In this lightning-fast technology business, all too often the marketing strategy is just "Do something." Executing is certainly essential, but having a clear vision while operating at high speed is also a pretty good idea. Effective navigation is equally as important as speed.
A lot of companies don't have a marketing strategy. I have no statistics on this, but I see way too many companies without one. My estimate is 9 out of 10 are lacking a truly competitive marketing strategy. Their Websites are a good giveaway, because the information there reflects no strategy or a very fragmented one. Fragmented strategy is no strategy.
In testing whether there's a marketing strategy in positioning, branding, pricing, and other strategic factors, most tech brands fail. All too often, top executives can't provide a solid reason for the things they are doing and can't explain easily and simply why their marketing will result in superior performance.
Sometimes the main reason behind the failure to have a great marketing strategy is simply that the CEO doesn't get it.
When asked, "What is your strategy?" most CEOs insist they have one and will probably whip out a giant PowerPoint presentation. Occasionally there's a slide titled "Our Strategy." And even more occasionally, there's substance behind this slide demonstrating how the brand is differentiated and how the company brings value that competitors cannot match. Most of the time, it doesn't.
Other key indicators of a missing marketing strategy include the following:
- You lack a sharp focus. Strategy is about narrowing choices about what you do, what you don't do, and how you want to be known in the market. Mini, maker of the Mini Cooper, is focused on small, quick, stylish cars. No SUVs, no trucks, no sedans. Compare that with the Chevrolet brand. What is a Chevy? It's a sedan, an economy car, a sports car, a truck, and an SUV. Little wonder the brand has been in trouble for years. The good news is that focusing doesn't mean you can't sell other things. It means you are very clear about what you want to be known for, and you emphasize that difference in everything you do and say.
Lots of brands, including many in the tech sector, can't resist the Chevy-like line extension. Companies get into unrelated or marginally related businesses typically for growth's sake, rather than to create more customer value and satisfaction. They're catering to stockholders, not customers. As a result, they wind up with too many or even competing strategic directions, which neither turn profits nor create corporate focus. One of the first things Steve Jobs did following his return to Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) was kill off about a dozen different models of printers. He remains renowned for his ability to say "No" to ideas he saw as off strategy.
- You are doing the same thing every year. If your strategy continually fits into what the company is already doing, you don't have a strategy. There's nothing wrong with being consistent if what you're doing is an effective, organized group of competitive actions moving the company toward its goals. Unfortunately, a strategy based on habit too often results in cloudy, dull direction, because it's meaningless and provides little if any perspective on what's essential to achieving business goals.
In the concluding part of this blog, I will discuss three other factors that demonstrate the absence of a comprehensive marketing strategy.