Recently I was reminded of a great story, an interesting analogy that describes the effect of solid strategy and its essential difference from tactics. The story goes like this: the Trojan war has been simmering for some time now, all resources are exhausted, everybody is tired, no food, no men. The Greeks struggle to conquer Troy. The people are helpless and want to go home. And then, one night beneath the stars, a brainstorming session suddenly starts around the fire. Ulysses, pulling out his last strengths, comes up with the idea: “If we can’t get the gates open from the outside, maybe we can get them open from the inside without the Trojans knowing.” That was it, that was the strategy around which each single tactic was developed, until the one, the Trojan horse, finally worked. The Greeks finally had a clear goal toward which they could steer every time they pivot. But the war wasn’t that easy for them. It took 10 years and had a lot of tactical challenges before the strategy was clear and everything worked out.
In business, like in war, an effective strategy provides a central unifying idea around which all behavior, actions, and communications are aligned. It involves making choices about a target audience, technology, organizational identity, and about positioning against competitors. The choices are interdependent – the target audience influence technology and identity and positioning effect a choice of the target audience.
The market has complex and interlaced requirements. Approaching it with solely the idea to sell a product seems as vague as going to war with a strategy to conquer Troy or take back Helena. Not having a strategy could be a costly mistake. Ask the Greeks! But, whatever the reasons are, and there are quite a few, they all come down to the same thing – not knowing – not knowing a target audience, not knowing our real competitors, not knowing evidence to base decisions on – and thus not being able to form that unifying idea based on the facts.
Let me ask you something:
How many months, or should I say years, does your app project take? Do you see the day of light? How much money have you spent paying the team so far? How many features have you changed? What about the deadlines? Does your marketing campaign target the right customers? Does it sell? The list of questions is long.
Whether we are developing a brand or a product, an absence of a shared clear vision among team members results in time delays, increased costs or a bad user experience, in chaos that comes in quickly, in early stages, and escalates rapidly. In this dynamic the team is united about what they believe can work creatively and strategically. There is no basis on which one can form creative output with clear business and marketing goals. The team never knows in which direction they are headed, towards what end, or whether they will, with each step, go off the trace. Sounds familiar, right?!
So, how all that chaos evolves when we lack strategic foundation?
Usually quite easily.
An absence of informed decisions and well-reasoned rules on managing your brand or product leads to a perpetually subjective scenario built on trusting individuals and their assumptions for trust’s sake. That can only take us so far. Mostly it turns to defending ideas instead of working towards the target and going on and off with what is the best solution. Eventually that leads to the habit of constantly adding or changing features or broadening a target audience or redeveloping a marketing plan. We can all see how this scenario ends up.
Our Ulysses would surely know that a solid strategy is the difference between success and failure. Simply, it streamlines your business, helps you make better decisions faster, thus ensuring every dollar and minute you spend on a business is in the direction of your sustained success.