According to a recent survey, strategic thinking is emerging as the most important skill for marketers. (Wait … emerging?) But here’s the challenge: strategic thinking is easy to talk about, but less easy to do. The word “strategy” is vague and overused. And many who possess strong strategic instincts lack the tools and methods to put them into practice. So what’s a modern marketer to do? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.
- Some of you may be wondering: why is strategy only now emerging as the most important skill? Wasn’t that always the case? The answer: no, not really. In fact, it’s become quite trendy in recent years to hate on strategy. Or to simply ignore it.
- Part of the reason: we’re distracted. Especially by trendy new technology.
- But here’s the thing—technology may be shiny, new and exciting, but it has its limits. A recent piece in HBR sums them up very simply: “humans are strategic; machines are tactical”.
- So the re-emergence of strategy is definitely newsworthy. And welcome. And the absolute right move if we’re looking to combat the rise of our AI overlords. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. So let’s start at the beginning, with our favourite definition of the term (from Michael Porter): “strategy is choosing what not to do”.
- Once you’re clear on that simple concept, it’s not hard to apply the principle to your business in an impactful way. Here’s a very simple example that also happens to be great advice for marketers: stop doing what everyone else does.
- It’s important to emphasize the simplicity of the underlying concepts because strategy can seem intimidating and complicated. It really doesn’t have to be. You don’t need a 100-slide deck to define the best path forward. In fact, it’s possible to make a strong start with just four simple words.
- Like anything else in business, the hardest part of strategic thinking is actually putting it into practice while navigating the ins and outs of organizational politics. Here are some solid tips on how to navigate that particular minefield.
- Our final (and favourite) pointer for developing marketing’s most vital emerging skill comes from Marketing Week’s Mark Ritson: “Set time aside for strategic thinking. Switch off your phone, open up your Moleskine. Take a long, deliberate breath and think.”
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