SMC desperately—desperately—needs a new website. But when we picked a partner to build the site, scheduled a strategy session, and got down to brass tacks, I have to say that I walked away having taken a much bigger step forward than I expected.
As they handed me their strategy sheet, their list of questions they ask all clients when they’re building a site, I first brushed it off as an activity we just had to do to check off a box for the vendor. After all, we’d just spent several months redoing our strategy and refining it. What could these guys know, anyways?
It turns out that we could learn a lot. And we did.
The hour we spent in our conference room discussing our own strategy was some of the most productive thinking I’ve done about SMC’s strategy in months. What did they do? It’s simple. They asked us the same questions we ask our clients.
Sound crazy? It’s not. SMC was built as a strategic organization; strategy is a core part of our process. But the same things that prevent our clients’ strategies from getting stale aren’t in place for our own.
When we design a client’s strategy, we’re the ones asking all the questions. Many clients have remarked to us that our strategy sessions forced them to think about things they’d never thought about before. And once the strategy is in place, we’re constantly defending it—or at least, nudging the client along and telling them why we’re doing certain things certain ways. If we’re doing something completely wrong, the client will rightfully call us out on it. All of these things work in harmony to make sure that our client strategies are always as sharp as possible.
But! (And this is a big but.) None of those things are in place for us. Maybe this is just bad business, but we’re not asking ourselves about our own strategy with the same level of intensity as our clients. No one is here to call us out on our strategy but ourselves. All of which means it’s really, really easy to get tunnel vision.
That one simple change we made is letting someone else ask all the questions, and I think a lot of other businesses could benefit from it too. When someone else is asking the questions, you’re forced to think of things in ways you didn’t think about them before. You’re forced to clearly articulate. You’re forced to answer tough questions. You’re forced to do all the things that are difficult to do when you’re your own client.
It doesn’t have to be a $100,000 consultant (or even a social media company like SMC, although we’d love to help). It could be a friend, an old work buddy, a colleague outside your business unit, whatever. What’s important is that you find someone else and let them ask the questions.
Strategy’s about saying no. Good content means being fresh and being on-point. Having trouble with either? It’s easy. Let someone else ask all the questions. I think you’ll find, like I did, that letting someone else steer—even for a few minutes—is a tremendously enlightening experience.
Image CC by Jeremy Keith.