The Most Powerful Word in a Strategist’s Vocabulary: NO!

In the simplest of terms, strategy is about choices. And with choice comes the difficult task of saying no.  The converse is much easier. Saying yes, as a consensus builder, helps makes the process easier. But the result is often tragically deficient in both focus and execution. So next time you’re faced with choices, you might want to take the road less traveled. You might just end up in a much better spot.

 NO can make a difference almost everywhere.

–The Brand Vision. How many times have you heard the notion of “owning the market” or establishing “the leadership position”? It’s the generic brand vision that generally means nothing. The trick is to define your vision within your terms and make it meaningful as an efficient guidepost to success. Say no to abstract silliness…be focused and bold!

–The Position. Safe, effective and well-tolerated. That comes close to many pharmaceutical positioning statements. The desire to add more and more leads us to BOB—the Bundle of Benefits. The result of trying to be all things to all people is clear. You become nothing to no one. And left with this void, the marketplace (and your competition) will position you. Say no to BOB…be single-minded!

–The Strategies. Can you summarize your strategic plan in a brief few sentences? After all, World War II had two strategies:  #1.  Win the war in Europe.  #2. After that, win the war in the Pacific. Another example is the energy policy often discussed in political debates; it is a great example of never using the word no . The ubiquitous “all of the above” strategy leaves no real “action-oriented” specifics and while it might make you feel warm and fuzzy (yes, yes, yes), it will leave you cold in the end. Say no to over-thinking and over-plotting your marketing war…build a plan that is actionable, not 10 pounds of jargon in a 5-pound bag!

–The Tactics. It’s the laundry list, from soup to nuts. But in today’s complex world of profiling, influence, digital, print, social, TV, to name a few, you just can’t have it all. And as much as you think you might be able to, you just can’t afford it all either. Say no to soup and nuts…pick the “pressure point” channels that best serve your (focused) needs.

–The Relationship.  In the final analysis, clients and agencies both respect honesty. Sometimes, saying no to an opportunity—from pitches to projects—can be more of a relationship builder than the forced event itself. So say no to that pitch…win on your terms!

When you start saying no, you often find the most amazing results. Your customers and colleagues react to your focus and intent and respond with the rarest and most sought-after response in marketing: YES!



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