Welcome to the first edition of my blog.  In coming editions, I intend to share observations from my marketing strategy work over time with organizations of all sizes.  Hopefully, I’ll also convince a few readers to think more about long-term strategy at a time when it’s easy to be focused on short-term results.

After an early stint in sales and marketing roles for technology companies, I got into marketing analysis and strategy consulting during the dot-com boom when business plans were drafted on napkins, funded, then at some point someone would realize that there needed to be a revenue stream.  Thus, some strategy work for consultants.  Eventually, I ended up working on projects for corporations, small businesses, as well as non-profits.  Invariably in my work, things always have seemed to get back to key basics regardless of the organizational profile: Is the revenue model viable? What are competitors doing?  What value can a company leverage to compete? Are its offerings aligned to target markets? Should the company re-brand? What marketing options best map to the products and situation? And so on.

Strategy is a term that gets tossed around loosely.  In the 2008 presidential race, John McCain accused then-Presidential nominee Obama of not understanding the war strategy in Iraq.  Obama’s reply was that tactics dictated how to win on the ground; strategy was whether we should have been in Iraq in the first place.  Whether or not you believed in the war, he makes a good point, especially given that he had opposed it.

Maybe it’s kind of a leap, but an overall marketing strategy addresses the most fundamental questions in a way not that different than what Obama was talking about. Beyond how a business should be using Facebook are the more basic ones, whose answers become much clearer with a sound situational analysis. By starting at the tactical level business owners often sub-optimize the results of their precious marketing dollars and can miss opportunities they hadn’t considered.  There’s a reason business schools spend so much time on strategy –  the courses are not that different today than umpteen years ago when I was a b-school student (Mark Zuckerberg was four) – though tactical marketing options are completely different.  Spending the time to think through the marketing strategy basics is time well spent. Strategy is the front end of the marketing process and should drive the choice of tactics in a marketing plan, how they get implemented, and what kind of brand and message is conveyed.

In my next issue, I’ll dig deeper by looking at the situational analysis and how it drives the strategy process.

Ruth Janjic is a marketing analyst and strategist and the founder of Diagonal Growth Strategies. She helps clients of all sizes get back to marketing basics and make informed decisions about their marketing options.