What is strategy?


The question “What is strategy?” has triggered many doctoral dissertations, countless hours of research and healthy debate among academic management thinkers. Perhaps this is why many of us also struggle with it.

Nonetheless, if you are seeking to steer a business to sustained success, you need a pragmatic view of what strategy is and how you can take a strategic approach to your marketplace.

Strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, plans, tactics and actions. It is a framework of carefully-considered business choices that we make, on where to compete and how to succeed. When people say “I have a strategy for this”, they really mean a worked-out plan based on a strategic framework.

The widely-accepted business school definition (from Johnson and Scholes’s Exploring Corporate Strategy) is “Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations”.

So “strategy” is a framework — the direction or scope of an organisation planned at the highest level. Take the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, commanding 67,000 troops from an exposed position on the Mont St Jean ridge. His strategy had been set almost a year before when he made a detailed reconnaissance of the southern approaches to Brussels with his staff.

Wellington at Waterloo

Wellington rallies his troops during the Battle of Waterloo. “The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”

Like any successful field commander-in-chief, the Duke had a keen eye for ground, particularly reverse slopes which protected his troops from direct artillery fire. His strategy was based on a defensive battle, hiding the true extent and location of his forces from Napoleon. Of course, he was leading a complex, multi-national army with three army groups under himself, the Prince of Orange and Field Marshal Blücher and the strategy included collaboration between the three groups.

The point I am making is that strategy was painstakingly developed over months — including meetings between the three army group commanders, while tactics — how he managed his dispositions during the battle — were what contributed to the victory on the day.

Your strategy will be determined by burning midnight oil and developed in the form of a business plan which might well have a section called strategy. Business schools have a host of tools for creating a strategic framework — Boston Matrix, Benchmarking, Competitor Analysis , Core Competencies, Five Forces Model, GE Industry Matrix and so on. Smaller enterprises simply need to grasp what their potential customers see as value and how to meet it, where to compete for that business and how they will do it.

Where does marketing planning fit in with the overall strategic planning of a business? By marketing I don’t mean merely promotion, or marketing communications, a common misconception. The definition from the American Marketing Association (AMA), the US equivalent to the CIM, reads: ‘Marketing is an organisational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organisation and its stakeholders.’

Strategic planning is concerned with marketing, of course. But it also involves decision-making about production and operations, finance, human resource management and other business issues.

Marketing has a key role to play in strategic planning, because it is the job of marketing management, or the solo entrepreneur, to understand and manage the links between the business and its environment. Sometimes this is quite a straightforward task. For example, in many small businesses there is only one geographical market and a limited number of products (perhaps only one product!).

Marketing is often seen as the voice of your customer within your organisation. This is becoming a key differentiator because, through social media technology and processes, customers can now actually collaborate in the conception, framing and development of product blueprints as Unilever’s customers did with the Dove brand. This is one aspect of what we mean by social business.

So to have a marketing strategy, a social media strategy, a content marketing strategy, a networking strategy, a sales strategy are all nonsense. Your main strategic framework  and business plan cascades down into plans for each of these areas.

Create a strategy and write it down. Use it as a section in your business plan to cascade into plans with tactics, actions and forecasts. Change it from time to time, as circumstances change. But please don’t wave the word around as a panacea for all business ills — “I have a strategy for that!”. You will confuse your bank manager, your advisors and stakeholders. And, worst of all, you will also confuse yourself.

Six types of social media user


At this point, no single customer engagement channel can deliver marketers a complete picture of consumer behaviour.

Google knows what you’re interested in, but not what you’ve done. Facebook knows who your friends are, but not what you buy. Pinterest knows what you share, but not how you act on it. Foursquare knows where you are, but not what you like. You get the idea.

Social media measurement is critical to success, but brands have been unable to get their arms around what it is and what it means.

Aimia, a loyalty management firm, has unveiled a new segmentation model that analyses trust and control as drivers of six distinct social media personas. The model is detailed in a white paper: Staring at the Sun: Identifying, Understanding and Influencing Social Media Users. The paper argues that specific social media personas can be identified and more efficiently engaged by understanding their online behaviour.

“Today’s approach to social media measurement – racing to rack up the most likes, retweets, followers, and recommendations – is the wrong approach. Marketers must define success not by social media activity but rather by customer value and engagement,” declares Aimia. “Marketers often struggle to understand the true motivations and purchase intent behind customers’ social media activity. Segmentation by persona allows marketers to more successfully identify, understand and influence customers in social channels.”

via The 6 Types Of Social Media Users | Social Media Today.

How far can social media take the traditional enterprise?


Social media still rests a little uneasily in many enterprises. At the large end of the scale, it is hard to adapt older marketing communications workflows to react to the 24/7 nature of social media response. There are also issues of transparency after a generation or more of secrecy and spin.

Smaller enterprises can react more flexibly but the resources and skills are difficult to find and afford. Social media excellence takes time and needs rewarding. However, these are operational matters that are being addressed.

At a strategic level, there is a more pressing issue: does intensive social media involvement imply changes to all business processes and even commercial models? With changes from digital delivery and social media in the recorded music business, commercial video, publishing, printed media and, indeed, many other industries, should all enterprises be consulting the digital crystal ball?

Certainly, enterprises are developing online communities and trying to create stronger brand relationships, from sectors as disparate as carmakers launching new models to professional services firms developing inner customer “sanctums”. FMCG brands are also finding ways to engage customers in product development and testing via social media.

LONDON Advertising's new office

LONDON Advertising’s new office reflects its business model

Start-up advertising agency, LONDON, has found a way of simplifying the creative process, on the one hand, while using experienced professionals and a digital delivery system to handle campaigns anywhere in the world with much lower costs. Significantly, they have been transparent about their costs, a key part of digital transformation and an anathema to the traditional advertising agency.

There are two main approaches to digital transformation: the first is to evolve by developing products or services which have digital DNA built-in, whilst gradually adjusting the enterprise, its skillsets and workflows to accommodate this evolution.

The second approach is more radical: set up a lab, a skunkworks, a new manufacturing or service facility and get new talent to take responsibility for its outcomes. Such a laboratory can adopt a trial-and-error approach and learn very rapidly. Finding the balance between a successful skunkworks and the mother enterprise will be a challenge but less of a challenge than not doing anything at all.

Guest blogs: if you dupe on your own site, add a canonical link


In addition to the etiquette of not duplicating your guest post for another blog on your own blog, consider the fact that search engines do not reward publishing duplicate content. In fact, it can be positively detrimental to your search engine optimisation efforts to have duplicate content published.

Google Webmaster Tools

What is a canonical page? Why specify a canonical page?

One of the benefits of writing a guest post on another blog is so that you can link back to your blog and gain search engine rankings. If the article you write is duplicated exactly on your blog, search engines will sense that there’s duplicate content and penalise both pages. This isn’t good for you, nor the blog you guest posted on.

If you want your audience to be able to see the article on your blog, then one way to circumnavigate the duplicate content issue is to add a canonical link tag to the page on your site. The canonical link tag would look like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.otherdomain.com/where-you-guest-posted.html”&gt;

This way, you’re saying to search engines: “This is duplicate content, but the other page is the one you should index — it’s the ‘original’ article.” You can’t call your own page the ‘original’ unless you put the canonical link tag on the other blog, and that’s probably hard for you to achieve. So by putting it on your page, at least you avoid the potential penalty from serach engines for duplicate content.

With all that said and done, do you actually need the article on your blog as well? It’s much better etiquette to simply link to the other blog and they will undoubtedly link back to you and appreciate your sense of etiquette: reputation enhanced!

Check out this excellent resource in the link below:

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139394

Thanks to Y J Tso at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/sepiariver for the orginal idea.

Facebook content marketing advice from Nissan, versus its dealer network (small businesses)


http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2012/03/facebook-content-marketing-lessons/

Sunday might be a great day to post more content on Facebook

Sunday might be a great day to post more content on Facebook

#contentmarketing

The success of Nissan’s main brand page indicates that there could be advantages for its dealers in terms of engagement if they redirect their focus.

The parent company has resource to pour into social media marketing and it may have patterns of engagement that are worth looking at.

Let’s recap our findings:

  1. Bring cohesion to your messaging. What role does your business play in the lives of the people who have “liked” you on Facebook? It’s probably more than their daily dose of cute jokes. Don’t drop those entirely — nobody wants to follow a boring stream of company sales speak.
  2. Small businesses like dealerships should aim to post content that connects their industry to human-interest topics, such as local traffic information, suggestions on the best weekend road trips or even the occasional discount offer. Think about how your audience might relate to your business in their personal lives and you are almost guaranteed to find content-worthy points of intersection.
  3. Try posting more rich media. Firstly, it’s getting the highest engagement, by far. And secondly, it’s more likely to be shared. Ask yourself, would you be more likely to share a status or a photo? For most people, I think photos have a tangible quality that induces sharing.
  4. Rich media can be expensive to produce, but there are also cost-effective alternatives. Try using content from the main brand’s assets. There’s also aggregation, or content curation. You could look for someone within the company who possesses both a decent camera (doesn’t have to be a pro) and an eye to match. You could even ask consumers to get involved. Activating the community to generate content would kill two birds with one stone.
  5. Try posting more content during non-business hours. Part of content strategy involves understanding what mindset people are in when they read your content. And someone sitting around on a Sunday afternoon might be in just the right frame of mind to read about how remarkable a new model is that just arrived. It could even get them off the couch and up for a drive to check it out.
  6. Understanding what works is an ongoing process. People’s interests can change over time and, with many product categories, even by season. Fortunately, social media has made it easier than ever to gauge what’s of interest to a target audience. And the more you know about what interests them, the more likely you are to create content that tightens the relationship they have with your brand.

What separates good, and great, content marketing


If you are part of the digital marketing industry you will have probably heard of Joe Pulizzi and his organisation, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Joe has been a pioneer of content marketing for over a decade and has made it the CMI’s mission to help brands create quality content and distribute it through multiple online channels.

Coke and Google

Coke is emphasising that the future of marketing is digital content

The purpose of content marketing is to differentiate yourself from your peers and your competition through the use of creative, original digital content. Such content has a very beneficial SEO (search engine optimisation) effect and you will be found online, enjoyed and reap the resulting financial rewards.

Content marketing is not new. In the 1920s and 30s, manufacturers used printed newsletters to help their customers solve problems. They used storytelling, diagrams and photography to engage their audience, create brand loyalty and tell stories. The cost of such publications made it only available to larger brands.

The speed of publication and distribution has increased a hundred times since then. Prospects and customers can accept, read and ‘like’ a piece of content online within seconds.

The barriers to entry are now negligible. Photography, video and smartphones, as well as cloud computing, have brought tools within everyone’s reach that could only have been dreamed about just ten years ago.

A content strategy does not consume budget in terms of the cost of technology or distribution: it is either time-consuming for an internal team to create and curate content or it can be partly or wholly outsourced.

To avoid outsourcing, how can you accomplish the creation of original content? Through storytelling! A well-formed story is an essential part of an online marketing strategy. And here’s the rub: you are part of your story and you have direct access to the elements that can create compelling versions of it.

One of the reasons that you might not be creating much interaction online is because you don’t have compelling stories. Online tactics including search engine optimisation, lead generation and social media should be focused around telling a compelling story to engage your audience. After all, we know that facts tell…and stories sell!

Take Coca-Cola. The brand has recently released a series of videos that provide their take on the future of content marketing and more specifically the importance of storytelling.

Coca-Cola Content Marketing 2020: Part One
Coca-Cola Content Marketing 2020: Part Two

So what separates great content marketing, according to Joe Pulizzi, from the merely good?

  1. Add value: People resent being constantly bombarded with sales material. If you are in a competitive industry (which, let’s face it, most of us are), try to add value and solve their problems. Create content that is not sales-focused but customer-focused.
  2. Avoid jargon: Create content that focuses on what the audience wants to know, in their language. Avoid your jargon and learn theirs.
  3. Think ‘stories’: Motivate your team to look for the elements of great storytelling in everyday organisational life. I regularly go into enterprises and pick up several stories immediately, things that are in front of people each and every day but, because of familiarity, they become invisible.
  4. Team participation: By encouraging participation of your team in content creation, you can accomplish a few things. Looking for content on a regular basis will make them more aware of the elements of your enterprise and provide them with increased exposure online as an advocate for your brand.
  5. Coke content marketing video

    Coke hopes to transform one-way communication into dynamic storytelling to add value and significance to peoples lives

    Brand-less: Joe advocates that “your story travels further the less you mention your brand.” The more you provide quality content that is relevant to your readers, without necessarily referencing your brand, the more likely they are to read and share that information.

  6. Search out influencers: Search engines are still very relevant but there is an increasing trend towards increased referral-based business. If you can influence key influencers and they share your content with their network, that will produce a huge return on your efforts.
  7. Content ratio:The 4-1-1 Content Marketing Ratio — for every six posts shared on Twitter or Facebook, CMI advocates the following formula:
    • 4 shares of other influencers’/company’s content
    • 1 original piece of content
    • 1 sales pitch
  8. Give them the means: Have you ever wanted to share an article and spent more time looking for the social share buttons than you did actually reading the content? Place your social sharing buttons in a very visible area.
  9. Concentrate on quality: If you have to choose between quantity or quality of content, sheer quantity will hurt your brand. Posting great content once a week is far better off than posting mediocre content five times a week.

Brands take enhanced pages on Twitter


Asda's enhanced Twitter page

Asda has posted a YouTube clip of its latest TV ad in its permanent tweet.

Asda, Cadbury, Sky and Electronic Arts are among the first 20 UK companies to set up enhanced pages on Twitter. They  went live on Twitter yesterday evening (1 February).

This is the first batch of premium Twitter pages from companies other than the handful of launch partners who unveiled enhanced brand pages in December.

Companies can now post a branded banner and a permanent tweet containing media or a promotion, at the top of pages.

Asda has posted a YouTube clip of its latest TV ad in its permanent tweet. Its branded banner includes its “10% cheaper or we will give you your money back” price guarantee.

Cadbury is promoting its latest TV ad for the Creme Egg Goo Games with a YouTube clip in its permanent tweet.

Electronic Arts has set up a brand page for its Fifa Sports game, while Sky has a page for its Sky HD service, promoting the customer service it offers on Twitter.

In the UK brand pages are free, but there is also a minimum media spend required, understood to be in the region of £25,000.

Cadbury Twitter page

Cadbury's is using its brand page to promote its tier-one sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics

According to Twitter “An enhanced profile page increases your brand’s Twitter presence by prominently featuring your most important content and visually branding your page. Your enhanced profile page is completely public — users can view it without joining or logging into Twitter.”

As Twitter gets more serious about generating revenue, it makes sense to create a more welcoming environment for big-name brands — the types of users who may want to buy more ads on the site after they see how successful their enhanced pages are.