There is a critically important and logical order implied when it comes to strategy development, a priority that is often ignored by marketers, strategy consultants and (especially) communication agencies. It is a simple syllogism that goes like this:
-Know where your differentiated advantages lie
-Know what you need to do to win the game
-Then go to your customer and find out how to win
Rely on business strategy, competitive advantage and marketplace dynamics to tell you what to do, not the customer. Instead, the customer should tell you how to do it.
To find your strategy, there a number of things you must do, and an order in which customer feedback comes into play:
1.) Look Inside. Based on the vision and core capabilities of your organization, your competitive advantage and what you see as prevailing marketplace trends, determine Â the strategic alternative or alternatives that are best for you from a long-term, bottom-line perspective. I’m making this sound easy, but finding the strategy that brings all of this together in one idea is a real art.
2.) Determine which strategy is best. It’s OK to talk to your customer to determine how to refine that strategy. Will they give you permission? Where does that permission start and where does it end? What sort of stimulus do you need to get the response that they’ve indicated they’re capable of?
3.) Find the easiest path to implement your strategy. Customer research is all about finding the easiest path, in that it allows you to find natural marketplace momentum and use it to your advantage.
To put it simply, don’t ask the customer – “Do you like this ad?” Ask them “Does this motivate you to do/buy X?” Customers are not marketing advisors, but they will tell you what they will or wont do.
Norwegian Cruise Lines once embarked on a beautiful, award-winning advertising campaign designed to entice young people to take cruises. The company essentially ignored the competitive realities of its own business. Surveys found that young people loved the ads- and so the campaign went full steam ahead.
But “Do you like the ads?” was the wrong question. “Will you go on a cruise?” was the right question. An even more critical question should have been posed to the older people who really do go on cruises, and that was: “Will this ad campaign scare you away?” Unfortunately, the answer was: yes. Older folks stayed away from Norwegian in droves while only a trickle of young people took the plunge. Bad for Norwegian. Good for its competitors, who had stuck to marketing to those older cruise takers.
Remember to develop yours strategy first, then go to marketing. And, if you are going to talk to your customer, ask the right questions.
Austin McGhie is Sterling’s head of Strategy
Next week we take a deeper look at research and its rightful role in support of brand strategy.