I’ve resolved to build a new habit in the last bit of 2023. It’s a simple one, and I’m hoping that it catches on. When someone presents a strategy deck to you, listen and learn attentively. At the end ask them, “So what did you decide to do?”
The point isn’t to make the presenter squirm with a gotcha question – just the opposite, as it usually feels good to declutter our thoughts. But I am pushing back against the slow obfuscation of strategy that’s undermining its usefulness in business decision-making.
Here’s how I’ve witnessed it over the last decade or so:
When I was a young strategist, I expected to conduct primary research, either myself or through a vendor. I was often surprised by how much research my clients had already done. If they had all this data, all these survey results, how had they not already taken action? It seemed as easy as combing through the results and making the most logical choice.
Today, I am unsurprised to see clients arrive at the brand-building process with user segmentations, personas, and market studies. What surprises me now? How often our clients call the summation of this work “strategy.”
And yet today’s clients don’t have any more strategy than clients of the past. They have information. Information can’t make decisions for us. They are the inputs to guide smart decisions, but they are not decisions. This is why so many business leaders have 200+ page research decks sitting in filing cabinets and collecting space on desktops, but no action. As a relative newcomer to the CPG space, I see this pattern magnified: a business culture so dominated by data that leaders struggle to make sense of it.
Strategy doesn’t end at the collection and reporting of data. It’s the prioritization – mostly the deprioritization! – of information that we must do to arrive at a winning course of action. By its very nature, it cannot be 200 slides. Or 100 slides. Or maybe even 10.
In Moxie Sozo’s quest for effectiveness in branding, we love the challenge of working with clients to develop meaningful, actionable strategies. We structure our collaboration so that we synthesize our data with our intuition. We start by absorbing the world of information that guides us, but developing a strategy requires us to go deeper. For us, that means engaging in guided conversations designed to inspire confidence, select decision-making criteria, and build buy-in by considering all angles. The realizations we make together in a few hours of discussion replace months of hesitance, circular conversations, and ultimately inaction.
The end result: a clear, actionable insight supported by the most critical decision makers. It’s something you could sum up in less than 30 minutes. And it’s just a handful of slides.