Richard Coates, Managing Director of Whitecap Consulting, discusses the importance of strategy alignment – something that is core to Whitecap’s proposition.
Strategy is often a misunderstood concept, partly because strategy can be applied at numerous levels of activities. At its simplest, strategy is about the route the organisation will take from its current situation to a desired future state. Of course, this also means that there are numerous choices and options, and therefore also priorities and decisions.
Organisations face many strategy related issues; however we believe four interrelated and overlapping levels of strategic management are fundamental to all companies, irrespective of size:
Corporate level strategy should be focused on developing and enhancing shareholder and enterprise value through organic growth, possibly with M&A activity and potentially preparing for a sale or exit. This will also be based on having a clear view of the corporate vision, long term objectives and critically its core competences.
Business level strategy is predominately focused on the 1-3 year planning horizon, creating an effective bridge from the present day to help achieve the longer term corporate aims through strong P&L performance. Key elements could include growth through products, sales channels, market sectors and countries.
Brands act a signposts for customers, partners and employees to help them navigate their choices about the companies they want to work with or interact with. As a result the brand strategy should define the organisation’s position in the market relative to competitors, emphasise differentiation and communicate the rationale and emotional benefits that the organisations products and services offer.
Marketing strategy should understand consumer needs and deliver against these profitably and more effectively than competitors. Key components should include multi-channel initiatives that drive awareness, acquisition, cross-sales, retention and advocacy. Increasingly, for marketing to perform at the optional level, it must be pursued with highly effective cross-functional collaboration, in particular with operations, service and technical colleagues.
Consequently the marketing strategy is a servant to the brand strategy; and the brand strategy is a servant to the business strategy; which in turn is servant to the corporate strategy. Developing alignment through these levels of strategy is critical for enterprise value generation, P&L performance and marketing effectiveness.
Poor alignment through this critical chain can lead to significant inefficiencies and mixed messages being communicated through external marketing activities, internal and corporate comms, which in turn can lead to lack of organisational clarity and focus.
Effective alignment can enhance strategy implementation, at any level, and can positively impact enterprise value. For example, if an exit or sale is planned at the corporate level in the medium term, then arguably the brand strategy would be designed to support the corporate profile through every opportunity and the business strategy focusing on priorities to maximise value.
© Whitecap Consulting 2014