Strategy is About Questions not Answers

Strategy is About Questions not Answers Image

Driving marketing performance today is as hard as it has ever been. This is because the marketing and business landscape is so fragmented that despite us having more data, more touchpoints, and more sales channels, it is harder than ever to draw a holistic picture of the customer.   

We can optimize sales or the performance of a channel and still fail to grow the business. Clients can have internal and external teams of deep subject matter experts ranging from Brand, SEO, and Performance marketing, to e-commerce and retail and still differ about the big picture and what it means.   

The increased complexity means the role of marketing strategy and the strategist is more important than ever. And the value of strategy isn’t in providing the answers, it is in the progressive and methodological examination of the problems so that solutions aren’t biased by subject matter expertise, instead strategy should enable the unleashing of subject matter expertise on a thoroughly vetted problem.  

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein 

We follow a basic 5-step strategic process but it all flows from understanding of the problem.   

  1. problem definition – what is the business problem/opportunity? What questions do we need to ask to fully understand the problem? Drivers? Dependencies?  Are there sub-questions or problems that need to be addressed to solve the business problem? Is the core problem addressable within the project constraints?  
  2. current state interrogation – research and analytics into the questions and sub-problems identified in the business problem.  Problem root causes hypotheses determination and examination. 
  3. future state design –  ideation, workshop of potential solutions and designs to address the root causes hypotheses   
  4. feasibility assessment –  solution deployment requirements and prioritization against probable impact and investment 
  5. validation – consumer confirmation research and ROI and Business calculations.  

In a fast-paced organization, there is an understandable tendency to expedite steps 1 and 2. But without properly aligning on the definition and dependencies of complex problems. The other three steps often do not yield