To get to a point of discussing what the role of a Strategist, or Strategy Consultant is (or should be), it’s important to start with a shared understanding of what a strategy actually is, and why it’s critical for business. It’s rudimentary, I know. But we have to start at the beginning.
Simply put, a strategy is an intentional plan or method of achieving a particular goal. This is an important definition to keep in mind throughout the entirety of this article, because the term “strategy” has been thrown around so much in the business environment that many organizations and people have begun to create their own variation, or unique interpretations of what the word truly means.
So why is this important? Because there are countless tactics available to us all day, every day. We can spend money on ads, we can spend a week developing a Twitter calendar, we can invest in a $1 million website, and so on. There is simply no limit to the number of unique things we can do.
But just because we can doesn’t mean we should. And that’s where a strategy comes in.
Focusing on developing an informed and thorough strategy essentially allows businesses to first identify what is truly important to them (Mission, vision, values, financial goals, cultural goals, etc.), and then assess which tactics (and in what order) are best able to help them achieve their goals. If your goal is to grow your raw steel sales revenue among Canadian fabrication shops, a Pinterest campaign won’t help you in any way. It may be fun -- and you may feel productive while you're doing it -- but it’s not going to get you closer to your goal. Your strategy, when it becomes a part of your operating culture, can become a safeguard against doing the wrong things, just as it is prescriptive about doing the right things.
Enter the strategy consultant. Contrary to popular belief, a strategy consultant doesn't simply show up with answers to your problems. Rather, they are a resource to work with you to solve your problems. That is, good consultants don't simply prescribe cookie cutter solutions for their clients. They invest in research and problem solving frameworks to uncover the root problem, and then (yes, based on their experience working with other clients) devise the exact custom recommendation for you.
The role of the strategy consultant is to be a leader through this process. They bring the problem solving framework and expertise to you and your team, and are a key driver in getting to a resolution efficiently and effectively. The consultant and their team will do the majority of heavy lifting when it comes to research (primary and secondary), hypothesis development, analysis of data, and finally solution articulation, but will work collaboratively with your team along the way.
Especially with consultants that specialize in one specific discipline -- like digital marketing -- it can be difficult to understand the difference between a strategy consultant and a specialist or tactician. But it's a very important distinction to understand, because these two roles offer VERY different benefits to your team.
A tactician can often be thought of as an extension of your team. They are an expert at doing a certain type of marketing, and are there to support your team by doing marketing work on your behalf.
A strategist on the other hand focuses on help you and your team figure out what should be done, and what your course of action should be in getting it done. Other than being an ambassador to the strategy, the strategy consultant isn't typically involved in "doing" roles of the execution phase.
We’ve discussed the entry level definition of the term, “strategy” but what does it really look like in a digital initiative? Is it a document? Is it a message plastered on the wall? Is is something laminated and distributed to employees and key clients?
There’s no right answer to this question. However in my experience, I have found that the best representation of a strategy takes the form of a playbook. That is, it is made up of many individual tactics or "plays" that have been crafted both independently and in combination with one another to get your initiative or company closer to "winning."
We love the idea of a playbook, because it is inherently action-oriented. They aren't long-winded pages of theory or hypotheticals. No, they take those theories -- along with your goals, the intricacies of your business, your target audiences, etc. -- and spin them into specific actions that you and your team (or your agency) can and should take.
Got more questions about your digital strategy? We'd love to talk to you!