Strategy is not about immediate impact, but rather about long term achievement of ambitious objectives. It doesn’t constantly change; if it did then it wouldn’t be strategy. So once the strategy is set, and the implementation begins, is there a role for the strategist? I believe the strategist is critical for the successful execution of a strategy once it launches because they fulfill 3 key roles.
But first, where should they not get involved? Because the strategist typically has a multi-disciplinary background with experience in both front end client service and back end execution, there is considerable temptation to get involved with those functions. This is a mistake for 2 reasons. The first reason is that you would be doing someone else’s job, and that never ends well. They either become overly dependent on you or they become resentful of your interference. The second reason is that the more you get in the tactical execution, the less effective you will be in your role as a strategist.
Which brings us to why the strategist is an important member of the team post-launch. Despite the fact that your colleagues and clients are smart and accomplished professionals, they invariably fall into an instant gratification trap. Over time, the over-arching strategy is forgotten and the focus turns inevitably to the day to day tactics that will impact performance in an immediate sense. A common scenario is where a strategy has been developed that includes creation and optimization of assets throughout the user journey, including content, creative, CRM and media. Because many of these assets require considerable investment in time and effort but little short-term impact, the focus of the efforts invariably shift to media optimization. This is partly a result of the medium in which we work. Paid digital media is extremely manipulable, with the ability to immediately impact results. But as we know, there are diminishing results if we only focus on paid media. We need to maintain focus throughout the entire journey.
The other reason why a strategist is important post-launch is that the digital environment is changing and innovating constantly, and the strategist is well positioned to bring new ideas to the table. Account teams are just as likely to be aware of these innovations, but are often hesitant to put them in front of the client because it can feel like you’re pushing an agenda. But these innovations are likely the types of ideas that a client is looking for. Remember, if you aren’t putting these ideas in front of them, someone else is. And an agency has never been fired for proactively putting forward new ideas. We are more likely to be fired when we don’t.
So that brings us to the 3 key roles of the strategist post-launch. The first role is to check in regularly and ensure that the team remains focused on executing the full strategy. As we’ve seen, some of the more difficult or long term initiatives are often overlooked in favour of short term tactics, so the strategist is there to remind everyone to execute the entire strategy.
The second role is to remind everyone of the overarching objectives. Just as the focus often slips from the more difficult elements of the strategy, so teams often forget what they are ultimately being judged on as the focus shifts on a day to day basis on leading indicators. For example, the focus often moves from cost per acquisition to cost per lead and even cost per click, since these are more easily managed through individual tactics. This can sometimes work at odds with the original objective. Fulfilling this function can also help in avoiding tactical changes that work against the overarching goal and reduces pressure on the executional team.
The third and final role of the strategist post-launch is to proactively bring forward new ideas and innovations. This is how we grow relationships and accounts and ensure that the client remains ahead of the evolving competitive landscape.
It is easy to forget the strategist once we are in executional mode, but doing so is a mistake and jeopordizes the long-term health of the account. But for this to be a fruitful role, it is key to focus the strategist on where they would be most effective, and avoid the temptation to use them in a tactical context.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.