What has inspired Long & Co this summer
A couple of books and podcasts have really influenced my thinking this summer. I don’t know if you’re anything like me but when I am on holidays I like to find moments to sit very still and listen. Then I do. This is exactly what I have been up to this summer.
1) A one-page strategy is an awesome tool for thoughtful execution
2) You gotta play bigger
3) Content is king, and video rules.
I won’t chew across all three concepts in one bite, but rather use this blog post to focus on the benefits of a one-page strategy.
Strategy on a page
So it may come as a surprise to you that I am advocating putting your strategy on a page when I am in the business of providing strategic advice. Picture the typical consultant right? A 30-page deck costing multiple of thousands of dollars, only to be filed away and rarely looked at again.
Sounds like a pretty bad business approach to me. I am not saying one shouldn’t be very thoughtful about how one approaches a business or marketing strategy. What I am saying is, for such a strategy to be effective, a one-page summary of the main points is incredibly useful. In the words of General Carl Von Clausewitz (!): strategy is only as good as your next encounter with the enemy.
Now; having suffered (and at times relished) my way through an MBA GradCert, I have read loads of management books. Scaling Up is a little different in that it had a very useful strategy framework that can be implemented easily. This framework is called Seven Strata and allows a simple story to be coherently told on one page. You can download your own free strategy template here.
Seven Strata Strategy
The seven principles the book covers include what words you own in the market, what you promise, your one-phrase strategy, differentiators and your big-hairy-audacious-goal.
I am only covering three aspects here.
1. Words you own
Scaling Up tells us that if we don't know how our customers will find us we should't expect them to look us up. They say that words we are able to own in a customers mind and in search engines help us win the war.
No one can own the word “car” but Volvo has succeeded in owning “safety”. SnapChat has combined two words creating a new category of chat.
I found this very interesting because I started to ponder what words Long & Co is in the process of owning. Long & Co’s business name suggests there is a Long (hello!) and a Co (suppliers like web developers and designers). Long & Co can be words synonymous with a new category of marketing services in the market. Truth be told this is certainly our intention (more on this here in the Why Long & Co section).
The key is owning words that matter. Search engines are important platforms where this plays out. Owning “marketing” or even “marketing strategy” in Google takes perseverance and patience. I can tell you right now, that if you search “marketing Newcastle” you will be presented with loads competitors, marketing jobs and even courses from the University of Newcastle before Long & Co comes up.
The secret sauce is hard yakka. Yep. Good old fashioned hard-work. Such as providing valuable content around marketing strategy if these are words you want to own. In addition, looking at long-tail key words help. Long-tail key words use more words becoming more descriptive. Search volume goes down, but conversion can go up due to relevance.
An example of a long-tail key word for Long & Co’s is “marketing strategy and implementation Newcastle” – voila! – we rank on the first page of Google. Well, maybe. You see, it depends. On which device you search on, whether you have searched the term before and whether you are logged into a Google account at the time of search. Search engine marketing - I tell you - it’s a jungle out there. My advice – keep it simple and think about what makes sense to your customer.
2. Promises, promises..
Seven Strata describes a promise as the experience you guarantee your customer. Long & Co’s tagline is “Marketing that works and people talk about”. This is an expression of our brand promise. We provide marketing, and it works (so clients get the right outcomes).
But then it got me thinking. While clients want marketing that works (and they do) what I have also learnt is that clients want freedom to grow their business.
There is an opportunity here to promise and deliver on a long-term trusted relationship. Because good strategy doesn't implement itself.
What this adds up to is a very exciting time to be in business. You don’t have to rely on over-priced agencies, under-delivering consultants or even fulltime staff. With lower overheads, companies such as Long & Co can be your trusted marketing partner. The network economy allows us to dip into a pool of quality creatives, analysts and developers. And I tell you, it’s refreshing in here.
I love this one as I have been in many a workshop where the leaders are tearing their hair out to express what makes them different to competitors. I mean, if we have learnt anything from Simon Sinek (if you follow Long & Co you know we are a big fan) it is not WHAT makes us different but HOW we are different. Differentiation occurs in HOW we deliver on our promises, and this is very hard to copy. You can read more about these concepts on Long & Co’s blog here.
The strategist, Michael Porter, at Harvard Business School, concurs that it is in the “activity” level of the business where true differentiation occurs. It is in the call-centre of a health insurance business or even the user experience of a website which sets a business apart from their competitors.
For Long & Co, our differentiator is our ability to get the right outcomes. This comes from experience, discipline and simple things like distributing meeting outcomes. When people believe the right outcomes will be achieved they are more likely to support the business. We have some amazing suppliers on our books and supporters from the business community. A bit of an internal motto is that it’s fun when it works, because frankly, life is too short not to enjoy it.
Summer is here and there are plenty of days left to pick up a book or listen to a good podcast, become inspired and then to execute like crazy.
Thank you for your time in reading this blog post. I look forward to sharing my reflections on playing bigger and the role of content over the coming little while.