Strategists Anonymous: The Maintenance Steps

This is the third in a three-part series detailing a twelve-step programme of digital strategy.  If you want to remind yourself of the earlier steps, you can find Steps 1-3 here and Steps 4-9 here.

Once you have established a clear strategy and tactics in each of your existing plans, all that remains is to maintain this distinction.  This can be easier said than done, particularly as we know that relatively few marketers adhere to these definitions, but these Maintenance Steps will help you to avoid slipping back into old habits.

Step 10: Continued to review our digital marketing plans and when we were wrong promptly corrected them

For most of us, we will be producing new marketing plans almost continuously, and we will have approached this in our “old” way for quite some time.  As a result, it is almost inevitable that we will sometimes lose sight of the problem and revert to hazy definitions of strategy and tactics.  After all, no one is perfect and it’s likely that many of your clients and colleagues will continue to use incorrect terminology, particularly when short-term pressures on performance mount up.

What’s important is to acknowledge when this happens and to remind all stakeholders of the strategy.  There’s no problem with being agile and taking short-term action to fix an immediate problem, but this cannot be at the expense of your well-defined strategy.  Make sure that you constantly review your plans to ensure that any tactical pivot does not deviate from the overall direction, otherwise you will never reach your long-term goals.

Step 11: Sought through continuous learning to develop our ideas and deepen our understanding of digital strategy

Although strategy is by its nature long-term, that doesn’t mean we can “set and forget” (and nor should we).  Likewise, this programme only provides a foundation upon which to build your digital marketing strategies.  By definition, we need to be looking to the future and that means maintaining a fresh perspective, not just repeating the same tired approaches again and again.  Keep learning from trusted sources, borrow successful ideas from other strategies, take inspiration from other markets and verticals.  This will help to keep you motivated and will lead to greater innovation which will drive better and better performance.

Step 12: Having seen performance improve as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other strategists and to practise these principles in all our plans

All that’s left now is to persuade other marketers of the importance of this process.  The more of us who are on board with setting clear boundaries between strategy and tactics, the easier it will be to maintain these definitions.  In many cases, the proof will be in the pudding and your marketing performance will convince your clients and colleagues of the value of these steps.  In other instances, you may need to be more tenacious, insisting on the importance of getting the terminology right.  Even when you don’t seem to be getting through, there’s still value in sticking to your guns because it will further reinforce these steps in your own mind – and that will ultimately make you a more successful strategist.


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