Why strategy is important

Having a documented strategy not only helps you work more efficiently, it can also help you avoid costly and unnecessary mistakes. The story of the drug-promoting pencils distributed to school kids is a good example of that.

Working with strategy has taught me that a lot of people really dislike it. One major reason is fear, strategy forces you to make choices. I’ve written about that in more detail in a blog post for the Content Marketing Institute. But another reason, even more common, is that people find strategy boring. It gets in the way of the fun part, when you get to produce content, brainstorm about websites or talk about how to create engagement in social media. Every time I lead a workshop and tell the participants to work on target group analysis, messaging or measurements it only takes a couple of minutes before someone comes up with a great idea for a film, a Twitter campaign or a blog post.

pencils drugs

So why spend time doing boring stuff like analysis, defining guidelines and planning activities? Well, one reason is that it helps you avoid mistakes and errors that can prove both costly and damaging. Because in actual fact that is what strategy to a large degree is all about, taking the time to think things through before rushing into something that you will regret. I have a wonderful example of what happens when you don’t take a moment to stop and consider what you’re doing:

No one, not the manufacturers or the school staff, realized what would happen when it was sharpened until a ten-year old pointed it out. The pencil had to be recalled and replaced.

This is a perfect example of jumping straight into the creative process without taking the time to think about consequences, scenarios etc. If the creators of the pencil had taken a step back and thought about their idea, the situation could have been avoided. Even better, they could have tested what actually happened when the pencil was sharpened. Common sense could have saved a lot of money, and common sense plays a large part in strategy. There will be time for the creative part, and the engagement part or whatever part you’re looking forward to. But don’t skip on the strategy work to get there. Not only will the quality of your content, website or social media effort suffer from it. Not having a strategy can end up costing you a lot of money.

What’s your take – is strategy important or can we do without it?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn in May, 2014

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