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Here are three good reasons why you need a strategy in order to succeed:

1. There are no bad ideas. And since there are no bad ideas, you constantly have to evaluate and choose from among all the great opportunities that present themselves. Is television good? Of course. Is televisions a good use of our budget at this time? Well, if you have a strategy, it’s pretty easy to answer this question. If not, it is impossible. And marketing resources get frittered away on the best sales pitch, the best sales person, the best buddy, the fire-sale promotion of whatever’s in inventory, regardless of consumer need or market situation, things that don’t make the cash register ring.

2. A strategy gives you enough time to do the right thing. An annual plan allows you to look twelve, twenty-four, even thirty-six months into the future. You can plan promotions around seasons, product availabilities, consumer behavior, cycles, cash flow, and community events. You can plan your product launches, re-stages, line extensions, and upgrades on your terms. And you can back into sufficient schedules for every step of big, important, complex, multi-phase activities. A strategy allows you to claim the high ground before your competitors know there’s a land rush.

If you don’t have a strategy, you are forced to react rather than act. Follow rather than lead. Take what you can get in the time allotted. Scramble constantly. And (see point 1), because there are no bad ideas, you end up spending too much, trying to get things done at the last minute, using tactics that (while, of course, they are good) are not optimal.

3. It is impossible to succeed without a strategy. Literally, impossible. YOU CANNOT SUCCEED. In analogous strategic activities (like sports), it is possible to succeed by accident. Not likely, but possible. You can try really hard, get charged up, take momentum, hit all your free throws, and stumble into a win. That’s because a basketball game is finite in length and success is determined by mutually (universally) agreed upon criteria—who has the most points at the end. In business it is not so.

The first component of any effective strategy is the objective(s). These are objective (no pun intended—well, okay, pun intended) and quantifiable. Without objectives, you cannot know whether or not you succeeded.

Some folks like this. If they don’t know whether you succeeded, they can’t really say you failed. So, you run around, spend the budget on good things (no bad ideas), spend your time, your staff’s time, your vendors’ time doing things that keep everyone busy (hey, you have to do something, and there’s no time to do the right thing). And after the fact, you can measure your success on the basis of things like, “there were lots of good comments,” “everybody really liked it,” “We had a few customers who actually mentioned that they saw it, and they were very impressed.” Is that success? Who knows?

There are lots more reasons to have a strategy. But folks seem to like lists, and in particular lists of threes. So, barring an actual strategy for this post, I thought that would be a good idea—and hey, there are no bad ones.

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