Monday, November 17, 2008

4th down...what's the strategy?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the idea of what marketers will pay for versus what is truly driving the value and delivering results.

I'm a huge football fan and have coached my son's little league team for the past three years. It's taught me a lot about the importance of planning and strategy. In a game earlier this year, we played a team who hadn't lost a game in nearly three years. As biased as I am towards our players, no one could reasonably argue that we had better athletes than this team. In fact, they had better athletes at nearly every position. However, we had one advantage, speed in our backfield and a quarterback with a very strong (albeit sometimes inaccurate) arm for his age. Myself and the other coaches spent time reviewing reviewing film from our competitors previous games (did I mention this is 7th grade city league football? I know, I know) and discovered a weakness in their defensive approach we thought we could exploit. I'll spare you the play-by-play, but a hotly contested and close game came down to one final drive. We had the ball and were moving the ball but the drive stalled on the 50 yard line. We had a 4th down and still almost 10 yards to gain with the clock winding down quickly. We called time out and huddled as a coaching staff to discuss our options. Going back to our original game plan, we determined that we wanted to take a shot down the field and try to get our fastest and best receiver in isolation out of the backfield. Fortunately, we were able to execute the strategy perfectly and completed a 50-yard touchdown pass on the game's second to last play. We went on to win the game by 4 points.

Great story, I know, but where's the connection to the world of marketing? Well, going back to my opening line, my experience is most marketers undervalue strategy and overvalue implementation. So often, the implementation is the tactical manifestation of the strategy and so it becomes the "deliverable" the client can see and experience. However, in a world where marketers hire agencies to deliver results, ultimately, no matter how good the execution, if the strategy is flawed the desired results are rarely achieved. But the creative was so well designed and the client loved it. Sure, they loved it right up until the moment it started running and then the phone didn't ring and the clicks didn't materialize. Why? Well, in some cases the answer (and the blame) goes back to a plan that was inherently flawed. Great strategy, in contrast, can work even when the execution isn't always picture perfect.

Some coaches may tell you it's not the Xs and Os, but the Jimmys and Joes. It's also true that coaches salaries frequently pale in comparison to those of their players. The truth is, in sports and in marketing both the strategy (coaching) and the implementation (player performance) are important. Marketers who learn to place the appropriate value on strategy will be rewarded with better results, even at times against great odds.

1 comment:

LJ Jones said...

I am often confused by clients who want to start talking about tactics before ever thinking about strategy. To continue your football analogy, I have seen great coaches(strategy) take mediocre players(execution)and turn them into a winning team.