You Say “Strategy,” I Say “Strategery” (No, Not Really)

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On a call last week, I had a potential client ask me the difference between him hiring my company and him hiring a 1099 contractor to make door calls on prospects’ offices with doughnuts and sales slicks.

Nothing against the latter tactic—it works in many cases. I’d just call it sales. And FrogDog does marketing strategy and marketing implementation. Not sales.

Throughout nearly twenty-two years of running FrogDog (where does the time go, anyway?), I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve encountered people with the same definition as me—or even as each other—when it comes to anything related to marketing and branding.

Start the Conversation

When someone asks if I’d like to talk to a person who needs help with branding, let’s say, I always reply that I’d love to speak with her. I have no idea what she means by “branding.” (She might not have any real idea, either. In the same conversation mentioned above, I asked the prospect what sort of marketing help he needed and he said, “You know, marketing.” Right then.)

Maybe FrogDog does what she needs when she says “branding.” Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe she doesn’t even need branding in the first place, and thinks something completely unrelated to branding is branding. I’ve experienced it all over the course of many years.

Whatever direction the conversation takes, I try to point people in good directions if FrogDog can’t help. If we can’t assist now, maybe someday we will. Meeting new people, helping them as best we can, and staying in touch takes us far.

Define Your Terms

In a recent article on his website about problem solving (his métier), Arnaud expresses frustration with the verbal tic “about.” (I liken “about,” in this use case, to a more business-y version of the verbal tic “like.”)

In Arnaud’s experience, when someone says something—in his article’s case, strategy—“is about” one thing or another, the person saying it doesn’t have a concrete definition of the term. The moment he hears strategy “is about” something, Arnaud knows he’ll get an entirely different definition of the same topic a short while later.

And he argues—rightly—that unless people can clearly define their topics, you cannot have debate and productive discussion leading to breakthroughs of any kind. I’ll add this corollary: Unless you can agree on a definition of what a company needs or wants, you can’t sell it something and find it happy with what you sold later. After all, if you sell someone branding, deliver your definition of branding, and that definition doesn’t match her definition of branding, she won’t feel happy about the transaction.

Without clarity, all things go sideways.

P.S.—Arnaud and I don’t have the same definition of strategy. I define strategy as the approach to achieving an objective; your strategy provides the guideline for creating and executing your tactics. However, though we may differ here, at least Arnaud and I can each articulate our definitions.