Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strategic vacuum

Following over the last months in more detail what large marketing agencies and service providers are communicating as their longer term strategy, I am more and more astonished by the apparent vacuum for longer term strategies and plans. It seems that the global recession further increased the obsessive short term focus of marketing organizations. My best guestimate based on discussions within the industry and reading through published material is that close to 90% of marketing agencies and service providers don’t have a meaningful and integrated vision, strategy, and execution focus with a time horizon of three to five years.

It seems that the exclusive focus of marketing agencies in today’s difficult economic times are only twofold:

  • Meet and satisfy needs and demands of existing clients
  • Win new clients at any prize.

Any other critical elements for longer term success, like talent recruiting and development or the development of proprietary intellectual ideas, products, or methodologies that are scalable, are totally neglected.

I come to believe stronger than ever before that only the outline of a simple but powerful company strategy answering a few critical questions can ensure that a marketing firm is not only satisfying current daily client needs but works on building an organization with true future potential. My short list includes

1. What is happening in the market you are trying to serve (Revenue developments by market and marketing functions; key client and market trends)?

2. What is the brutally honest assessment of your own marketing organization (SWOT-Analysis, Revenue and Profit trends, top market growth areas versus own ability to monetize them)?

3. What is the purpose and vision of your company for the next three to five years?

4. What are the key strategic bets that your organization will focus on?

5. How is the execution of the strategy ensured, monitored, and improved?

The 90% of marketing firms who are not answering these questions will be very likely in significant trouble. Only focusing on servicing and winning clients is not sufficient for long term success, it is just green fees to participate in the market place. And clients who are contemplating the strength of their current agency partners should ask the executive management of their partners to present their answers to these five questions. Their answers is significantly more important and a better indicator of future success of their partnership than the creative quality of one online banner or the music selection in one TV commercial.

Unfortunately a lot of clients focus on minor creative execution elements of their agency partners instead of inquiring about their partner’s ability to position their organization for long-term success through a simple and meaningful strategy.


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