Let’s face it, at the end of the day the synergy we need to internalize our best practices will provide clear goals for us to make breakthroughs in our marketing where our previous strategic interests have failed us. Now, we need a new paradigm to extend our runway of organic growth which effectively streamlines our path forward essentially forging a new digital plan.
What the hell does any of that mean? Exactly.
There’s a ton of business suits throwing around buzzwords like they get copyright royalties from each use. The very mention of half these words has me itching to play buzzword bingo. My two favorite buzzwords going around lately are ‘strategy‘ and ‘plan‘. Taken by themselves, they are actually quite useful. Unfortunately people throw around the use of the word “strategy” to describe just about everything from checking their email to where to get lunch.
Well, I’ve got news for your folks, there’s a difference between a digital marketing strategy and a plan. You might not care about the difference, but I do. Indulge me for a second. I promise this won’t take long.
Strategies have plans, not the other way around.
At first blush, I get how they might be confusing. Both have goals, deadlines, tactics, and limitations. But the biggest difference between the two is summed up looking at the What vs. How. Strategies focus on the big picture of what you’d like to achieve. For example, I’d like to decrease my shopping cart abandonment by 10% next month. Whereas a plan would detail the exact tactics you’d employ to accomplish that strategy.
Most business environments need more plans and a little less strategy. The difference between the two is often in the specifics. Marketing strategists get to proselytize from their ivory towers about what to do but never dirty their fingers with how to do. The smart leaders can author a strategy and plan to get things done. If plan A doesn’t work, they move on to plan B, but they always keep the strategic goal in mind to gauge their progress on the overarching objective.
A strategy provides flexibility for the outcomes because it contains no specifics. Only a plan has explicit tactics to follow to achieve the desired result. Strategize is a fancy word for planning how to achieve your goals.
A strategist would be nothing without a planner who can outline a realistic path towards your goals. Strategy can be an empty word when it’s used and abused by people who have no idea how to execute. So be careful when you’re throwing around phrases like “we need a digital strategy for this” and “marketing strategy for that”. What you need is a plan. A detailed document that you can hand to any team that guides them to achieve measurable results. You need to execute. Few people have the luxury of thinking about a strategy without also thinking of a plan.
But planning isn’t nearly as sexy as a strategy. Strategy sounds important. Planning sounds sophomoric.
Strategies are usually never wrong because they can’t be measured. It’s more of a direction, where it’s the plan that gets you there. Plans get results, strategies get more lip service. You think about strategy but you execute a plan. What side of the business do you want to be responsible for? The side that gets shit done? or the side that is disconnected from ‘the how’ and pontificates about ‘the what’?
Personally, I find great joy in understanding the strategic needs and goals of an organization and then distilling that down to list of actionable ideas that a team can bring to life. Planners bridge the gap between the C suite executives and the boots on the ground. They act as both thinkers and DOers. And in the end, I’d take a team full of planners any day, over a conference room full of strategists.
* The answer to the pop quiz above is easy. Those were all empty strategies that lacked a real plan. Anyone can point to direction and yell charge, but it takes guts, savvy, leadership, and acumen to lay out a plan that actually gets you there.