A recent editorial by the political pundit David Frum made this point clear, by explaining how top political strategists like Karl Rove and David Axelrod work. There's some real wisdom here:
When the man on the next bar stool tells you about political "strategy," he usually ends up discussing political tactics: the micro-maneuvers that fascinate the daily cable shows. But these maneuvers make little impression on a more general public that pays little attention to political details. Political strategy is slower and steadier.In my experience, the biggest problem that most companies have when trying to build a brand and leverage it into lead generation is a failure to execute on a perfectly good strategy. Rather than staying on message (i.e. building a great product, making the customer experience positive, promoting success stories, etc.), companies start thinking that they need a new market strategy.
Focusing Bill Clinton's hyperactive attention on small-bore political initiatives that expressed his concern for middle-income families, and keeping at it year after year: That's a political strategy.
Identifying George W. Bush as a down-home man of faith who would do whatever it took to keep America safe: Ditto.
Same with Barack Obama's self-invention as a post-racial healer trying to overcome the divisions left behind by the Bush and Clinton years.
It's not hard to devise such narratives. It is tremendously hard to stick to them, to resist the temptation to chase after every twist and turn of the polls. "Turn to the center! No, go bold! Health care is issue 1! No -- it's jobs!"
A good political strategist ignores these distractions, keeps focused on the original plan, and trusts to fate.
They then proceed to get all involved in the minutae of brand marketing, advertising, promotion, etc. when in fact if they'd stay on message and not monkey with the extraneous stuff, they'd end up more successful in the long run. Most sales professionals know this intuitively and realize that their marketing groups are either useless or worse-than-useless unless they're working on practical issues like lead generation.
Let's face it. Market strategy needs to be changed (i.e. adjusted) maybe once every five years; three years in very fast-moving industries. Any more frequently than that, and you're probably just spinning your wheels.