Strategic Thinking Is a Muscle. Work It or Lose It.

Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 19

8:00 am - 8:30 am

Registration and Hot Breakfast

We’ll kick off the day with breakfast. You’ll also be provided with lunch and breaks throughout the day.

8:30 am - 5:00 pm

What Comes First? (The Chicken/Egg Dilemma)

Marketers in every industry and organization require solid critical thinking to meet the needs of our customers, employees, partners, suppliers and business.  In an effort to be as responsive as possible, sometimes we get wrapped up in getting the job done – marketing materials, budgets, scheduling – before thinking through how to address bigger challenges.

We’ll discuss the key ingredients to a great marketing plan and strategy including:

  • Insights
  • Tactics
  • Strategy
  • Research
  • Objectives

What do each mean to you? How do you ask the right questions to uncover them? How do they contribute to solid thinking for our customers?

Being Questionable

The basis of any good strategic plan – or relationship, for that matter – is asking great questions. In fact, asking great questions makes everyone’s job easier, including yours.

Good probing questions start with “How” or “Why” and are impossible to answer in one word. When talking with customers, smart questions are better than smart answers. They make your colleagues think about their functions and goals differently. And it turns marketers into customer experts.

We’ll discuss the building blocks of good questioning that leads to uncovering insights (next up) and creating great strategy.

Factually Boring

Successful strategy is formed by customer insights. What is an insight versus a fact? Insights should be informed by reason, but are by no means 100% fool proof. In fact, the closer to fool proof you get the less it becomes an insight.  Forming an insight requires that you step off the ledge a bit and have faith in your thinking. 

However, your thinking needs to be grounded in solid research. That’s where facts come in. Facts support insights, they are not insights.  And insights are not taglines or marketing copy. Insights inform strategy from which tactics are born.  And tactics make taglines, copy, media plans, videos, websites, etc. 

The Role of Creativity

Who identifies themselves as creative? Creativity isn’t just design or copy. Those are talents just like web development or math or public speaking. It’s about asking, “Is there a better way?” If you had the power to change one thing, what would it be? What would it take?

Creativity is really about thinking. It’s being mindful of the circumstance while at the same time, undoubtedly believing you can better it. Creativity isn’t something your colleagues in other functions – accounting, operations, IT – do on the job – or even think about. Creativity can be “the thing” that wins the business or consumer.

How to be creative when you’re not creative? Everything we will do in this program is creative thinking.

The Path to Strategy

Strategic thinking can be taught. It can be learned. And it most definitely can be forgotten. Strategic thinking is like a muscle that must be continuously worked and trained for optimal performance.

When we’re not thinking strategically it’s not because we aren’t thinking at all. It’s because we have a tendency to think about “what” rather than “how” or “why” – tactics rather than strategy. We put a high value on performance and output, which naturally leads to tactical thinking. And the more tactics we develop the more productive we feel.

But strategy is often more about what to exclude rather than what is included. A good strategy will define a finite set of tactics. While communications plans can get deep and detailed, strategy should not be complicated. It’s the macro approach to a challenge or problem.

Group Case Study Activity

After reviewing, you will deconstruct case studies to develop strategies for success including:

1. Objectives – What is the company trying to achieve?

2. Research – What would you recommend to get more information, if anything?

3. Insights – Try to come up with an insight based on the information you have.

4. Strategy – How would you advise the company based on the objectives?

5. Tactics – What would you recommend doing based on the strategy and objectives?

We’ll present our strategies and vote on the best one. Competition!