Marketing Strategy

The 5 questions to definitely ask your Marketing Director

Author: Joe Lynch of Joe Lynch Consulting – on behalf of The Sussex Collaborative

In other words, what the CEO should ask and what the Marketing Director should know before signing off the annual marketing budget!


I’ve written this resource to be freely available through The Sussex Collaborative. It is a framework I’ve developed throughout my 25 plus years as a Commercial Marketing Director, MD and CEO. Most of the questions apply to any strategy in any industry – but it is particularly applicable to the Marketing Strategy.

In my experience, a marketing strategy is usually the weakest of any departmental plans – typically driven by the top down approach of the business needing to do more, whilst spending less and hoping this will happen because we’ve wished for it. See my note on the Hail Mary strategy below!

The questions are very straightforward – the value comes from how well they are answered, the levels of honesty, scrutiny and belief in them. This is where I can help. I hope you find it useful

Question 1       Why are we here?

This isn’t meant to trigger some form of existentialist crisis – merely a way of getting to the core of the organisation and understanding how well the brand is defined, both internally and externally.  There are many great brand development tools available, but my favourite is too use something like Simon Sinek’s start with why.

A well-constructed workshop will help challenge and define this, the key stone, without which most marketing strategies will crumble

Question 2       What’s the plan?

So often strategies miss this most essential. We need to understand that a strategy is simply a plan to get to some agreed targets. The targets themselves are exactly that – just something to aim for. They offer no help or advice about how to get there.

A sound plan will detail who is going to do what – when, with which resources and details the changes that we expect to see. It’s crucial to understand and to make sure everyone else also understands the difference between targets and strategy.

Of course, you can’t live without tactics – these are the tweaks you make to your plan according to changes along the way.

Question 3       Will it make a difference?

An inevitable challenge in the creation of any strategy is agreeing what will make the biggest difference.

  • What is the value at stake for any particular initiative?
  • Are we going to be spending a year working hard on a plan that only delivers value to a small proportion of our customers?
  • How much resource (capital, human, risk, time) are we investing for what level of return.

This question often only arises late in the development of strategies when the realisation dawns that all of the ideas and initiatives proposed total up to be many times the resources available.

This is also a great way of quietly and respectively killing off those pet projects that have survived purely on the energy (or seniority) of their proposers. Don’t forget that the best strategies are often the simplest!

Question 4       And how will we know

If you can measure it, you can manage it.

This is a tried and tested adage – but it stands the test of time because it’s true. A good strategy will have a small number of indicators that allow you to see if the strategy or plan is working. Remember the K in KPI – keep it to a small number of key indicators.

Once you have agreed what you are going to measure and how you are going to measure it – make sure that you do! Do it regularly and visibly, if you strategy is signed off at budget time and then left on the shelf until next time round you’ve just wasted a lot of effort for nothing. Instead build a reporting framework that shares the progress you are making, or not making, as part of your plan. Its surprising how powerful the regular discussions about what is really important affects and influences the priorities of the entire organisation

Question 5       Does anybody really care?

Who owns the strategy in your organisation. Is it just the Board, the CEO  or the Marketing Director. It needs to be everybody. We all know the anecdote of the cleaner at NASA whose job was to “get men onto the moon” as a great example of every individual knowing how their role supports the overall strategy.

If you can’t make a link between an individual’s objectives and that of the overarching strategy then you need to be asking some potentially difficult questions. There is also a hugely important human aspect too – everyone wants to feel part of something and to know and understand the bigger picture. It’s incredibly motivating and empowering for everyone in every role and will help engender teamwork, unity and efficiency like never before

If you are planning your marketing activity and would like a different perspective on your strategy or simply want to sense check your plans, please feel free to get in touch.