… or how to spend $90,000 without even trying
I love the analogy of riding a bicycle. Almost everyone I know can ride a bike, but very few can actually build a bike, … including me. But, if I could build a bike, you probably wouldn’t want to ride the one I built because it wouldn’t be very good!
Bike design and manufacturing is actually a complicated process, but through a couple of centuries of industry practice, refinement, and evolution, the resulting finished product LOOKS simple. Some people confuse the LOOK of simplicity (handlebars, a couple of tires, and a frame) with BEING SIMPLE to create. This is the furthest thing from the truth. The complexity of thought that went into its design and manufacture is what creates a dead simple product anyone can use.
It’s the same with strategy. Almost everyone can spell the word strategy, but few are able to create an effective one. A great small business marketing strategy must be able to clearly differentiate your business from your competitors with a compelling, emotionally resonant, functionally relevant, reason to buy!
Last year, I received a call from the owner of a business who had hired a competitor of mine to develop a marketing strategy. She spent over $90,000 to conduct a series of interviews, perform some market research, and distil the results of the findings. The final plan’s central recommended strategy statement was:
“You are in the [blank] business servicing the [blank] market sector. Your client’s do business with you because they like and trust you.”
The remainder of the paragraph urged the owner to build on this “strategic” position.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Is this for real?” Unfortunately, it is! Here are some other gems from the beautifully illustrated, professionally laid out report.
Clients choose you because:
- You have industry knowledge and expertise
- You provide good value for price
- You are good people to deal with
The owner called me to look at the report primarily because she didn’t know how she would be able to use the recommended “strategy” to generate new business And although very successful, she’s also a very humble woman who thought that she might be missing something and wanted an expert second opinion.
She was absolutely right. The plan was fluff! Here’s what’s wrong with this “strategy”:
It does not clearly differentiate her business from her competitors with a compelling, emotionally resonant, functionally relevant, reason to buy.
Beyond this, I could put the name Ford, Intel, Microsoft, or your mother’s home based crocheting business as the title to the report, and it would apply to all of them because it is too generic to say anything specific. This is probably the simplest acid test to identify a poorly differentiated strategy: if you can place your mother’s company name above the plan, and it would apply to her as well, you don’t have anything to move forward with.
What’s your strategy?
Epilogue: We were able to salvage the new logo that the other firm created during their project, but that was the only item of value from that engagement. Looking back on it, the business owner realizes that she had actually hired a multimedia design firm, and not a marketing strategy consultant. A painful lesson, but one that she won’t be repeating any time soon.
Want to create a strategy? Here are some articles to start you off:
- What Sailing Can Teach Us About Strategy
- 7 Common Reasons Why Strategy Fails
- How Deep Customer Insights Boosted Timberland’s Flagging Sales