I hear it all the time.

“What the heck is strategic planning? I just want a beautiful website.”

Take my word for it, I’ve been there. Fluff isn’t pretty anymore. We’ve all grown up.

The power of an effective marketing campaign is in truly connecting your secret sauce with people who need JUST what you have to offer. And doing so from the sound beginnings of properly researched and planned strategy informed by your unique products and services. This is how you create engaged communities of belief and shared purpose.

Here’s how Peacock Omnimedia evolved away from slick advertising and fluffy storytelling without the benefit of a sound foundation. The work we did a few years ago for a favorite client was pretty – beautiful, in fact. But it just wasn’t satisfying.

Several years ago I had a client who was an extremely savvy business executive. She had successfully sold a couple of startups and spent decades on the board of several Fortune 500 companies, some of which are household names. Yet no matter how skilled she was in business she seemed to have an emotional blind spot on her latest venture, a personal lifestyle company that I spent 3 years guiding in the area of marketing.

My client had fallen in love with a particular product line after seeing it hyped at several events. She joined the right cliques and had plenty of money to spend on advertising. And she dedicated considerable resources to becoming a market leader in the industry. Money equals results, right?

We started out by creating beautiful brochures and flash movies for a gorgeous website which eventually became used industry wide as an example to web designers by both wannabes and adoring fans in this niche industry. She was proud, of course. But it didn’t sell product.

Before we began throwing buckets full of money at her marketing campaign I had expressed a caution that if selling product was her goal she might consider her high dollar vanity product line in a market already saturated with competitors selling the same thing. The market was shifting away from this kind of product in spite of the glitzy trade advertising, seller perks and vendor-only vacations offered to the contrary.

Secretly I was concerned that my client wouldn’t sell enough product to cover the exorbitant overhead on the company’s luxury facilities and meet IRS requirements for the massive depreciation and deductions that had attracted her to this business in the first place.

Two years and tens of thousands of dollars later they were selling very little product in spite of a now nationwide reputation on the internet and in trade magazines. I once again suggested we revisit the product strategy. I still had a strong belief that a new strategy would improve the company’s sales. And it fell on deaf ears again because of the extreme emotional connection and dedication to a fad that she wouldn’t acknowledge had lost its sizzle.

This went on for another year. I was soon training her employees in-house to handle the marketing and communications projects they had watched me execute for over three years and we were all happy that they had grown to the point of self sufficiecy.

Yet they still weren’t making money.

I felt somewhat relieved to be handing the company the keys to their kingdom. Even though they were a favorite client, I felt like a fraud spending her money on “the best” of everything and billing her for my considerable services.

Two years later I was invited to join my client and her family at their table at a gala event.  She immediately began glowing to me about how she had recently decided to change product lines in the previous year and had begun moving product like crazy. Voila, she had solidified a “sound new marketing philosophy.”

She then quoted back to me everything I had advised her on for the several years of my engagement.

It didn’t matter to me that my former client thought the new efforts were her idea. The development solidified my exit from purely beautiful advertising campaigns into the realm of strategic marketing.  It also proves my point about the importance of strategy. And that is this – all the gorgeous marketing materials and glowing community reputation in the world won’t contribute to the bottom line if the product, services, or content strategy just isn’t there!

Let’s demystify strategy. Truly sound marketing programs do the following:

1. Clarify business objectives
2. Identify, evaluate and activate opportunities
3. Plan products and services to fulfill identified opportunities
4. Structure pricing and delivery of products and services to meet market demand
5. Set promotional goals and tactics
6. Provide for the measurement of success

Do you have a sound strategy for your business? How about the infrastructure to handle the wave of new business that a PR campaign will bring you? Or a communications platform guided by a strategy that will bring you the RIGHT kind of ideal patients or customers?

The old model of driving consumers to a purchase is broken. Successful brands today must inspire them to participate. Nowhere is this more critical than in healthcare.

Without a plan that achieves these simple goals, well, it might be pretty…but it just won’t further your mission.