Things are in flux. Do you need a deliverable or a strategy?

Article Chris Erickson 5m read

Your company is facing a critical transition. Your instincts are telling you to make something, anything, right now. Your impulse might be to build a new website, refresh your brand, or embark on a campaign. 

But hold up. Is what you’re considering necessary? Will it deliver the results your CEO is looking for? Will it be the thing your company needs right now? 

We recognize that your value as a CMO or marketing manager is often gauged (albeit unfairly) by the volume and quality of your products and programs. But don’t let those expectations pressure you into investing in something that wastes time, energy, or money. 

If you’re at a critical inflection point, this is the time to press pause and identify your challenges and opportunities. Remember that sometimes the right move isn’t always making a move. It’s getting a lay of the land, determining the outcome you’re after, and deciding what—or even whether—deliverables are the answer.

If you take the time to develop a strategy that rests on your company’s fundamental truths, you’ll have paved the runway for future deliverables. At that point, you can be confident that whatever you do can be aligned cross-departmentally and takes the long view, not an immediate crisis.

You can’t navigate inflection points with deliverables alone.

Carpenters use hammers, and pediatricians use stethoscopes. Marketers also have their favorite tools: website updates, brand refreshes, CPC campaigns, launches, and social media blitzes. 

As familiar as those approaches are or as successful as they have been in the past, they aren’t a good starting point for brands at critical inflection points. Your go-to bag of tricks will likely reflect where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, and how you’ve been doing it. 

But then, six months later, you discover, “Oh, no. This is the wrong website.” And it’s not just about the dollars spent on an inaccurate solution. Now you’ve lost critical time and are farther away from where you need to be.

And, to be clear, we aren’t talking about strategies related to the deliverable or execution you have in mind. Website and campaign strategies have their place but are too far downstream to be the strategic starting point for companies experiencing change. Navigating change requires cross-organizational clarity.

Do you need a strategy vs deliverable?

Is your strategy dialed? Are you ready to get cranking on your next brand or marketing initiative, or do you need a directional strategy first?

Without a strategy, the danger lies in the doing.

Inflection points are complex and require a deliberate approach to manage them successfully. With so much on their plate, it isn’t surprising that CEOs often look to their CMOs or the marketing team to do something. It happens even without clear vision, objectives, or long-term goals.

It’s okay to tell your CEO that throwing out a bunch of deliverables won’t get the job done. A new website or a light brand retouch might gloss over your dilemma. Without a defined directional strategy, a deliverable won’t address problems that might be waiting upstream. Can you solve foundational misalignment issues within your organization with a new website? No, you can’t. And, if you’re hoping it simply acts as a band-aid for the time being, it might be a very expensive and ineffective cover-up.

It’s essential to think critically about whether or not the deliverable is just busy work or if it solves the real issue. Is it built on new, long-term goals with clarity of purpose, or does it sidestep it in the name of short-term progress? Were you asked to do X, but you have a nagging feeling that Y needs to be tackled first? We get it, and we can help.

Let’s talk about how you can jump-start a conversation within your company, address resistance you might encounter, and move forward with a strategy before trying anything else.

How do you show others that strategy should be a priority? 

Telling your CEO and other executive leaders that your company needs a directional strategy—something they are responsible for—can be daunting. To help make your case, here are some ways to address the hangups we often hear.

  1. You don’t have it in your budget.

    1. It’s common for a marketing budget not to earmark money for strategy development. And, when it comes to directional strategy, it shouldn’t be in your marketing budget because its impact is company-wide. But that’s just a matter of labeling. Your CEO and other leaders may be receptive to spending the money. They might even have already budgeted for it. So, don’t get hung up on whether it is in your budget. Good leadership will be happy that you want to do your work in the most effective way possible and, ultimately, might be willing to open up a budget to build a strong base.

  2. It isn’t what you were charged/tasked with.

    1. Crafting a cross-company or positioning strategy might not fall squarely under your job description, but it’s an opportunity to impact your entire organization. It’s a chance for you to demonstrate leadership in a way that goes beyond your budget or your punch list. Marketers that keep making campaigns keep making campaigns. Marketers who understand the bigger picture get more responsibility. Besides, you don’t have to go it alone. You’ll have a partner in Parliament.

  3. You aren’t sure how to sell it internally. 

    1. The best part of having a directional strategy that accounts for the big picture is that it involves and impacts every aspect of the company. Everybody comes away with an aligned and actionable plan. The folks in your business can start pulling in the same direction rather than against one another. That said, it’s normal for some folks to push back, especially when there is an old-guard new-guard dynamic or in environments with act-first-think-second cultures. Remember, you don’t have to sell everybody on this. That isn’t your job. You simply need to present your case to the person responsible for steering corporate vision. That captain is usually the CEO.

  4. You’re worried about asking your boss or CEO.

    1. It’s hard to speak truth to power, but you have to be honest with them. It’s time for them to appreciate the importance of getting this inflection point right. No guts. No glory. This is what leadership is all about. You were hired to solve a problem, and having a strategy first makes it more likely that you will.

Plot twist: a legitimate strategy is actually a deliverable.

If you’re on the marketing front line, you want to be as effective as possible. You can’t be wasting time on a hamster wheel. You need to be making real traction with your brand. Having a directional strategy before diving into deliverables gives you a shot at making progress, no matter your inflection point.

As you probably figured out, developing a strategy is doing something. It involves discovering and articulating essential truths about your company, applying them to your current situation, and using them to inform the production of your deliverables, as well as your products, services, or platform.  

To learn more about how Parliament provides strategies to guide companies like yours through inflection points, let’s chat .