Choosing carefully is the best strategy

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Choosing carefully is the best strategy

Strategy is sometimes a matter of careful selection. It’s easy to become a “kid in a candy shop” (especially during the holidays, right?) relative to your business.

Here are some tips from Cathy’s column in Sunday’s Knoxville News Sentinel, to help you not do that.

I have long been a fan of iconic ad agency executive David Ogilvy. As a young practitioner in my field, I voraciously read all of his books and put his advice to work for me and my firm many times over the past three decades.

One of his most famous quotes has stayed with me over the years and has tended to serve me well. It is: “The essence of strategy is sacrifice.” This thought can also be framed within the context of “life is a series of trade-offs.”

As much as we sometimes think our businesses can be all things to all people, reality has proven that this is rarely true. As companies grow and evolve and discover new opportunities along the way, we tend to become “kids in a candy shop.” As ambitious people, we have strong urges to constantly add new tools to our toolbox, to seek out new types of clients and customers, and to attach new bells and whistles to our brands.

Of course, some of this can be well-founded and smart. We live in a constantly changing world that drives us to adjust, adapt and even reinvent ourselves at times. But while we are taking the pulse of our business environment and innovating with new ideas and solutions in order to stay current and relevant, we also need to remember that we (usually) have finite resources to deploy against a myriad of possibilities.

Therefore, it is critical to remember that trade-offs are actually a very crucial part of our overall growth strategy.

We find ourselves talking a lot about “strategy” these days with our clients, and while a comprehensive (and sometime lengthy and in-depth) plan is an extremely necessary roadmap for every business, your actual strategy should ideally fit on one sheet of paper. It should revolve around answering two basic questions: what position are you attempting to occupy in the marketplace and what outcomes are you therefore trying to produce?

Under those two general questions, it can be helpful to describe your strategy in the following ways:

   • What types of customers or clients are you targeting? Who do you ideally want to buy your products or services?
   • What unique benefits or solutions do you offer them? What makes you better and therefore more desirable than your competitors?
   • How can you best create and deliver your company’s compelling story?
   • And what are the most critical marketplace dynamics which are affecting how you do all of the above?

In order to create the most viable strategy for your organization, it helps to know the types of clients and customers you do not want to work for – those who don’t truly need what you offer, those who are a cultural mismatch for your company, or those who are not sustainable over time, for instance.

Again, it is important to “trade off” potential mismatched customers (even if they look tempting on the front end) in order to place all of your focus and energy on those who are ideally suited to work with or buy from your company.

So the rather counter-intuitive truth about business goals and marketing strategy is that often it is as much about what not to do as it is about what to do. We all have finite time (and usually financial) constraints, so it behooves us as business owners to embrace the concept of selecting the things we don’t do in order to focus on the ways we can truly win in the marketplace.

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