Marketing Decisions

The blog of LHL Partners, LLC. The blogger is (often) Rick Lightburn, Chief Knowledge Officer of LHL Partners, with his observations about marketing. Our main page is at

Monday, May 08, 2006

That's a Strategy?

I received an invitation to a webinar sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Seven Strategies for Gaining Superior ROI from Your Lead Generation Activities”. It looks pretty interesting, and I think I don't know enough about "Lead Generation Activities."

But I don't know if what will be presented in the webinar amounts to "strategies."

I think my issue goes beyond the terminological: I think there is a real difference between, say, Strategies and Tactics. But the confusion comes from the fact that everything you directly observe is a Tactic, while a Strategy has to be inferred.

A cynical and very action oriented company might define a strategy as any tactic they use more than twice. But if you think that the right sequence is "Ready; Aim; Fire" and not some other order (such as "Fire; Aim; Ready") then you'll have to concede that there's value in strategy development and deployment, as well as action planning.

To do strategic development, you'd first assess the "Strategic Challenges" which would lead one to formulate "Strategic Objectives." According to the definitions I like (from the National Institute of Standards and Technology) Strategic Challenges are "those pressures that exert a decisive influence on an organization’s likelihood of future success," while
Broadly stated, [Strategic Objectives] are what an organization must achieve to remain or become competitive and ensure long-term sustainability. Strategic objectives set an organization’s longer-term directions and guide resource allocations and redistributions.

Finally, Action Plans
... refers to specific actions that respond to short- and longer-term strategic objectives.
An example of a strategic objective for a supplier in a highly competitive industry might be to develop and maintain a price leadership position. Action plans could entail designing efficient processes and creating an accounting system that tracks activity-level costs, aligned for the organization as a whole.

My guess is that the AMA webinar will look at the Strategic Objective of 'Increasing the ROI of Lead Generation Activities,' and offer seven different action plans to that strategic objective.

But is this more than just terminological?

I think so.

In evaluating a tool, it's useful to know what kind of tool it is: a nail is a tool for holding together different pieces of wood, a nailgun is a tool for driving nails: if you confuse them, you won't be a competent carpenter. Features of nails and nailguns are interconnected: a nailgun only works with certain kinds of nails, and a nail can only be used in certain kinds of nailguns. But this interconnectedness doesn't mean that they are one kind of thing. They are two kinds of thing. A handsaw, moreover, is yet another kind of tool.

The strategic indication shouldn't be that your firm isn't using one of the tactics discussed in the AMA webinar, it's that your firm isn't getting enough ROI from its Lead Generation Activities. If your firm's lead generation is producing a high enough ROI, or if lead generation isn't your problem at all, then the tactics presented in the AMA webinar probably aren't worth your while.