Tag: strategy

Walking away

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“To thine ownself be true.”
– William Shakespeare

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”
– Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

We all like looking at pretty things; especially if we’re the ones creating it.

It can be really hard to resist the lure of dabbling in Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Particularly on the web where part of the brief is to experiment, test and optimise, many digital marketers (myself included) love nothing more than to roll up our sleeves create.

In pretty much every case (unless it’s core business), this is a mistake.

We should learn to let go of those things we perceive as being ‘fun’ to do and focus on what really matters. This means letting go of tinkering and letting the experts do the work even if it’s going to cost you in the short term.

It’s cheaper to DIY

For some businesses this may be true, but for most, this argument doesn’t hold any water.

The cost imperative is often misplaced as the cost in terms of salary/lost productivity of you spending several days designing a new website far outweighs the financial cost of just getting a web designer to do it. Unless you have no money and there is no one else who could possibly do the job, there is no way you can say that the time you spend (a) figuring out how to do something; and (b) doing it at a suboptimal level, could be better spent doing something else that is more core to your business.

Having come from the NFP world where everything was done with shoestring, rubber bands and sticky tape, my thinking has shifted somewhat from trying to do everything myself and putting out an amateurish product, to engaging a professional who shared our vision and had a desire to work with us at a price that wouldn’t hold us to ransom. There are now so many design houses and agencies out there that its not too hard to find someone that matches your ethos and budget.

Ok, so what then?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was from the Managing Partner of a large Adelaide law firm who asked me, “What do you want to be known for?”

While slightly out of context, his point was that if you want to get ahead you need to be an expert at something – your competitive point of difference, if you will – and that if you aren’t clear about what your objectives are for both your career and your job, it’s easy to get distracted. But if you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, it becomes much easier to walk away from the ‘nice to do’ stuff so you can focus on the task at hand and get the job done.

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Sun Tzu and the forces of marketing

Marketing3 Comments

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
– Sun Tzu

The Chinese military general and author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu, says that in battle, there are only two forces at play – direct and indirect.

Direct forces, he says, are how most battles are conducted, by matching the enemy head on and slugging it out till the death.

Indirect forces, however, are about outmaneuvering the enemy and winning by targeting their weakness and turning elements such as terrain and cover to your advantage.

While it is important to use the right combination of direct and indirect forces in your strategy, it is always the indirect that wins the war.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat

Marketing is also made up of direct and indirect forces.

Most marketing tends to be focused on direct forces. It becomes a case of churning out one tactic after another in an effort to match your competitors. Your biggest rival starts a Facebook page, so you start one too. They drop their prices, you follow suit. They launch a new TV campaign, yours is on the air within weeks. Direct methods can be easily imitated and unless what you’re doing really strikes a chord with your audience, it will rarely lead to any real long term gain especially when you consider that once the campaign is done and dusted and the budget is blown for the year, consumers will have moved on to something else. Even product innovation is only a short term advantage unless you have the resources to keep staying one step ahead.chess_strategy

Strategising might be slow, but it works

In order to succeed, you must be relevant and engaging, and the only way to do this is by taking into consideration the indirect forces at play. What gives a brand a sustainable competitive advantage is the how they leverage the indirect forces in the marketing. Take Apple for example. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player or even the most innovative, but it is the one that went on to dominate the market. The reason was partly because of Apple’s innovative design but mostly because of how the Apple brand is positioned and the in-built cool imbued in all its products.

From a marketing perspective, indirect forces are the intangible elements that can’t be easily copied by your competitors. Fundamental to achieving this is a superior understanding of your customers and competitors so that you can identify where the gaps and opportunities are in the market and positioning yourself to claim this space. At the risk of oversimplifying, it is then a matter of leveraging these insights and developing an appropriate strategy to inform your tactics.

Ultimately, what this means is that if you want to succeed you need to get your brand right and not get obsessed with the tactics. While direct forces are essential to keep you in the game, it is the indirect that will win it for you.

In the words of the late Theodore Levitt, “determine a mass market, identify a small niche within that market and do it better and differently than anyone else.”

(Anyone else think the title of this post sounds like an awesome B-grade HK kung fu flick?)

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