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Blog & Comeback TV

The Tactics Trap (please don’t do this…with cream and sugar on top?)


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I have a new client. Let’s call her Sandy.

Sandy recently left a job as VP of Strategic Marketing for a Global Fortune 500 company to start an executive coaching business.

Now, I don’t take on many one-on-one marketing clients but I recently opened up some spots and Sandy jumped at the chance.

Sandy is off the charts sharp. And she takes educated risks.

But she was about to make a huge common mistake in marketing her business. And I’m going to help you avoid doing the same thing.

But you might wonder why would a former VP of Marketing need a marketing mentor?

Well the truth is the most successful people always have personal mentors and coaches. I always have and always will.

But on to Sandy’s dilemma…

Chicken or the Egg?

Last night I get this email from Sandy. She’d reviewed the outline I sent her of what we will be working on.

And this was her first reaction:

“Do we really need to take that much time to develop a strategy? I would much rather spend the time on executing lead gen campaigns or promotions.”

I chuckled when I read it. Because Sandy had fallen into the classic tactics trap. It happens to the best of us.

We are always tempted to put marketing tactics and campaigns ahead of strategy. Because that is the stuff that actually generates leads right?

Strategy is just fluffy bunny talk isn’t it?

And my answer to Sandy will be that, yes we could start working on some lead gen campaigns from day one and scrap strategy.

But if we did, whom would we be targeting those lead generation efforts, content and ads to? And what would we say to get a prospect to take notice and take action?

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. If a former VP of Strategic Marketing is tempted to skip strategy and jump into tactics then anyone can fall into the “tactics trap”.

Ideal Client – Strategy Foundation #1

Humor me and let’s envision moving forward without developing a strategy for Sandy. Just get to the good stuff – the lead generation, right from the get go.

So we will have to guess at some tactics to use. We unfortunately haven’t been able to use strategy to nail down her ideal client, much less their hopes, fears, pains and desires. So we’ll need to ad-lib some.

If we knew more about her ideal client we could figure out where they hang out online and offline. Then we could pick the right media: whether they are on Facebook or LinkedIn, what kind of ads to run, where she should be speaking, and what kind of referral partners she needs.

But for now any executive and corporation is the prospect. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 2.1 million execs in the US.

So…that’s a lot of executives. Like a whole boatload. Good news is it’s a big market. Bad news is with no targeted strategy how do we stand out in such a big market?

Do we work with all executives of all types? If so how do we know their pain points? How do we write copy and content that moves them to action?

Core Differentiation – Strategy Foundation #2

There are 60,000 searches done every month for executive coaching.

We haven’t identified and developed what truly makes us different vs. all the other executive coaches in the market. So, we will be stuck competing on these broad terms for SEO or pay per click (PPC).

So the PPC costs will probably be too high for us to afford. And the SEO will likely be throwing money down the drain as well.

We could try direct mail, but what do we put in the sales copy that grabs an executive’s attention?

What is in our offer or free training that is different than all the other executive coaches beating down their door?

We know we need to get Sandy out doing some public speaking in front of HR managers as well as executives. But what is our hook? How will she stand out enough to land those speaking gigs?

And then pricing…because we don’t have a core difference really nailed down we will be stuck competing on price.

Brand That Attracts Raving Fans – Strategy Block #3

One thing Sandy and I both agree on is that she needs a website ASAP.

We had to skip identifying our ideal client and core differentiation. So figuring out what to put on the site is a bit of a challenge.

In terms of content we’re not sure whom we are speaking to and what core difference we need to emphasize.

As for design we’re not sure whom we are trying to appeal to and what makes Sandy unique.

I actually asked Sandy at lunch what makes her unique. She said that she’s one of only 2,000 coaches certified by a certain coaching organization.

Hmm…I said “only one of 2,000?”

When I heard her say that I imagined the pictures and bios of 2,000 coaches. And I felt completely overwhelmed by having too many choices.

While her certification can help her establish credibility in the right time and place, people generally don’t put near as much weight in certifications as you would think.

And using the # of 2,000 actually hurt her instead of helping. If she were one of 20 that might be different.

The crazy thing is Sandy was missing this amazing story she has that really sets her apart from anyone and everyone.

You see when Sandy was VP of Strategic Marketing at a Global Fortune 500 company she made an interesting bet with the CEO.

She wanted to push forward a new initiative that was a little outside the box. So she promised him if it didn’t work she would quit her job with no severance.

Now that’s a gutsy strategy. And it’s a great story.

It’s such a great story it was featured in Fast Company, a very well respected magazine on business and technology.

I looked at Sandy and I said, “We aren’t going to talk about your certification. What we are going to do is tell your story.”

We are going to tell your story of how you turned around a lackluster sales force at a Global 500 company and offered the CEO your job if you couldn’t pull it off in order to get his support.

People will remember that story. It will inspire them and it will move them to action. It is part of your “core difference”.

To Sum it Up

There are many other components of a great marketing strategy.

But even if you just stop and take the time to intimately know your ideal client, establish a core differentiation and translate both into a brand message that can create raving fans you will be ahead of 90% of your competitors.

And you will be poised and ready to put some tactics into place. You will know whether to focus on Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn.

You’ll know what kind of referral partners you need.

You’ll be able to write sales copy that moves your ideal client to action.

And what the greatest challenges are for your ideal client so you can create products and services to solve them.

So don’t fall prey to the tactics trap! It is worth the time to build a stable marketing foundation. Then you won’t be wasting time and money on tactics that won’t work for you!

Action Takeaways

  1. Take a recent marketing “tactic” you’ve put in place that wasn’t as successful as you’d like. Could be a Facebook post, an ad, direct mail, telemarketing campaign, cold call, etc.

Write down 1-2 ways it spoke to the hopes, needs and desires of your ideal client.

Now write down 1-2 ways it could speak to your ideal client better.Try a “re-do” on that tactic now with this improved strategy for your message, sales copy or offer and measure the improvement in results.

  1. If you are “off the charts” serious about developing a world-class marketing strategy and leveraging that into getting more of your ideal or “dream” clients then I do have a limited # of private mentoring spots open right now.

The first step in working with me one-on-one is to complete a Signature Brand Audit. Whether we ultimately work together or not I will give you 3 “specific to your business” action steps to take your marketing to the next level.

Click Here to complete the Signature Brand Audit and get started!

And make sure you watch the quick intro video from my colleague and mentor John Jantsch (he “wrote the book” on small business marketing strategy).

Here’s to Your Comeback!


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