There is a strong temptation to write your strategy as part of your objective. Don't do it.
Last month I wrote about trying to translate a marketing objective into a media objective, from which a strategy and various tactics can be developed. Objectives shouldn't be subjective. They should be clear, concise, and attainable. If all the parties currently involved left the account and a new group entered, there should be no confusion as to what the goals were and if the plan met them or not.
Once you have an effective objective written (and not any earlier), it's time to tackle the strategy. The strategy describes how the objective will be accomplished and, like the objective, it needs to be clear and concise. You should be able to easily answer the question, "How will you accomplish the objective?"
"Strategy" is derived from the Greek word for generalship, which describes the advantageous conditions under which a military force would meet its enemy during combat. In the same respect, businesses create strategies as a plan of action to tackle an objective.
There is a strong temptation to write an "objestrategy" when preparing a plan -- that is, writing your strategy as part of your objective. Don't do it. They are two distinct, though related, elements. The objective describes the desired outcomes that will be accomplished; the strategy describes the activities that will take place to achieve these outcomes. Take this objestrategy for example: increase sales 5 percent by offering a $2 coupon to repeat users.
"Increase sales 5 percent" is your objective, and "offering a $2 coupon to repeat users" is your strategy. You may have other options to consider for increasing sales by 5 percent of which offering a $2 coupon is only one of them.
On the other hand, you also want to avoid writing tactics in place of strategies. Strategies are big ideas, while tactics are specific actions that will be taken; they are more concrete than strategies. For example, a strategy isn't "increase sales by advertising on coupons.com, Yahoo, and Google." These are the properties you're going to partner with to help execute your strategy (we'll cover tactics next month). For a strategy, you must elevate the conversation to a broader level. It's also important to note that your strategy may still work to meet your objective even when one or all of your tactics aren't working. For example, your strategy may be centered on a digital media couponing program with tactics such as utilizing mobile, search, and couponing sites.
Although a strategy needs to be concise, it must be one of the plan's most thought-out elements. It seems simple in theory, but it's not. It will guide all the other components and will also be scrutinized if the objective isn't met.
Conversely, if the objective is achieved, the strategy used may be employed across other businesses. If you're struggling with writing tactics, revisit the strategy. A poorly written strategy will yield poorly written tactics, since they are meant to work together.
When writing digital media strategies, keep in mind that digital in and of itself may be a media or marketing strategy. A hurdle has already been passed to get to this point. The digital media strategy should then specifically relate to the channels that will be used to achieve the digital media objective. If the objective is for 10,000 new 529 college-savings accounts to be opened from June to August, the strategy needs to factor in where people are most likely to be receptive to this communication, the number of people you would need to reach to achieve the 10,000 new accounts, and how often you would need to reach them (context, reach, and frequency). Therefore, one possible strategy is an exclusive partnership with a key property that reaches 80 percent of parents seeking 529 plans.
Data and research will usually be needed to support a strategy, but I advise against dumping it all in the body of the deck. Your strategy should live on its own, with supporting data provided in the appendix. For example, you may need to show case studies or data that will support a partnership. What are the advantageous and challenges? Has this been attempted before? If so, what were the results? However, since you don't always know what information will be most relevant to your audience, it's better to have it available and refer to it when you're presenting or when you need to direct your audience to it.
The strategy will meet a tragic end if it doesn't properly address the objective or lead into an action plan. I've seen great strategies applied to the wrong objectives. Strategies need to be tailored and thought out and adjusted if necessary. Tactics will emerge from this and must have a guiding force; otherwise, they'll turn into frantic tactics.
Next month: How to write media tactics.
Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center. Learn the ins and outs of SEM, including site optimization, link-building tactics, pay-per-click advertising, and landing-page testing and tuning to ensure high conversion rates.
Based in New York, Anna Papadopoulos has held several digital media positions and has worked across many sectors including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, and CPG.
An advocate for creative media thinking and an early digital pioneer, Anna has been a part of several industry firsts, including the first fully integrated campaign and podcast for Volvo and has been a ClickZ contributor since 2005. She began her career as a media negotiator for TBS Media Management, where she bought for media clients such as CVS and RadioShack. Anna earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from St. John's University in New York.
Anna's ideas and columns represent only her own opinion and not her company's.
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