Strategy-First Starts with Serving People

I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone that we are living in a very self-centered culture. In fact, I would say that we are living in the Self-Serving era of American culture…just like the Progressive era or the Industrial era. With consumerism at our fingertips…literally, we want things now, we need things, we expect things now.

So how does this play into a business?

Businesses provide services that people need and want. This is a good thing. People need electricians, people need cars, healthcare products, and the list goes on, but people also want things like the latest Xbox game, trendy jeans, iPhone and that list goes on too. Because we live in a “I-need-it-now” society, businesses are under pressure to quickly get their products and services in front of people whether it is a website, ad campaign or another marketing initiative.

Here’s the problem. Because businesses are in such a hurry to go to market, the strategy usually goes out the window and they go straight to execution. They forget their mission, so to speak, is to serve people. Make their lives better. Instead, when strategy goes out the window, people are just a statistic. A quota.

…And here’s the other problem. Marketing professionals cater to this expectation and have commoditized services to generate profit. To keep the service competitive with a quick turnaround, strategy is removed from the picture and tactical execution becomes the primary focus. Why is this a problem? We end up serving the business instead of the business’ customer by helping them meet their quota and improve their stats. We become a vendor and nothing more. 

You may say that the purpose of the marketing professional is to serve the business and to reach their goals. Partially yes. We are to help them bring brand awareness and build a bridge to their audiences to convert people to customers, but as their partner, we are an extension of their brand, therefore the ultimate purpose is to serve their potential and existing customers. As the business’ partner, it is our job to see their audiences as people and see the people as individuals .

It is when we see our job as serving the business’ customer, we see that the strategy to understand the customer is more important than execution. We see that we need to know how their customer thinks, behaves, and engages before we can offer tactical solutions. If we cannot effectively convey this to the business, then one of two things are happening: 1) we are not doing a good job of showing or see the value of strategy-first to serve their customer or 2) we understand the value of strategy-first, but the business still doesn’t want a strategic approach. They just want their tactical solution. If it is the former, I recommend looking to a business coach or brand strategist to help you create a clear message to effectively share the importance of strategy, but if it is the latter, then the business has deeper missional issues, and it probably is not a good fit.

If you are engaged in marketing and it is driven by tactics and assumptions, what are the steps you can take to change your business’ marketing efforts and DNA, for that matter, to have a strategy-first mindset that serves people?

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