If I were to offer up a poll, I’d probably see 90% of you saying you were strategic and implementing a long-term vision.
But in reality, I can safely assume that at best, 50% of your campaigns are strategically planned and not reactive to what’s going on around you.
Is that a poor way to run your campaigns?
The truth is, no matter how much strategic thinking you do, long-term vision gets muddied by short-term metrics.
Wall Street manages public companies as much as they are managed by their executive teams. Investors want to see quarterly growth. Long-term vision is rarely the kind of talk that will bolster a public company unless the short-term metrics are also being achieved and are building in aggregate to support the long-term goals.
In the case of a smaller, privately held company, short-term metrics are what the board looks at to determine if a strategy is panning out. There is more tolerance for the balance of short-term versus long-term goals — but still, just as in a public company, you have to accurately forecast what metrics will be achieved when and understand the risk/reward tolerance between the two.
Market changes and environmental conditions have a massive effect on your ability to succeed, and can far outweigh the focus that your executive team might have.
This creates a uniquely challenging situation. The obvious goal is to develop a strategy, execute a campaign and read the results in order to change things and meet your goals. That process can be summarized as Ready, Shoot, Aim.
More often than not, you end up developing a strategy over a period of time, prepping to execute said campaign, and getting a frantic call from your CEO that the numbers are down and marketing has to pick up the slack.
In this situation, all your best-laid plans are laid to rest and it’s “get up and running now,” creating the Ready, Shoot, Aim environment. In this case you know what the “right” way to do things would be, but you’re forced to make sacrifices in order to get out to market quickly.
In a public company, this can be driven by a missed quarter or the forecast to miss an upcoming quarter. In a privately held company, it can stem from a strategic shift caused by a primary competitor or a board member who simply woke up one morning “with an idea.” All these factors can drive a last-minute change and marketers must be ready and willing to respond accordingly.
While “Ready, Shoot, Aim” is not the ideal way to operate, we have to be willing to use this tactic from time to time. Not doing so creates tension and the perception that marketing operates in a silo and under its own rules.
We should always offer our opinion and we should offer our strategic insight, but realize we are here to solve problems. If it’s a business problem, we offer the solution. If it’s a branding problem, we manage the solution.
Even though it can be frustrating, marketing is the career path we’ve all chosen. It’s one that requires you to shelve your ego in favor of responsiveness and a willingness to work towards a common goal, regardless of which outside forces are changing that goal.