Unfortunately, this way of thinking is largely mythology. There is almost always no missing other. And, if you haven't figured out the big idea of your product or service-what's intrinsically compelling about it-you have bigger problems than coming up with the latest gimmick.
Searching for a single elusive idea is like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. It depends on that which is neither familiar, nor within reach. It calls upon disconnected tactics over a focused and cohesive strategy. And, in the end, it manifests itself in the form of one-off and lackluster attempts that yield underwhelming results.
Want to address the true need behind the "new idea" myth? Here are three steps to moving away from this myopic approach, and toward a more strategic and holistic way of finding better tactics, more creative pathways, and greater results from your marketing.
1. Focus first on the bigger challenge
Take your attention off the symptoms of the moment-a sales slump, for example. Instead, begin to ask yourself these questions: What is the nature of the challenge or problem we face? Is there a larger issue we're not facing that is causing our current predicament?
A short-term bump in sales, for example, is going to be hard to bring about without a larger understanding of what is causing the symptom of a temporary sales slump. Is it due to the seasonality in your business? Is it due to an increase in competition? Or, is there a downturn in the market or economy that's causing customers to spend fewer dollars?
Know what you're up against before you assume that your current predicament can be solved through a single tactical idea. Understand the causal factors contributing to the dynamic that has brought about your present challenge. By understanding the true nature of the problem at hand, you will effectively prepare yourself to devise a better and more accurate approach. This new approach can be used to mitigate or overcome the forces that are causing a symptom, such as a short-term dip in unit sales.
2. Develop a strategic plan
Yes, develop a plan instead of brainstorming a single idea. Will it take longer and require more effort? Most likely, yes. Will it also solve your issue more effectively than a short-term tactic? Definitely.
Strategy is a form of problem solving. Good strategy clearly identifies the problem, and then formulates a larger and binding approach to addressing, head on, the problem at hand. In marketing, as in other areas, good strategy demands choice-choosing a path to the exclusion of others, whereby all plans can be coordinated and work together to overcome a problem (not just a symptom). Symptoms can sometimes be relieved through temporary tactics, but rarely will they go away for any length of time or with any great effectiveness without a strategy to deal with their source.
A good strategic plan integrates:
- Goals-the end for the effort, usually one or two, at most
- Strategy-the binding approach that will inform all other plans and tactics
- Plans-individual recipes, each with coordinated activities in accordance with your strategy, that will serve your goal
- Objectives-observable, measurable and time bound declarations of how you know you are successfully fulfilling your plans; sometimes called key performance indicators (KPI's)
- Tactics-last, the details and activities that will be undertaken to fulfill plans and reach your goals
One of the best things about a strategic plan is that it is relative to the challenge at hand. It is designed to address a problem head on. Finally, the role of any strategic plan is that it serves as a blueprint for thoughtful, coherent and logical pathway for solving any complex challenge.
3. Rely upon integrated tactics
Once you have a thoughtful strategic marketing plan in place, you will be shocked at how much more easily the tactics present themselves. Why? Because a thoughtful strategy serves to focus everyone around a centralized, agreed upon approach. And because strategy forces choice, it eliminates the need to consider disparate (and sometimes desperate) ideas.
In fact, what you once thought of as innovative and other-worldly ideas will become almost foregone conclusions when a strategy is present. New possibilities present themselves more readily when you and your team are provided a guided pathway upon which to engage creative thought and energy. Best of all, because such ideas must fall within a guided strategic pathway they become, by default, integrated tactics.
If you utilize this three-step process of thinking bigger to tackle larger problems, thoughtfully planning your marketing approach, and then tactically integrating ideas around a strategy, you will move away the myth of, "We need a new idea." Instead you'll find yourself in the wonderful reality of, "We have a strategic approach to overcoming our marketing challenges."
Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing segment lecturer for SMU's accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success. For more information, visit TheBigHow.com.