istock-000005617705xsmall-small“People buy tactics in times of uncertainty. They buy strategy when times are good.”

My friend Chris Brogan said that and it struck me as profound.

We’ve seen this in our own business: when the budget axe chops into Marketing, the conversation can quickly move from “What’s the right thing for us to do to move the needle?” to, “What can we get for $X?”

(For the record 99% of these conversations with our clients are conducted in a spirit of partnership, not arm-twisting.)

The purchase of TACTICS over STRATEGY occurs because tactics are tangible.  When the marketer is asked by the finance guy, “What did we get for $X?” it is helpful to unroll a bulleted list of stuff.

But the results of a tactical approach that has no strategic backbone are tangible, too.  In terms of lost opportunities, lost sales, mockery of the brand or irretrievable foul-ups.

Let’s dream up a real-world example.  As is usually the case when it comes to short-sighted marketing, we can start with a Shiny Object.  Many mistakes are made when the glint of the Shiny Object obscures our vision.  Twitter is an example of a marketing world bauble...

What if the brand marketer asks the agency to “monitor Twitter for stuff we should respond to” but doesn’t have the budget to create an overarching Twitter strategy?

Without a good strategy, the marketer might assign 140 different people to respond to the various issues that crop up in the Twittersphere (“140 people, 1 for each character space, and boy do we have some characters here!”).

Without a good strategy, the marketer can’t ensure that each person discloses their employment in a consistent way … They might not create a scalable, clearly-articulated process to escalate hairy issues that can’t be readily solved … They might not educate those 140 different people on how/when/why to get engaged, and when/why they might sometimes need to sit on their hands …

Obviously a good agency will leap into the fray before things get too dicey for their client — no matter the costs — but I am trying to illustrate the need to think deeply and to consult with experienced partners before rummaging through the Social Media tool box.

The mistakes the brand marketer might make as a result of too little time/money will be more egregious for having been made very, very publicly.

You’re better off finding current money to do right than losing future money by doing wrong.

Todd Defren

A version of this post originally appeared on PR Squared.


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