"In bringing a strategy to life and making it actually work for your business, I recommend the STAR approach. With its four elements Strategy, Team, Assets, Routines, its a tried and tested formula."
Strategy is one of those words businesspeople use so often I fear it’s in danger of losing its meaning. Let’s be clear. A strategy is more than just a plan. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word: “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”. While acknowledging that a strategy is a plan of action, notice that the dictionary definition specifically also refers to “a long-term or overall aim”.
A strategy is about moving us from a current situation to a different future situation. In digital marketing, that might be a straightforward growth aim or it could be more elaborate, perhaps moving into a new market, launching a new product or service, or repositioning to appeal to a different audience.
In my book, Build Your Marketing Strategy: The Mindsets and Methods of Businesses that Dominate their Sector Online I describe how adopting a Strategy Mindset for your business’s digital marketing is the route towards predictability and success, and eventually becoming a leading player in your field.
In bringing a strategy to life and making it actually work for your business, I recommend the STAR approach. With its four elements: Strategy, Team, Assets, Routines, it’s a tried and tested formula for success for the thousands of businesses, whose online performance the approach has helped transform.
With its roots as a military term, here’s how the military apply the STAR approach and how it can be applied in digital marketing.
In the military, missions and campaigns are approached with detailed strategies based on intelligence on the environment they expect to encounter, and the risks and opportunities associated with them. There is clarity on tactics among teams and clear leadership structures to make sure campaigns remain on track with the agreed strategy.
The biggest way to mimic this in digital marketing is actually to produce the strategy. So many people claim to have a strategy, but when you ask to see a copy of it, they look non-plussed. Putting the effort into producing a written strategy is the first and only step into actually having one.
As of the definition discussed above, your strategy should be your overarching plan to move from your current situation to your desired situation.
As a starting block, define what those two things are. Where are we now? Where do me want to be? Then you can write the “How do we get there?” between a clearly defined start and end point. The final question “How to we ensure arrival?” will also help define what your strategic blocks need to be in terms or Team, Assets and Routines.
The military invest heavily in recruitment advertising and put huge focus on training drills to make sure they have the best people available when campaigns begin. It’s only possible to move up the hierarchy by accumulating experience and showing a track record of success.
Similarly, in digital marketing it’s essential to ensure the team delivering the strategy is as strong as, or stronger than, competitors’ teams – everybody has appropriate skills and experience, and is motivated to achieve the business goals. Winning digital teams are often a mix of inhouse staff and experts from agencies, or contractors. But they’re set up to behave as one team, with a leader keeping everyone on track with the published strategy.
The military know a great team can only deliver campaigns successfully if it has great assets to support its efforts. Governments allocate billions to developing military hardware to equip their teams with the best resources possible for their campaigns.
And so it goes in marketing, where the strategy and team can only succeed when there are great digital assets to support the campaigns. Businesses that apply the Strategy Mindset to their digital marketing make sure they have better websites than their competitors, better branding, better social channels, better image libraries, better marketing automation and so on.
Daily, weekly and monthly drills occur during both military training and campaigns. Personnel are clear on standards that are expected and outcomes that must be achieved. There are regular inspections and reports to make sure teams maintain standards.
With the three foundations in place, strategy-based marketers also develop daily, weekly and monthly marketing routines that bring their strategies to life. They set up repeatable processes that make it easy to publish regular content that speaks to their customers’ pain points, and they refine and improve continually, based on the results their routines deliver for them.
The most successful marketing teams are well developed in all four areas of the STAR formula. If a business is only well developed in one or two areas, it’s likely to be playing catch-up to its competitors more and more over time. Taking a holistic approach to these four key elements though, will provide the route from where you are now online, to where you want to be.
Steve Brennan is CEO of Bespoke and author of Build Your Marketing Strategy: The Mindsets and Methods of Businesses that Dominate their Sector Online.