Let’s face it, getting your strategy right is vital to the success of any marketing plan. It’s easy for strategy to be viewed in a very pragmatic way, when in fact, strategy development is never a straight line and should be pressure tested along the way. So, whether you are in the discovery or execution phase, how you approach the process plays a vital role in how you succeed.
It’s true, people who help create something are more invested in its success. As marketers and brand managers, we all want to think our entire team is fully vested and inspired to see a strategy prove to be wildly successful, so the question is – how? The answer is collaboration. The more people you have rooting for and participating in the success of a strategy the better. Here are four areas that affect how and if collaboration will play an active role in your strategy development.
- Culture. Assuming you have the right people/partners in the right seats, team members need to know that they are “licensed” to participate at all levels of a strategic plan. A creative director should not resist listening to insights from other members of the team that are not “creative”, and brand managers should welcome feedback from sales teams that may see advertising as an expense rather than an investment. This type of culture does not diminish the role that a creative director or brand manager has in the process, it should actually strengthen their position. It’s simply the difference between working for someone (vendor) and working with someone (partner). When we choose a culture of collaboration, we work side-by-side, each having equal weight in the success of the strategy – while having distinct roles in the process.
- Commitment. A collaborative culture can easily be thwarted in strategy development by the actions of just a few people on any team who clearly want (and prefer) divisions and separations in the process. In light of the fast-paced environment that we are all in, it’s true, a collaborative approach can cause the process to take longer, may cause more disagreements/differences of opinions, and to some it may seem completely unnecessary. So, making sure the entire team is committed to the benefits of the process is fundamental to succeeding. This may mean that you have to pull a team member aside to either encourage them to participate more in the process or to be less critical of the comments of others – this takes commitment.
- Conviction vs. Concession. Collaboration can be destroyed when you and your team don’t have a proper view of how to “stand your ground” or “let go”. In a healthy collaborative environment, you don’t have to (and can’t) always “win” – and quite honestly, you shouldn’t. We’ve all been in that meeting when 9 of 10 people are in full agreement on something and one colleague just can’t let their opinion go – which, to be fair has been given every opportunity to be heard – then it’s time to concede. At the same time, being willing to hold strongly to an opinion should be celebrated and encouraged. This is often needed when there is no strong consensus, and the strength passion and conviction for a specific viewpoint is what the team needs in order to move forward. Regardless of whether conviction or concession is exercised throughout the strategy development process, it is still about winning – winning as a team!
- Celebration. How you celebrate the success of a strategy is vital to encouraging collaboration. Nothing halts a collaborative approach faster than the word “I”. Giving credit should always trump taking credit for success. Period!