Remember the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland? During the encounter at the fork in the road, the Cat says to Alice (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you don’t know where you’re going… then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

That same thinking also applies to marketing your business. Without any purpose or direction – that is, without “strategy” – you’re just spinning your wheels. You’re just “doin’ stuff!”


Let’s start with the basics… what is Strategy?

In its simplest terms, a Strategy is a broad, directional statement that expresses WHAT you will do to achieve your goals. By contrast, Tactics are the HOW.

A strategy can be supported by multiple tactics… and one tactic can support more than one strategy.

For example, Advertising is not a strategy… it is a tactic, one that is used to support the strategy of Building Awareness. Building Awareness can also be supported by such tactics as social media marketing or exhibiting at a conference.

Understanding the Strategy-Tactics relationship is critical to understanding the marketing & sales process.

2 Kinds of Strategies

Strategies can be talked about as being in two groups – Buying-Selling Process strategies and Go-to-Market strategies. And while in two groups, they are all interrelated and work together.

The Buying-Selling Process strategies apply to all firms in our industry, regardless of the services or products they offer. No exception. These process steps – each one its own strategy – include:

  • Building Awareness
  • Generating Sales Leads
  • Nurture those Sales Leads
  • Acquiring 1st-time Clients
  • Ensuring Repeat Clients

The Go-To-Market strategies will be more specific and customized to your firm. For example, “Position our founder as a Big Data Expert.”

Then the question becomes, “HOW” will you do it? For that, you might consider tactics like:

  • Have the founder write a weekly blog about Big Data
  • Speak at the Corporate Researchers Conference on Big Data
  • Present a webinar on Big Data
  • Participate in LinkedIn conversations about Big Data

The Process

Determining the correct strategy for your firm begins with taking a critical look at all phases of your business:

  • An internal look at your own firm – think SWOT Analysis, marketing & sales audit, financial review, etc.
  • Your clients’ (and ex-clients’) perception of your firm – what you do right, what you do wrong, what changes you need to make.
  • Your top competitors – their capabilities, advantages & disadvantages vs. your firm; perhaps a little ‘secret shopping’ is in order.
  • The Market Research industry – what’s happening in the MR industry that could have an impact (positive or negative) on your business? Think about new trends, new methodologies, technology, etc.
  • The industries you serve – what’s going on in the key industry verticals you serve that could impact you? Think about trends, technology, government legislation, global changes, etc.

Now, gather all of that data together, pore over it, distill it down. You’re looking for certain recurring ideas/concepts/issues that bubble to the surface. From those findings, answer these questions:

1. Based on what we learned, what new Opportunities exist that we can take advantage of? These opportunities could be within your own company, in the MR industry or in the industries you serve.

For example, a full-service research agency might look outside its current offerings and decide to develop a new service that takes advantage of cutting-edge technology, like Blockchain or AI. Or maybe a panel company decides to build an Hispanic Panel to reflect that fast-growing segment of the population.

2. On the flip side, looking at Problems presents a potentially more valuable direction. Noodle on this… “What problems exist – at our company / that our clients have to deal with / in the Market Research industry / in the industries we serve – that, if we solve them, gives our firm a competitive advantage?”

Here’s a real-world example of problem-solving. Many years ago, I was consulting with a firm that was one of the first to come to market with an Online Bulletin Board (OBB) platform… but it didn’t take off like they thought it would.

So, we did our homework and learned that researchers did not understand how OBBs worked, which applications worked best on the platform and how OBBs compared to traditional research methodologies. That is, the real problem was a lack of knowledge and understanding. From that came one of our go-to-market strategies… “Educate our target market.”

The tactics we used to support that strategy were:

  • Presenting webinars (to address their lack of understanding… How OBBs worked / Best applications / Comparisons to traditional research)
  • Publishing white papers and eBooks
  • Exhibiting at conferences (for 1-on-1 demos and discussions)

… all of which were about helping to educate prospective clients about OBBs so they could make an informed buying decision.

Bottom line

Setting your strategies is THE most important part of the marketing & sales planning process. Why? Simple… if you go off in the right direction (solid strategy) – even if your tactical execution is a little off – you’ll still have some success. But go off in the wrong direction (no strategy or bad strategy) and – even if you execute beautifully – you’ll have little chance of being successful.

So, don’t just DO marketing… set aside some time to make sure you talk through and think through the strategies that will drive the direction you want to go.

Good luck and good marketing.


About Harpeth Marketing
The Market Research industry is not what it used to be. With the changing buying habits of clients, industry consolidation and the proliferation of technology, it is becoming increasing difficulty to maintain and grow revenue. On top of that, most business owners and managers in Market Research are researchers… not business development professionals. Marketing & sales are not what they want to do, not what they like to do and, often, they just don’t know how to do it. Harpeth Marketing was established for those MR professionals. Founded in 2012, Harpeth Marketing works exclusively with firms in the market research industry to help them put in place marketing & sales programs and systems that improve outcomes and increase revenues. They do this through a variety of Outsourced Marketing services, Sales Training Workshops and Coaching/Consulting engagements.