In today's business environment, budgets are tight, resources are limited, and organizations are forced to cut corners. The directive is to economize in order to increase profitability or just to remain competitive.
Some organizations are also reacting to a previous over-reliance on high-priced strategy consultants—many of whom have not provided clear value or return on investment—by decreasing the amount of time and resources they put into strategy or strategic processes.
Unfortunately, the failure to first build a solid strategic foundation is counter-productive, risking costly mistakes later on not only for marketing but also for the entire organization.
But today, strategy is out, and execution is in. Witness the popularity of the book by Larry Bossidy (former CEO of Allied Signal) titled Execution: the Discipline of Getting Things Done. First published in 2002, it's now ranked No. 168 on the Amazon.com best-seller list.
This emphasis on execution at the expense of strategy is on the rise in marketing organizations as well. Many executives question the value of spending money for marketing strategy, especially if they have already defined an overall business objective. They want the marketing team to simply go out and execute a marketing plan.
Too often, the success of a marketing plan is judged by the tangible marketing deliverables that the team produces—a series of events, press releases, marketing collateral, websites, etc. Since these deliverables draw attention inside and outside the organization, considerable effort is put into making sure they look good, whether they are hardcopy or web-based.
Packaging, or look and feel, is a key part of deploying a marketing strategy. Many important and on-target messages have been lost because they were delivered in plain-vanilla, or worse, hard-to-read, distracting, or downright ugly packages. However, attractive packaging, when combined with content that is not well thought out (or more importantly, not on target strategically), will fall flat on its pretty little face.
Because a "pretty face" will only go so far, it's extremely important to spend the upfront time to be sure that your marketing programs are built on a solid foundation, that you have nailed down the key elements of your marketing strategy, and your team can clearly articulate them—before going off to create those highly visible (and often highly expensive) marketing deliverables.
Linda J. Popky is principal at Leverage2Market Associates. A strategic marketing expert, she is the author of the new book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage With Marketing That Matters.
LinkedIn: Linda Popky