How much strategy is too much?
- 09 March 2016
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When the market changes so quickly – and plans must change to match – the amount of time you spend on strategy is an important consideration.
Traditionally, a marketer might spend 20 per cent of their time on strategy and 80 per cent on delivery.
The division of time has always varied by seniority: a marketing director, for example, ought to allocate more of the working day to strategising than a marketing manager, who will be focused on tactics and day-to-day project implementation.
No matter your specific role, spending roughly a fifth of your time on planning might seem like a lot. But the amount of time and resources that should be spent on strategy is different today than it was 20 years ago – if anything, it should be more than before.
That’s because changing times necessitate more alterations to strategy. As new technologies arrive, creating the possibility for deeper understanding of consumer behaviour, or the ability to more carefully target chosen demographics, marketers should be incorporating the developments. And these things are happening already. For example, Google has updated its algorithm nearly 100 times in the past five years, and your content has to shift constantly to reflect this.
Here are some points to consider when apportioning your precious working hours:
- Planning is often, in a sense, about a recycling of the past. Scientific thinkers experiment with different methods, discover what works, then repeat that process in future. But, when important factors evolve – such as an old product line being rendered obsolete, a new player entering the local market because of increasing globalisation or the arrival of a new marketing channel – it’s necessary to update plans rather than plough ahead with what used to work.
Factors are changing quickly; in an era of faster product cycles, it’s necessary to strategise more often. That doesn’t mean the 20/80 per cent split has to go, though. Research from TSI Consulting Partners found that spending more time on a strategic plan did not make a successful implementation more likely – in fact, it showed a negative correlation. So ‘little and often’ may be a better approach than a single big push.
The above points suggest that long-term strategies are less useful than before in a practical sense (unless they are regularly updated). However, they are still psychologically important. Progress towards goals makes people happy and happy employees work harder. A long term strategy is, therefore, valuable, as it gives people goals to work towards and helps them to feel like there is an ultimate purpose to what they are doing day-to-day.
Strategising doesn’t have to be done in big blocks of time. Spending ten minutes writing out goals, then briefly consulting them in the next quarter to see whether they still apply or need to be tweaked, is a valuable behaviour that doesn’t require brainstorming sessions or long meetings with senior colleagues. Strategy can, and should, be part of the day-to-day work.
That said, the practical work still has to be done – you’re spending time creating a strategy that could be used for implementation instead. Therefore, a key aim of strategy should be to reclaim the time you’ve used for strategising – by ensuring the plans you create help you and your team to be efficient and reach goals more quickly.
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