The two key elements of any business are its main objectives and a strategy for achieving them. Without a strategy, the road to achieving objectives is not clearly defined, and the chances for a business to fail when (not if) it encounters serious obstacles are high.
On the other hand, the modern living and thus business environment is not very tolerant towards rigid orientations, and strategies are orientations – because, at the end of a day, they should clearly indicate both what we do and what we do not do.
We live in the so-called V.U.C.A. world (Volatile/ Uncertain/ Complex/Ambiguous) – the only real constant is change, occurring more and more frequently and becoming increasingly dramatic. It is almost impossible to define causes and consequences because of the unpredictability of developments. Resulting issues and consequences are multi-layered and it is difficult to understand the manner of causality of things, with decision-making and selecting one specific and correct direction virtually impossible. ’Best practice’ and ’one size fits all’ solutions are no longer valid – we can rarely define anything with certainty because what applies today is no longer applicable tomorrow, while strategies should represent long-term orientations. It seems that what used to be long-term has now become short-term and that making managerial decisions, even with strategic guidelines, requires much more courage and readiness to make a mistake than ever before. The best illustration of such a world is provided by the latest development – the crisis caused by COVID-19.
So, how to create an orientation (i.e. strategy) leading us to a goal, but in manner that it can be easily adapted in case of necessity, overcoming obstacles, but that everyone following it perceives it as it is, without ambiguities regarding taking the right direction?
Frameworks and contexts of business strategies are most often articulated via visions and missions of companies. If they are clear and inspiring, they can significantly contribute to strategy development, but it is not always the case. In large corporations, especially those operating in several different categories or even sectors, on a global scale, these frameworks may be too wide to ensure the required clarity and direct strategies.
Business strategy development is basically an analytical process, not oriented towards activities – plans come later. Analyses help us build a sustainable competitive advantage, create higher value than others, not necessarily direct rivals only, competing in the same area, for the same customers, because in these times they compare everything that is offered. Analyses have also obtained a completely new dimension in this rapidly changing world. For internal and external analyses, both equally important, a key factor of their contribution to strategy quality is the same – how much they are actually focused on people. People as consumers of products or services, people as employees, whose behaviours represent values of a company and brands, people as business decision makers, who run businesses with their competencies, guided by ethical and cultural principles.
If people are not central to a vision of a company and a business strategy, if you as an organisation are not generally oriented towards their values and needs and quality of their life, there is no marketing strategy that will help put those same people in focus of a campaign or project so that they trust you, namely identify with what you offer to meet their needs, what you tell them, what you try to engage them in – and some of the above is certainly an objective of your business.
By accepting such approach to strategy design, companies can stay agile in the unpredictable world we live in, and the reason for that is very simple – because they follow people and their needs, which change as the world changes. In a way, companies get their North Star and then are not likely to divert from the right course, no matter how turbulent a journey is.
I think this is the essence of a link between a business strategy and a marketing one, which definitely have to be harmonised at all levels, just like all other derived strategies, such as sales, HR, have to be harmonised with a business strategy.
How exactly do marketing strategies build on such, people-oriented business strategies?
When you understand the reasons for specific human behaviour – why people do what they do, not only what they do – then you deeply understand their needs, and that is invaluable in helping and accelerating the process of product or service development, their clear and adequate positioning, production of communication messages that explain the solution to potential users. You also get a logical and connected package, or a marketing mix, which is not a product of someone’s imagination, but a solution to an actual problem.
How many times have you heard that a product or a campaign are ‘just another marketing trick, to put it mildly?! The reason for that is absence of a genuine focus on people and, even more importantly, absence of essential interest of business in people. Data shows that those times are largely behind us and that a growing number of companies understand the necessity of such changes in approaching strategy development.
And finally, I would like to emphasize a significant advantage of putting people in a centre of business is that its result will definitely reflect on strengthening of a company’s internal culture. Thanks to such orientations, your company becomes a desirable place for work and perhaps you can even attract the personnel you though were unattainable – because people like to work for those who care about people.
Just imagine how far your competitive advantage can go in such situation and how much your solutions can be authentic, superior and challenging for copying by competitors.