Fergus started the webinar with this thought: ‘there is no one way to build a marketing strategy’. The crux of the talk was far more focused on ‘these are the mindsets that the best marketing strategists have when producing their work’.
📕 Let’s speak definitions
Fergus ended at the start with the thought – what is strategy? For Fergus, it’s how you connect the dots from where you are to where you want to be.
This is an important definition, but still one liable to confusion when one begins to consider the difference between strategy and tactics. Fergus clarifies by saying strategy is the plan. Tactics are the steps.
This is no moot point: for marketers saying ‘<insert channel here> is our strategy’ – what you’re actually speaking about is tactics. When this distinction becomes clear to you, it opens up a world of marketing with greater clarity.
Strategy is also not an outcome – it’s an informed opinion. It’s an attempt at deciding the best way to go about a thing, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
🧠 So, what are the mindsets of great strategists?
Great work isn’t for others. Believe it and expect it for yourself and your brand – even if that feels odd in the first instance. Big ideas beat big budgets.
Next. Flexibility. Don’t make your beliefs your identity.
This is about assuming you know the answers. The result is when challenged, you’re far more likely to try and defend your view rather than being open to being disproven. What we know tomorrow is probably more accurate than what we know today so accept the journey and find flexibility.
Third – focus. Stop getting distracted by shiny things!
We’re famous in our industry for taking old things and repacking them as new, shiny things. Your job isn’t to be on top of everything, it’s about getting to the bottom of it. I.e. understand the problem you’re solving: not every latest development.
Forth – Great marketers cultivate their tastes and learn from a range of sources, not just marketing
The outside world can keep you optimistic and inspired. Investigate great work from marketing and beyond. As Eugene Schwartz says: ‘creativity is taking two unrelated topics and connecting them together’. You’re only able to make connections if you have a broad understanding of what is out there in the world
Fifth – Great strategists embrace uncertainty
Success can’t be proven in advance. And although we all want to minimise risk – the real heroes of marketing aren’t the ‘tweakers’. Of course manage the risk – it’s not about being irresponsible – it’s about making calculated choices: right on the edge of comfort.
Six – Fairness and realism
Treat people well and with respect. Make sure people feel like you’re on their side. Another form of realism is also being realistic with your budget and expectations – managing up enables you to manage down better.
Seven – Keeping it simple
They’re not simplistic, but they are simple. Don’t seek out complexity just for the sake of it but instead find your moment of brilliance and double down on it.
🧐 And some thoughts on strategy
- It comes from connecting with people, not connecting with disciplines. This isn’t just about ‘PR’ working with ‘the performance team’ – it’s about real, genuine, human connection that comes from getting out there and speaking with your customers and teams alike.
- Good strategy isn’t formulaic. Formulas can block us from doing the right thing – don’t let how you do a thing get in the way of what you do. In the beginning of your career, of course seek out frameworks – but as you get more experienced: find your own way.
- Process risks strategy losing its imagination. Fergus recommends the ‘get-to-buy’ for creative briefs for quick, effective briefs that allow the imagination to wander.