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May 30, 2014

Do you know where you’re going? Why Strategy should drive your marketing & sales.

cheshire_catRemember the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland? During the encounter at the fork in the road, the Cat says to Alice (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you don’t know where you’re going… then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Wise cat!

That same thinking also applies to marketing your business. Without any purpose or direction – i.e. without “strategy” – you’re just spinning your wheels… you’re just “doin’ stuff!”


Let’s start with the basics… what is Strategy?

In its simplest terms, a Strategy is a broad, directional statement that expresses WHAT you will do to achieve your goals. By contrast, tactics are the HOW.

A strategy can be supported by multiple tactics… and one tactic can support more than one strategy.

For example, Advertising is not a strategy… it is a tactic, one that can used to support the strategy of Building Awareness. Building Awareness can also be supported by such tactics as social media marketing or calls from a sales team.

Another example of a Strategy could be to “Position our Founder as an Ethnographies Expert.” Like our first example, it is a broad, directional statement of WHAT you will do to achieve your goals.

Then question becomes, “HOW” will you do it? For that, you might consider tactics like:

  • Have the Founder write a weekly blog about Ethnographies
  • Write an article for Quirk’s
  • Present a webinar on Ethnographies
  • Participate in LinkedIn group conversations

The Strategy-Tactics relationship is a fundamental precept to the marketing & sales process.

2 Kinds of Strategies

Strategies can be talked about as being in two groups – Buying-Selling Process strategies and Go-to-Market strategies. And while in two groups, they are all interrelated and work together.

The Buying-Selling Process strategies apply to all B2B services firms, regardless of the services they offer. No exception. These process steps – each one its own strategy – include: Build Awareness, Generate Leads, Nurture Leads, Acquire 1st-time clients and Keep Repeat Clients. For more details about this, Click Here to read about the Marketing & Sales Pyramid™.

The Go-To-Market strategies will be more specific and customized to your firm. For example, a focus group facility operator might decide to ‘Differentiate ourselves from the competition in our city’ (and then go on to build out a focus group suite that looks more like a comfortable coffee shop).

The Process

There are three primary methodologies to use when thinking through and coming up with the strategies for your firm.

  1. Follow the 8 P’s of Marketing (Click Here to read the article).
  2. Use the 4 Ways to Grow a Business (Click Here to read the article).
  3. Uncover Opportunities & Problems (see below).

Setting strategy with the Opportunities & Problems method starts with taking a critical look at all phases of your business:

  • An internal look at your own firm… think SWOT Analysis, marketing & sales audit, financial review, etc.
  • Your clients’ (and ex-clients’) perception of your firm – what you do right, what you do wrong, what changes you need to make.
  • Your top competitors – their capabilities, advantages & disadvantages vs. your firm; perhaps a little ‘secret shopping’ is in order.
  • The Market Research industry – what’s happening in the MR industry that could have an impact (positive or negative) on your business? Think about new trends, new methodologies, technology, etc.
  • The industries you serve – what’s going on in the key industry verticals you serve that could impact you? Think about trends, technology, government legislation, global changes, etc.

Now, gather all of that data together, pore over it, distill it down. You’re looking for certain recurring ideas/concepts/issues that bubble to the surface. From those findings, answer these questions:

1. What Opportunities exist that we can take advantage of? These opportunities could be within your own company, in the MR industry or in the industries you serve.

For example, as a focus group moderator, you might decide to embrace some of the new technologies and position yourself as an expert in online qual. Or maybe you run a Panel company and decide to build a Hispanic Panel to reflect that fast-growing segment of the population.

2. On the flip side, looking at Problems presents a potentially more valuable direction. Noodle on this… “What problems exist – at our company / that our clients have to deal with / in the Market Research industry / in the industries we serve – that, if we solve them, puts our firm in a competitively advantageous position?”

Here’s a real-world example of problem-solving. Years ago, I was consulting with a firm that was one of the first to come to market with a Bulletin Board Focus Group (BBFG) platform… but it didn’t take off like they thought it would.

We did our homework and discovered it wasn’t a technology or sales issue at all. We learned that researchers/moderators did not understand how BBFGs worked, which applications worked best for them and how BBFGs compared to traditional research methodologies. It was an education problem. From that came one of our go-to-market strategies… “Educate our target market.”

The tactics we used to support that strategy were:

  • Presenting webinars (Topics? Based on their pain points… How BBFGs worked / Best applications / Comparisons to traditional research)
  • Publishing white papers and eBooks
  • Exhibiting at conferences (for 1-on-1 demos and discussions)

… all of which were about helping to educate prospective clients about BBFGs so they could make an informed buying decision.

Bottom line

Setting strategies is THE most important part of the marketing & sales planning process. Why? Simple… go off in the right direction (solid strategy) – and even if your tactical execution is a little off – you’ll still have some success. But go off on the wrong direction (no strategy or bad strategy) and – even if you execute beautifully – you’ll have little chance of being successful.

So don’t just DO marketing… set aside some time to make sure you talk through and think through the strategies that will drive the direction you want to go.

Good luck and good marketing.


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