There are three key people or skills you can’t do without in your business. They will help you to better sell your opinions, ideas and proposals to others. And, they will help you sell more of your products and services…build stronger customer relationships and improve profits.
These three skill sets represent the holy grail of marketing success and when you find and use these skills in your business you will really kick some ass. So with all that in mind, the three skill sets or people I’m talking about.
- Direct marketing copywriter
- Direct marketing art director/designer
In the next couple of blog posts I will expand on these three skill sets that make up the Golden Trio, with the focus of this post being on the strategist.
The person pictured above is someone who has made a big contribution to the fields of warfare, strategy and performance. Who is it? His name is Sun Tzu, a highly respected military leader who lived in ancient China from around 544BC to 496BC. Sun Tzu is also the author of The Art of War.
In case you haven’t heard of it, The Art of War is a highly influential book on warfare, which outlines Tzu’s principles of effective military strategy and tactics. The book is a modern-day best-seller, despite the fact that it was written over 2000 years ago.
Just to give you an idea of how influential Sun Tzu is, The Art of War is part of the literary collection the US Army keeps and, “During the Gulf War in the 1990s, both Generals Norman Schwarzkopf. Jr and Colin Powell employed principles from Sun Tzu related to principles of deception, speed, and striking one’s enemy’s weak points.”
Successful sports coaches such as Phil Jackson (NBA master coach) and Steve Hansen (New Zealand’s World cup winning rugby coach) are practitioners of Sun Tzu’s strategy principles. And Luiz Felipe Scolari, who coached the Brazilian Football team to victory in the 2002 Football World Cup, made The Art of War required reading for all his players.
In business, Sun Tzu’s followers include Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle), Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric), Evan Spiegel (CEO of SnapChat), and Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo). Further, at the Wharton School’s MBA programme, The Art of War is one of the first books students receive when they commence their studies.
My copy of The Art of War is more than 20 years old, and many pages are weathered and decorated with notes and highlighter pen. Yes, there are some golden learning nuggets in Sun Tzu’s book, so if you don’t have it already, you need to go and get your own copy of The Art of War.
In terms of overall influence, what Sun Tzu has done is highlight the importance of strategy and applying effective strategy principles. And he has highlighted the importance of the strategist.
So what is a strategist? How does a strategist work? What skills does a strategist need? And how can a strategist benefit you? Le me answer these questions for you.
What is a strategist?
According to the Collins dictionary, a strategist is, “Someone who is skilled in planning the best way to gain an advantage or to achieve success.” And, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a strategist as, “a person skilled in strategy: a person who is skilled in making plans for achieving a goal: someone who is good at forming strategies.”
To elaborate on the definitions, a strategist wears a number of hats including analyst, troubleshooter, brainstormer and planner. And, the role primarily involves:
- Getting clarity around a problem or situation
- Gathering relevant information and market intelligence
- Analyzing challenges and problems by applying traditional and visual/design thinking principles and tools
- Identifying points of competitive advantage and weakness
- Establishing clear, realistic goals
- Brainstorming and creating strategies and evaluating them using probability and risk/reward tools
- Designing and creating strategic plans
Over the last decade or so the importance of the strategist has become more widely recognised in business. Indeed, in a 2008 article titled The Rise of the Chief Strategy Officer, authors Tim Breene, Paul F. Nunes and Walt Shill wrote that companies were increasingly hiring Chief Strategy Officers (CSO). At the time the CSO was a relatively new position, but as pointed out by the authors:
Companies are starting to add CSOs to their management teams for a variety of reasons. First, CEOs need the help: Complex organizational
structures, rapid globalization, new regulations and the struggle to innovate, among other challenges, make it ever more difficult for CEOs to be
on top of all parts of the business, even when it’s something as important as strategy execution.
Further, the nature of strategy itself has changed during the past decade. Strategy development has become a continuous process, and successful
execution therefore depends more than ever on rapid and effective decision making.
Smart business leaders understand that strategy analysis and development is not a once-a-year business exercise. It is, as stated above, a continuous process. And a key person who can add significant value to that process is a highly qualified and skilled strategist. Indeed, a skilled business strategist can help you:
- Identify attractive target segments
- Position your products, services and business more effectively
- Develop better, more attractive products
- Pinpoint causes of under-performance and failure
- Raise entry barriers to stop or slow down competitors from copying you.
- Come up with new and better ways of doing things
- Develop a counter attack to a competitor’s product introduction
- Pre-empt a competitive attack on your business
- Develop creative brand initiatives
- Create initiatives to boost sales team performance. And more…
So there you have it. That’s the strategist – the first member of the Golden Trio. Next week I will introduce you to the direct marketing designer/art director. That post will be somewhat controversial and is certain to p#@s off a bunch of graphic designers and advertising art directors.