog industry. The employees were in their 20s and early/mid 30s. They had a very different view of the world than I had. They had amazing energy. They had fantastic ideas. They could self-organize and solve problems. The last thing they needed was somebody like me telling them what to do and how to do it. But they did need help – they needed advice for dealing with Executives. This is something that repeats through the generations … folks who have been through the wars have knowledge that is helpful to younger generations … younger generations have technology-specific knowledge that older professionals cannot possibly capitalize on. If you can get the older/younger dynamic to work, you really, really have something!
Part of strategy is having the knowledge and wisdom to guide others through decisions. This can only be acquired with experience, and it can be tremendously valuable to those without the same experiences.
Many of my articles and speeches focus on sharing my war stories. There is wisdom to be gained from hard fought battles, and this blog is an outlet for sharing those experiences.
Kevin’s words put things into perspective: My war stories serve as a method of imparting knowledge into those who are seeking this type of wisdom. That is probably what makes me an effective teacher.
We should all consider this impact as we progress in our careers. We have more time in our careers to be strategic than we do to be youthful.