Strategy   |   April 26, 2016

Everyone Can Be Strategic: Start with “Why”

A 5 minute read by Jason Prance, VP, Strategy

Love. Beauty. Strategy.

What do these terms have in common? They are used by many and understood by few. In our industry, the term “strategy” gets misused and misunderstood so often that it becomes chest-beating nonsense which eventually gets tuned out. But that’s not what bothers me the most. We’ll get there in a minute.

Strategy takes many shapes and forms, just like “beauty.” Why? Because you can’t have a real strategy without people getting involved. I used to get satisfaction out of the work and the results I helped create because they turned into hundreds of millions of impressions, clicks, and conversions. Now, my satisfaction comes from making real connections with people. People who, if asked the right questions, can unlock the “Why” behind everything we do. Sure, people can mess up a well-intentioned strategy, but they can also make it beautiful.

So, let’s take a step back with some examples of what strategy is NOT.

Strategy is NOT:

  • A goal. “We want to be #1 in the market” isn’t a strategy.
  • A tool. How do you know it’s the right toolbox? A nice toolbox doesn’t replace the need for instructions.
  • A vision. Visions inspire, but they aren’t actionable.
  • A tactic. Tactics should be set aside temporarily to get to the root of the marketing problem. Think bigger.
  • A secret. If nobody knows about your strategy, it cannot influence people’s actions and decisions.

Now, let’s take a step forward with some examples of what strategy IS.

Strategy is:

  • The How. But not from a tactical standpoint. A useful strategy contains guiding principles that align your colleagues and clients. These principles create a path toward the goal you are seeking to achieve.
  • A Roadmap. A written roadmap, or it doesn’t exist. A measurable roadmap, or it doesn’t matter. The more visual your strategy, the easier it is to understand.
  • An Answer to the Goal. A good strategy solves the need or the goal that the business is trying to achieve.

Now, here’s what bothers me the most.

Strategy is more than a job title or a department.

Being “strategic” is simply an intentional and disciplined way of thinking and seeing the world around you. It’s more than what you’re called or who you work with. It’s your attitude and approach. A strategic mindset requires you to be brave and curious.

Here are 2 simple ways to get started:

  1. Bravery gets you started. A strategic mindset requires you to be brave. Whatever your role, you must be willing to venture into unknown territory armed with insights and ideas.
  2. Curiosity leads to progress. A strategic mindset requires you to be curious. Curiosity begins with the question that we all asked since Kindergarten: Why?

Begin by asking “Why” in order to identify the “Need” and then work on the “How.”

For example, the next time your client says they need a new website, begin with “Why.” Don’t annoy them, but keep “Why” in the back of your mind as you begin to navigate through your conversations. Don’t settle for anything you hear and be careful not to make your own assumptions. Be curious and push to understand the business and origins of the website “Need.” Truly wanting to understand and know more about a “Need” is a great compliment to anybody you work with—and that strategic understanding will help you figure out how (or even if) you approach that website.

You don’t have to work in “strategy” to be strategic, just like you don’t have to work as a “creative” to think creatively. Step outside your comfort zone and start strategically thinking with WHY!