Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Too much strategy, not enough action – the problem with marketing!

My old colleague, John Hinchcliffe (now Marketing Director at top mail order business, N Brown) provided my favourite definition of strategy:

“Strategy is a word used by consultants so they can charge you more money.”

How right he was and how wrong so many of us are for giving such credence to these merchants of strategic insight. Such folk give us volumes of carefully prepared, anecdote-riddled, evidence-light guff intended...well, to get some money off us!

I’m with John on another thing, strategy is simple. To misuse my recollection of John’s pithy approach – Damart’s strategy is that they are a mail order company, everything else is tactics. Simple, eh? Once we have defined the place where we intend to conduct exchange – of money, goods, ideas, service, whatever – everything else follows. And there are only three possible places of exchange:

1. Open a shop
2. Publish a catalogue
3. Send a salesman

It’s best to start with just one of these places and get that right. In time – having succeeded with your catalogue – you might open a shop (eg, Lakeland Plastics). Or having created a great retail environment develop a sales-led wholesale import/export business (as Bombay Stores have done). But you start with picking one of the three options and trying out all the tactical variations that follow from the place of exchange you’ve chosen.

As John (I think – but it might have been me) said:

“Marketing is 1% strategy and 99% boring routine!”


Carl Hopkins said...

Whatever Mr Hinchcliffe says is gospel to me, and I think he is bang on the money again with his observation on what strategy really means when a consultant uses the word.
Very few people have strategies they have short term needs they are looking to address or immediate problems they are looking to overcome or past screw ups they are trying to ignore or egos they are catering too...
Anyway what do I know? Listen to JH - He's the man!

Mike Chitty said...

It is said that you can charge more for a strategy than a plan and even more for a vision than a strategy!

However as someone who makes their living in part by helping clients with 'strategy' - guilty as charged m'lud - I can show you countless organisations whose only strategy is 'follow the money'. They often lack purpose, passion, integrity and energy.

For me, strategy is a process for realising our potential - becoming what we have the potential to be. It is a discipline for self and collective improvement.

Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf said "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy."

and I would agree with that!

The problem is that many organisations lack both!

The Gingerbread Girl said...

Hi Simon, I am debating your post here:


Anonymous said...

I find this very interesting and possibly intellectually stimulating, but: To me currently involved with a number of dishartened teams in situations where the strategy is not clear and subsequently all their actions seem pointless. I wonder if there is not some value to understanding the goal and purpose and direction, for the suppliers, team members and possibly even the customers...