I was speaking with a director of marketing at a mid-sized industrial supplier the other day and she said, “I have so much to do I need someone to help me think.” When she explained herself further, it turned out that the tactical demands of marketing were overwhelming her ability to step back and think strategically about marketing. She’d almost lost sight of her company’s goals.

All marketers have been there. You have campaigns to execute, leads to track, content to produce, results to analyze, price quotes for sales to deliver, social media to participate in. Then you have all the fires that ignite and need putting out: the white paper is behind schedule, there’s an error on your Web site, and the boss needs updated budget numbers on his desk right now. Your time gets sucked away, day after day. It’s enough to make you cringe. It’s more than enough to block your ability to think strategically.

And the fact is, when you are simply in “go mode,” trying to get stuff done, you aren’t providing the value that you could to your organization. So what do you do?

Carve out time
Simply, you need to set aside time to think strategically. Yes, easier said than done. But if you can apply the 80/20 rule and set aside 20 percent of your working time to think strategically, you might be able to provide 80 percent more value to your organization.

For at least a few minutes or so every day, head to a conference room without your mobile phone or close the door to your office with the phone muted and your computer shut down. Or get out of the office and head to a coffee shop. Or try taping a sign over your desk with your strategic marketing goals spelled out in a big and garish-looking font and measure everything you do against these goals. Anything to get yourself in a strategic mindset.

Five ways to think strategically
When you do carve out time to think, here are some ideas to get your strategic mindset jump-started:

  1. What are the latest trends in your market and is your company on top of them? You can catch up by reading industry blogs, e-newsletters, and white papers.
  2. Visit your competitors’ Web sites. What are they up to these days? What are they saying? Ask the same questions about partners, regulators, and other industry players.
  3. If you need more information about your industry, trends, and competitors, plan to conduct research in the form of surveys. Or access research by third-party analysts or media companies. You can access GlobalSpec’s research reports about the industrial sector and engineering audience.
  4. Put yourself in the mind set of your customers. Better yet, talk to some of your customers. What are they thinking about? What problems are they facing? Where do they look for answers?
  5. Pretend you are the CEO. What are your strategic concerns? What decisions are you facing? Where should your company be one year from now?
  6. Challenge current ways of thinking and mindsets, including your own. Consider alternatives you might have disregarded in the past. Always ask ‘What if?’
  7. Gather the data on the performance of your marketing programs. What’s working? What’s not? Should you re-allocate your budget or resources to take advantage of better performing marketing options?
  8. Be willing to shift course if you discover your marketing is off track.
  9. Share the insights you gain through thinking strategically with others on your team and across your organization.
  10. Encourage others on your team to think strategically and offer up new ideas.

If you take the time to think strategically, you also might find that it’s easier to prioritize your tactical tasks and get them done more quickly. You’ll also know the direction your marketing organization is heading, and you’ll deliver value tactically as well as strategically.

In the words of baseball hall-of-famer Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.” Take the time to think strategically to end up where you want to be.

How do you find the time to think strategically? What are your ideas for developing a strategic mindset for yourself and your team?


  1. Solid, fundamental advice appropriate for helping today’s harried manager think strategically. However, the problem of dedicating time to strategic thinking often extends to the whole management team, as well. In this situation an outside-looking-in consulting session can have a tremendous impact on ROI.

  2. This is an excellent article reminding us to take time to see where we are going and how we will get there. Thanks for sharing it.

Leave a Reply