These types of people will generally be good at bringing together strategic frameworks. They may lead the development of your brand identity for example.
They will often work closely with market research teams as they also tend to review a lot of data and statistics.
Our three questions for these teams within an agency are different to account managers.
What new expertise do they bring?
If the account manager role is to understand your business, then the strategy and planning team need to be able to bring some extra expertise to the issue. Do they have a more detailed understanding of the skills required to deliver the brand activation to a high level?
If the focus is on advertising for example, do they have a solid grasp of the advertising development process? Do they bring in insights of how to tap into consumer insights or what makes advertising messages be distinctive and impactful?
If the focus is on digital marketing, do they bring expertise and experience about the different elements of digital like media, websites, e-Commerce and marketing technology?
Can they share examples of how they’ve brought all these diverse elements together with other clients so you can feel more confident they can do the same for you?
No matter, what the marketing expertise area, do question what benefit the strategy and planning team will bring to your business.
When this team works well, they will bring new ideas, thoughts and ways of working that can be transformational. But they can also be a costly addition to your fees who end up leaving you feel confused and overwhelmed with Powerpoint slides.
Can they show their expertise in a way that’s clear and meaningful?
Which brings us on our second key question of the strategy and planning team. How they articulate their recommendations is especially important.
They will ask you to make important decisions on how brand activation will happen. So it’s important they are able to frame these questions in a way that makes sense.
If for example, they pull in a model or a framework to explain a recommendation, are they clear on why they chose that model? Does it have strong evidence to support it? Has it been used in a comparable business so you can feel like it’s more likely to work for you?
In our experience, the strategy and planning team are often seen as the ‘brains’ of the agency. They can be a rich source of ideas, innovation and great thinking.
But this perception sometimes goes to their head. They can overlook the core job at hand. Selling more of your products.
If you ever start to feel lost with a strategy and planning team, go back to the original brief. Check that what you are seeing meets the goal and objective you set.
Are their recommendations focussed on delivering against your business goals?
Which brings us to our final question to manage the strategy and planning team.
As part of their role, they will often keep an eye on the latest trends in the market and in marketing in general. New insights into how advertising works or how consumers choose products, or new methods applied to media buying or customer experience for example.
But sometimes, these clever answers are force fitted back to your brief, without really answering the question you set in the brief.
The last question here is especially important.
We’ve seen many strategy and planning agency people get carried away with their own cleverness. It’s not unusual for agency strategists to forget that they are there to help you grow your business.
Be very wary of strategists who come in and present the latest conceptual framework to you. But who can’t tell you how much it will drive sales.
No consumer ever bought a conceptual framework. Consumers buy the benefits your product offers. So make sure the strategy team deliver work that does that.