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Why you should start with strategy

Peter O'Leary 18 Jul 2017 • 4 mins read

Strategy is an often misused and much misaligned term. By definition, a strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a major aim or objective. Confusion can exist between what is strategy and what are tactics.

To share a short story as an example: Years ago I worked with a colleague who, at the time, had recently relocated from the UK to Sydney. One weekend he (and a buddy) decided to see what the nightlife was like in Brisbane. So, after a leisurely breakfast on that Saturday morning, they jumped into the car and headed north. They, of course, understood Europe. Not Australia. They didn’t realise that Brisbane is a 12-hour drive from Sydney if you don’t get lost (which they did). Around 7 pm, near Tamworth, they finally stopped to ask how much further they had to travel - and discovered they were only half-way. Come Monday morning - he sheepishly commented that ‘Australia is a really big country’.

My colleague had executed a tactic rather than develop a plan. Brisbane was not the primary aim, a night out meeting new people was the objective. Had they reached Brisbane, their next question would have been “where do we go now?” (And their answer, by the way, was ‘we were going to head to the main street’ - not that easy as Brisbane is a city, not a country town.) But, the boys had fun and discovered something new about Australia. So, all was good in the end. They had enjoyed a night out in Tamworth and did find a main street - just much, much quieter than, perhaps, they had hoped.

If they had been more strategic with their approach, they may have considered who (or the type of people) they would like to meet and where they congregate. Then, they may have assessed how best to get there, how long they would ideally need and determine the likely success of the effort, all before setting off.    

Not having a plan is ok when there is no responsibility or consequence. It’s much more challenging when you’re investing significantly and needing to deliver commercial outcomes. The main message from this - develop the strategy first, then consider the tactics that would best achieve the objectives.

So, as much as strategy outlines the plan of action, there are many other benefits. The first is clarity of purpose. Stakeholders are aligned up front - (any) debate happens before the activity commences. Next, it provides the context to curate tactics and creative work. How do you recognise genius or that big idea? The plan doesn’t have to be long, sharp and precise are better. One-page is all that is needed.

AMBA has a strategy system developed to distil key points into easily digestible chunks. The data we capture is broad - and includes:

  • the market orientation (how your customers see your market)
  • what your brand is best known for
  • where growth will come from (and therefore where we should aim)
  • the triggers that make your brand fascinating and a must have
  • how your brand is codified

Get the answers right, and the resulting sales lift is remarkable. AMBA has a unique set of practical tools that take 'complexity out' of developing and selling in strategy. Of course, it’s never about the tools - it’s always about how you use them.

Want more? Follow this link for more on our approach to Communication Strategy.