A recent article in the Economist discussing McKinsey & Co.’s PR struggle with their role in the unfurling of the opioid crisis suggests that a key facet of the firm’s marketing strategy difficulties is in fact the lynchpin in the product they sell: the firm’s model requires its consultants to sell themselves as “a solution shop” with all the answers rather than a collaborative partner.
As the Economist article puts it, when you have to have all the answers all the time, “collective self-delusion” gets in the way of actually great idea generation. “The smuggest guys in the room” have to have all the answers, which means sometimes they miss the obvious questions. And asking the right questions is how you find real, impactful solutions.
At Converse Digital, we couldn’t agree more. Over the last decade, we’ve continuously found that starting with the most basic questions is the best way to arrive at truly innovative and impactful marketing strategies.
Why You Aren’t Getting Good Marketing Strategy Insights From Within Your Team
Asking questions is hard—for starters it can be a real hit to the ego for the uninitiated. After all, asking a question implies you don’t have all the answers, and who wants to look like a dummy who doesn’t know “the basics” of the business or category? It’s a lot easier to jump to a quick-fix tactic, especially when the “solution” is a fancy new software, a slick new ad spot, or the latest digital marketing fad or platform.
But tactical quick solutions rarely “fix” the problem—which also means they aren’t all that quick. No, the real answers to the big questions come from digging deep into the weeds, and taking the time to question everything from the ground up. The truly transformational ideas come after those first, top-of-mind, ideas. In fact, the transformational ideas usually sound odd and unworkable when they’re first introduced. But in today’s “gotta have it (October 21, 2021)” world, we don’t have the time to sit and think about things in a focused, concerted way. But if we did… hmmm, then true marketing magic can happen.
Three Ways a Couple of “Dummies” Can Create Business Value
When it becomes obvious that the “tried and true” is getting you nowhere, it’s usually a good time to consider the perspective of an outside voice. A smart, innovative, trusted one if you can find it. Then give the voice permission not to know everything there is to know about your business, category, or competition. Let the voice ask even the most basic questions and challenge your answer with “why?” And when you tell them why, challenge again with “why?”
Because when you do that, a handful of wonderful things can happen.
- It removes institutional bias. Sometimes, you’ve been in the forest so long, you forget all about the trees. There’s no shame in having biases—we all have them, and the longer you’re in your industry or company, the more likely you’ve become blind to them. The shame is in letting them get in the way of innovation. Hiring an outside voice to remind you of the truths right in front of your nose is a great way to check your assumptions and rewrite your version of “reality.”
- It ends the “quick-fix” cycle. The band-aid solution is a myth, and we all know it. Quick-fixes rarely pan out the way we’d like them to because either they work just good enough that we keep them around longer than they were intended to live, or they don’t work at all and we’re back to square one. Either way, you end up with something broken again, and in need of fixing.
- Believe it or not, it saves time (and money). If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Unfortunately for most of us, our quick-react internet age has conditioned us to make split decisions with little or no critical thinking because we just don’t have time to wait for the right solution. And it’s costing us money, opportunity and time. Instead of launching holistic long-term solutions, we just keep launching tactic, after tactic, after tactic and hoping for a different outcome. Sound familiar?