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30 July '14 | Debjyoti Paul

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03 June '14 | Giridhar LV

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What is Your (Marketing) Strategy?

Posted on: 05 November '09

I recently returned from Bangalore where I spent two full days discussing strategy with David Yoffie. David is Head of Harvard’s Executive MBA Program and sits on numerous boards, including Intel and MindTree. While his credentials are irreproachable, I admittedly was not looking forward to the long journey across the world to discuss “strategy” of all things. Furthermore, my beloved Yankees were in the baseball playoffs and my girlfriend was days away from competing in her first marathon.

In looking back however, it was an enlightening session that has had me thinking about our marketing strategy at MindTree ever since I returned.

As David tells it, strategy is not about predicting the future. He shared with us that many companies he works with do not have a clear strategy. There are many reasons for this, ranging from:

    – There is no strategy…period.

    – It is buried in a huge document and revisited only every so often by a select few.

    – A strategy means different things to different people within an organization i.e. there is no consensus on what the strategy is.

    – A strategy is misunderstood by the people at the ground level: directors and managers.

The last point is a particularly scary one to me. If most executives do not understand what a company’s strategy involves and cannot communicate it, how can senior management expect them to carry out their work (role) effectively?

During the 2 day session, we agreed that strategy has two main components: external positioning and internal alignment. Marketing’s role in external positioning is pretty obvious…not to mention important. More specifically, David helped us define strategy as a goal and set of policies designed to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. In a marketing context, our job is to take the corporate strategy (what business are we in?) and exploit the “sweet spot” against our competition; our client needs; our capabilities companywide; and the entire market place.

To help MindTree avoid making the same mistake other companies make (unclear and unknown strategies), David asked us to come up with a strategy that can be articulated in one sentence. It should answer “Who,” “What,” “Where,” and “How” and state your Company’s competitive advantage.

See if this “one sentence strategy” exists within your Company. Furthermore, if you are a marketing executive, ask yourself: can define your marketing strategy in one sentence?

Without revealing any proprietary company information, answer me this: was it easy to do?

  • Hi Joe,
    Do you believe in a short term strategy? All consultancy firms, including the one I work for, had to devise short term strategies as the client needs differed during recession. It was more of delivering ideas that could cut costs, help get back tax refunds, rather than ideas related to M&As and overseas expansions.
    Thus, can there be three strategies:
    1) Short term
    2) Medium term
    3) Long term
    All of which fall within the broad corporate objectives and values?
    Would be interested to know what you think.
    Best,
    Lubna

  • Vijay. M

    Dear Joe,
    Formulating an effective strategy is always a challenge for the top management. Executing the strategy is an even bigger challenge.

    Companies must focus on clear and concise strategies that will help them gain an edge over their competitors and hence propel them towards greater success.

    Another main task is to convey the strategy to all the employees to bring them to alignment with the strategy. keeping in mind the external factors that will affect the internal strategies is also a determining factor for strategic success.

    By the way, have a good time during the Yankees match and convey my wishes for girl friend’s marathon.

    Regards,
    Vijay

  • Dear Lubna:

    Strategy is not time bound. If there is a customer need prompted by a recession in the short-term, that matches your capabilities, then it probably makes sense to pursue it. Particularly if your competitors do not offer the same capabilities. I think your last sentence is key–do these opportunities “marry” well with the company mission, vision and values?

  • Dear Vijay:

    I couldn’t agree more. David stressed this in our session–that most companies’ senior mgmt. fail to convey the strategy clearly to the greater employee ranks. This is a recipe for disaster.

    P.S. The Yankees won (as you probably heard by now) and my girlfriend ran a terrific race. Thanks for asking!

  • Vijay. M

    Hey Joe,

    Good to hear from you. Thanks for taking your time out to respond to our views on your blog. Its good to be part of a very constructive conversation.

    Regards, Vijay