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8 questions to ask about your brand strategy right now

In honor of International Axe Throwing Day (no, seriously it's a thing), today seems like a great day to try and chop up your brand strategy. No matter whether with an ax, pencil or keyboard, let's make sure you're putting a critical eye to your brand strategy today.

Mentally check thru each of these questions and consider whether more work needs to be done. If so - move quickly! A day spent with a poor strategy is a day completely wasted.

1 - Is my consumer target represented in this strategy?

Did you start with them in mind and therefore have built a plan that will attract the perfect consumer who will love your brand forever and ever? And ever? If not, you've accomplished nothing and no one will ever love you.

Ok, sorry, that's a bit much! But it's not too much to say that without the consumer in the driver's seat, none of these other questions will matter. Start by reconsidering the level of insight you have on your consumer to make sure you're going well beyond demographics and dig deep into motivations, attitudes, needstates, occasions and more. Read this piece on HuffPost for inspiration.

2 - Is my business objective clearly articulated?

Do you know exactly what it is you want to accomplish to bring success to your business? Have you articulated what the organization is expecting of your brand? Typically this is measured in dollars -- topline or profitability. But it could be several other business metrics, such as volume or % growth. What's important is that you've defined this.

But, be sure to use SMART goals. Refresh yourself on this oldie but goodie with this article: 5 Elements of a SMART Business Goal. It's targeted to small business, but relevant to us all.

3 - Is my marketing objective clearly articulated?

Now that the business need is clear, you must also have SMART marketing objectives. These goals will specifically relate to the marketing plan you've laid out, which, in turn, will deliver to the business objective.

4 - Can I summarize my strategy in one sentence?

Every strategic plan should have a brief summary of your approach. This is the same sentence you can leverage in an elevator conversation or that gets repeated when something is "off strategy". If you can't articulate your strategy in one sentence, there is a problem. You don't need to include details of your tactics or even the big rocks of your plan, but you should be able to talk about how you are going about accomplishing the goals you laid out.

5 - Do I have a fact-based knowledge base that is dictating my strategy?

Its no secret that data and strategy go hand in hand. I've already written about the 9 brand facts you better know to arm yourself to define and defend your strategic POV. So it should come as no surprise that a fact-base must be the foundation of your strategy. If you can't defend your strategic choices with data, then you're going to have a tough time selling this thing in.

6 - Do I know how to measure success?

Who doesn't love KPIs, am I right? Ok well maybe we don't love them but we certainly live by them. Outlining KPIs up front is not just a good idea, it's necessary for survival! If only because you don't want to be sitting at your annual review debating whether you work was successful or not. But also to be sure your team and agencies are focused on the right thing.

Check out this article on common mistakes made when setting KPIs. Also, this an illuminating article on the differences between brand and agency KPIs by Marketing Week.

7 - Can I weave this into a story that compels and galvanizes my organization?

It's easy to build a 30-page deck that your marketing team devours and understands. It's another thing to share your strategic vision with your cross-functional leadership team and have everyone giving you a standing ovation - oh who are we kidding, procurement doesn't do standing ovations! Let's be satisfied with head nods, ok?

Telling a story about your consumer, your brand, and what you will accomplish in the coming 1-3 years is brand-management-speak for catering your presentation to your audience. And, until you do this well, you will find yourself constantly convincing and defending the plan you've worked so hard to develop. Here is an excellent article on how to use storytelling for more compelling presentations on HBR.

8 - Have I summarized this into a one-page document my whole team/organization to live by?

It's inevitable - maybe required - that your strategic plan comes together in a large deck. However, a one-page summary helps you quickly communicate and remind everyone of the objectives, strategy and big rocks for the year(s). You want this to be top of mind! I have a strategic house template I've used for years that I'll be happy to share with you just ask!

Did you answer YES to all these questions? Nice! You're set up for success.

Did you have one or more NO? There's still plenty of time this year to get it right. I'm happy to help if I can - just shoot me a note.

Ok, one more bonus: And now, this. Savvy - albeit ridiculous - examples of simple storytelling at its best. Enjoy!

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