The biggest strategic marketing mistake I’ve seen

Does your marketing strategy miss the point?
I got an email out of the blue last week asking me to review a marketing strategy.
The strategy had been prepared by a consultant for an umbrella organisation.1  The umbrella organisation is funded by multiple companies, and it was the MD of one of those companies that wanted my opinion.

The MD’s concern was that he wasn’t getting value for money.  He was contributing thousands of dollars to this umbrella organisation’s marketing budget and wanted to know if he was getting fleeced.

Unfortunately for this MD, I reckon he has been getting fleeced.

The marketing strategy I reviewed was anything but strategic.  It felt like someone had taken a marketing shaped cookie cutter and placed it down without much extra thinking.

This might sound harsh, but overall the big thing missing was: WHY.

There were lots of recommendations to run adverts on TV or via billboards, but I had no idea why these were being recommended.  It felt like someone had hopped in their car and started to drive without any thought as to why they were driving, where they were driving to, and whether they should be driving at all?

It was interesting timing to receive this request because later that week I was due to give a ten minute talk to a group of Year 10 business students on the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.2
In this talk I outlined that marketing strategy has to be linked to the business’s strategy.  What is the point of a marketing strategy unless it helps a business toward its objectives?

But, even more than that, I asserted that the marketing strategy should help set the business’s strategy.  

A good marketing strategy and a bad business strategy is a recipe for disaster.  For example, I’m a terrible artist.  People will pay to not be my partner in Pictionary.  So a business strategy designed to sell my portraits of famous people has a few flaws.  Even the best marketing strategists in the world couldn’t sell one of my drawings for more than five cents.

This is why one of the key goals of a marketing strategy should be to influence the business strategy.

If you’re a CEO or an MD, are you letting your marketing director sit at the decision-making table?  And if you’re in marketing, are you campaigning for a seat at the table?

Because if you’re not, you’ll likely produce a strategy like the one I was asked to review.  And that’s bad news for everyone.

1.    By umbrella organisation I don’t mean a company that sells umbrellas.  I mean an organisation that provides services to a group of associated companies.  In Schools, a group like Independent Schools Queensland would be an umbrella company which provides resources to multiple schools.
2.    Oh how I wish I could’ve handed out a copy of the strategy I had reviewed as an example of what not to do!


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