June 24th, 2024

Do You Need a Deliverable or a Strategy?

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Before you assume you know what you need, make sure you know what’s possible.

One of the more common inquiries we receive comes from someone shopping for deliverables. They have a specific ask in mind and are focused on finding someone who can supply the product. There’s nothing wrong with this—in fact, we’ve had many successful relationships start this way. But whether or not we close a sale and begin working with that client often hinges on how they respond when we start asking about their strategy—and how it links to their brand positioning.

There are plenty of leads who tap out as soon as we mention strategy. Maybe they’ve done all the thinking on their end and don’t want someone questioning their direction. Or maybe they think all this talk of strategy is nothing more than a waste of resources. Either way, they aren’t interested in a conversation, they just want a quote—and nine times out of ten, that’s the last we hear from them.

But our best client relationships form when our lead hears the word “strategy” and perks up. What we’re telling them is: We hear what you want, but before we take your money, we want to be sure that what you want is in your best interest. And considering your marketing strategy in light of your brand positioning is how we do our due diligence to make sure that’s the case.

These leads have firsthand experience with underperforming marketing efforts, and they’re desperate to work with someone willing to take the time to understand their struggle and show them the path forward. And in many cases, the first step toward more effective marketing is to lay a stable foundation. Without strategy, your deliverables are a house built on quicksand, with pitfalls that are bound to be familiar to any marketing director struggling to find traction:

  • Redundant deliverables as you lose track of the resources you already have.
  • Off-brand or directionless messaging.
  • Responding to demands with urgency rather than intent.
  • Efforts that never build toward a goal.
  • Loss of leadership buy-in when results fail to materialize.
  • “Successful” campaigns that leave your brand in the wrong position.

Aren’t sure how to align your deliverables with a strategy? Try these questions on for size.

Do you know how you plan to use your deliverable?

It’s easy to get fixated on a deliverable simply because it feels like the thing to do. For instance, let’s say your website is outdated and no longer representing your brand effectively. You’re not wrong to think it needs an update! But have you thought about how you’ll use your new website once it’s been rebuilt? Or maybe you have a new product launch and want a brochure to highlight its features at your next trade show. Have you thought about where else that brochure could be put to use?

A strategy doesn’t just provide direction to your deliverables—it also helps you get the most out of the investment you put into them.

Does your deliverable align with where you want to position your brand?

Sometimes brands have done enough strategy to have written out a list of objectives—they just haven’t done the work of tying their deliverables to those objectives. For instance, leadership might have decided that they want to position their brand for thought leadership, strengthen their company culture, and attract more talented employees. However, the sales team just wants closing materials, and all anyone has told marketing is that the website needs to improve its SEO rankings for a handful of key terms.

A comprehensive strategy can tackle all these goals—by, for instance, relaunching the website with an improved design that is more user friendly, thereby improving both SEO performance and increasing the number of web leads. But it may also mean communicating priorities with the different stakeholders so that everyone can have better expectations about when and how their needs will be met.

Read More: When Do You Need to Focus on Brand Positioning?

Do you have key messaging and design standards in place for your deliverable?

Brand confusion is one of the most common pain points we hear from our clients. Years of product launches, acquisitions and mergers, and brand iterations have left them with a collage of identities that even they are weary of parsing. Because there’s no unity, along the way each new round of deliverables only adds to the pile of mismatched collateral.

A good strategy is never short term. It should provide a long-term plan for unifying your materials so that you’re presenting a consistent look, feel, and tone throughout your communication. If you only ever think through your brand on a deliverable-by-deliverable basis, the ad-hoc nature of your approach will show.

Do you know how you will measure the success of your efforts?

Finally, let’s talk about measuring success. This is not easy to do—especially if you haven’t been gathering any data along the way. You may need to adjust your expectations in terms of concrete metrics, while also expanding your conception of the value your deliverable will bring to include less quantifiable benefits.

That said, there are still numbers you can look toward such as the open and click-through rate on your emails, views of your blog, customer satisfaction scores if your deliverable benefits client success, or impressions on social media if your goal is an awareness campaign.

And when it comes to paid media campaigns, you can dial your numbers in even more precisely: did your ads lead to form leads? Did those leads close? What was the value of the sale? If you’ve been gathering sales data for a while, you should have a history in place that can allow you to compare the old numbers to the new. If you don’t, then ask your sales team: did their conversations with prospects go better once they had that sales slick with the digestible comparison table in hand? Your sales team knows when a conversation goes well. If your deliverable works, they’ll tell you.

No strategy is complete without a deliverable.

There’s a certain asymmetry to the deliverable vs. strategy question. You can have a deliverable without a strategy—but if your strategy lacks a deliverable, then is it really a strategy at all? (It isn’t.)

I suspect this is why so many decision makers focus on deliverables to the detriment of strategy. For the action-oriented individual, deliverables offer a satisfying promise of finality. You put in effort, you got a result, and now you can cross that task off your list and move on to the next project.

At the same time, I suspect many of these leaders have had their fill of circular rounds of strategic thinking—planning that is left to wither on the vine until it’s out of date and a new round of strategy must begin.

That’s why, to our mind, no strategy is complete unless it includes deliverables: a new website; a content plan that includes articles, email, and social; a landing page tied to a paid media campaign; brochures, business cards, and new messaging for the trade show booth; an infographic to establish thought leadership.

So if you’re deliverable shopping, it may be time to take a step back and make sure your priorities are aligned with your strategic goals. And if you don’t have a strategy in place, it’s time to talk to us.

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