5.0.5 Strategy Definition Basics: Problematic Strategic Starting Situations, Customer Journey, Options

Learning objective: we learn about problematic strategic initial situations and how to deal with them and to use social media inside the customer journey.

Reading time: approx. 17 minutes

Exercises: Exercises are in the PDF of all exercises of this course. Download it from here.

This section deals with problematic initial situations for strategy development resulting from the market situation. Problematic initial situations due to internal company circumstances are not dealt with here. In fact, it is not possible to deal with all conceivable problematic initial situations, just as it is questionable to apply a problem solution to all possible difficult initial situations. Therefore, understand the described procedures as indications of behavior. Which one is the more appropriate in a specific case can only be determined in and for that specific case.

What do we mean by problematic initial situations? These are situations that fundamentally complicate the development and implementation of social media. This can be the case for a number of reasons. The ones that are particularly relevant from my point of view are dealt with here by way of example.

  • The company’s topics do not have social media affinity.
  • The competitive situation in the relevant topics is stifling. Success in this competition seems hopeless.
  • Company resources are not sufficient to compete or to fully leverage social media potential for the company.

The company’s topics do not have social media affinity.

If the topics that are important to us are not present in social media or only play a very marginal role, this first reduces the chances of reaching social media users via these topics.

We should have clarified beforehand whether the topics in social media are of little relevance or irrelevant because the users are not interested in these topics in social media or because they are not dealt with competently by anyone there.
General action alternatives
  • We don’t use social media because our topics are not relevant there. However, this also means that we are giving up an opportunity to get in touch with social media users who are interested in our services. The problem is the lack of presence of the issues, not the lack of presence of the market. Therefore, this alternative course of action is short-sighted.
  • We use other themes. Our objective in social media is to reach potential customers or / and existing customers. To do this, we use topics that reach these customers on social media. We transport our topics on the reach we have built up with the more attractive topics. Here, tact is required in a double sense. Once in the way we deal with “foreign” topics, a second time in the way we incorporate our topics into the topics we used to build the reach.
The use of other themes

If we use other topics as a means of transport for our actual topics, this is once very promising approach, because we can achieve much more reach and impact than with our own topics. Because one’s own topics are transported through other topics, I call this approach the “backpack method”.

Warning: this approach can go mercilessly wrong if we do not master the transport issues competently and use them seriously, but especially if we use them recognizably as a “cheat” to advance our own issues. I. e.

  • we need to use these “transportation themes” as consistently as if they were our original themes.
  • we have to integrate our own issues, of course. Artificially grafting them on somehow doesn’t work in the long run. The well-known “golden bridge” from theological argumentation is also questionable.

Explained by way of practical example: decades ago, I had the task of getting young people interested in checking accounts. At a stage in life when young people are neither interested in the subject nor actually need it, this is something of a challenge.

  • As expected, conventional marketing brought rather meager than inspiring results. Nevertheless, this approach was practiced for years and the results were accepted as immutable realities.
  • The combination of leisure programs, events and matching media with a resulting need for a checking account has drastically changed the situation and caused market shares to increase extremely. This approach was and is not tied to social media because it is primarily based on human behavior.

Criteria for using the backpack method:

  • Knowledge of the users you want to reach and their topics.
  • Competence for the topics of the users.
  • Sustainability and seriousness in the use of the user’s topics.
  • Natural combinability of own topics with user topics.
  • Strategic competence

The competitive situation in the relevant topics is stifling.

In this scenario, we are in a competitive situation in which we are not competitive by human standards because our competitors are several times more powerful, or because all topics are so densely populated and the competition in these topics would degenerate into a material battle. Here we can either try to exist in competition in a David-Goliath strategy or dodge in competition.

David-Goliath strategy

The prerequisite for a David-Goliath strategy is a David-Goliath situation. i.e., in our competitive situation, we must primarily deal with a dominant competitor to which we can align our approach. This approach is always geared to the respective situation – i.e. the competitor, so it is always individual. Basically

  • every Goliath has its weak points. We “only” have to be able to recognize and use them.
  • we do not have to play by the rules of our competitors. Let’s compete where their competitors have weaknesses or are not competitive.
  • It is impossible to find a way if we believe it does not exist. It is far more likely to find this path if we assume that it exists. The trick is to recognize where this path is most likely to be found. So start with the skills and competencies that your overmatched competitors don’t have.

Criticism of the David-Goliath strategy

This approach is anything but low-risk. It is crucial that we can determine the form of the competition, retain the initiative and, last but not least, escape the competitor’s approach.

Criteria for the David-Goliath strategy:

  • Market and competition know how that enables to recognize weak points of the competition,
  • Strategy competence that enables these weaknesses to be used to the company’s advantage.

Available company resources are insufficient.

In fact, aren’t they always? The art of strategy is also to be successful with the means at hand. We need to develop the strategy that will move us forward with what resources we have. But before that we should have clarified

  • whether we do not have sufficient corporate resources available because the company does not expect corresponding results from social media, for example because it is not clear how and to what extent social media can contribute to the company’s success.
  • Whether we can’t also draw on social media resources. I don’t mean hoping that our posts and videos will go viral. More important than aiming for these beautiful but also more or less unpredictable successes is that we systematically generate lasting, sustainable support from social media users.

Practical advice: If our strategy must achieve high impact with minimal resources, it is less advisable to engage in a “material battle” in the form of content where we cannot expect to win this contest. It makes much more sense to shift competition to fields where resource requirements are more positive relative to impact. If we can’t win with our resources at the “content” level, we should see whether we can score points via the strategy components of user benefits, motivation, and participation, or via usage formats other than audiences.

Prerequisite for the design of this problematic initial situation

  • Market and competitive competence
  • Competence for the design of unconventional strategies.
  • Competence for the implementation of unconventional strategies.

Conclusion problematic initial situations

We can understand problematic strategic initial situations as unsolvable problems. However, then we cannot help the company any further and are out of place. We can also approach problematic strategic initial situations as a special challenge. This helps.

Or we see problematic strategic starting situations as special opportunities. Especially not only because they allow special achievements but especially because the opportunity is hidden in them particularly well. This awareness will take you further but it needs experience and has at least one thing in common with swimming: you should learn it before you need it.

Meaning Customer Journey

The customer journey describes the path that a customer takes from the point of need to the end of the customer relationship with a company. So it maps the relationship to one – typical or individual – from beginning to end. It thus encompasses corporate performance and business model, including the marketing, sales and customer service functions.

We can look at the company’s activities in the marketplace to see how they impact the customer journey.

Role of social media in the customer journey

Social media is as much about communication as it is about relationships. If we don’t use social medai to support the customer journey, we forgo a valuable impact we can make with it. The use of social media as a communication level is much more established than the use of social media as a relationship level. This is due, on the one hand, to the more pronounced use of social media in the broadcast mode than in the relationship mode. On the other hand, the targeted use of social media to shape the customer journey is not yet commonplace.

For social media to play this role, the customer journey must be defined. Based on this customer journey, we determine the touchpoints for social media – in other words, the points in the customer journey that we can support and shape through social media. If there is no existing customer journey / customer journeys, it will be difficult to define this benefit from social media.

The customer journey in the potential-based strategy model.

The customer journey is considered throughout the strategy model. The customer journey is used to help shape key elements of strategy development and strategy and to evaluate the quality of a strategy.

The most important, strategically relevant connections of customer journey and social media strategy can be found in the

  • Linking topic areas and customer journey: the customer journey is a criterion for the importance of topic areas for strategy development. In concrete terms, this means that we also define the priority of topics / topic areas on the basis of their importance for the customer journey.
  • Definition of strategy content: we use the customer journey to define content priorities. If topics that are relevant to us are not feasible as a competitive position, we can look for “bypass solutions” based on the customer journey to get around this problem. Bypass solutions are alternative topics that are feasible for us as competitive positions and with which we can address the markets alternatively.
  • Evaluation of a social media strategy: the benefit of a social media strategy for the customer journey is an important criterion for evaluating this strategy. The more the central themes of the customer journey are secured by the strategy (competitive positions), the more the customer journey is supported by social media.

Topic areas as market areas and customer journey

When forming topic areas, we also take into account their importance for the customer journey.

  • First, by determining the importance and position of the topics in and for the customer journey.
  • We then put the topics in the right order for the customer journey.

Customer journey and strategy definition

We use the customer journey for the strategy definition in order to

  • Define focal points in the subject areas. For example, to be particularly active where important decisions for the customer journey take place.
  • competitive situations. If we cannot prevail against competitors in certain subject areas, switching to other subject areas is one solution. For this selection and decision, the customer journey gives us valuable input.
  • Review the impact (coverage and performance) of a customer journey strategy design. This makes the customer journey, or the effect of social media on the customer journey, a criterion for the quality of a social media strategy.

We support the customer journey by

  • Work out the possibilities of social media for influencing the individual stages of the customer journey.
  • incorporate these opportunities into strategy development as part of the requirements from the business for strategy performance.
  • Develop measures that take advantage of these opportunities.

Note on practical application: In order to use social media for the customer journey, we define the topics of the touchpoints and the startpoints of the customer journey. We evaluate these topics based on their priority in the customer journey and check whether these topics have been appropriately considered in the social media courses of action. If this is not the case, we correct this and add the topics. At the same time, this is an indication that we have overlooked essential issues in the topics of the market and business models. It therefore makes sense to review the company’s market development activities to ensure that these issues are taken into account.

Customer journey and strategy evaluation

We evaluate the support of the customer journey by a strategy based on its impact on the individual stages / stations of the customer journey.

Work steps

  • To do this, we define the stations – for example, with the help of a customer journey map in which we map the stations of the customer journey.
  • We supplement this map with the possibilities of using social media to influence the situation in the respective station.
  • We contrast these options with the effect of each strategy on the individual station.
  • This results in a detailed and holistic impact of the social media strategy on the customer journey.

If we see that the strategy in question makes little use of the possibilities of social media to influence the customer journey, we examine the possibilities for adapting and improving the performance of this strategy.

The decision on whether to implement a social media strategy is a management decision. For this decision, we provide the impact of the respective social media strategy on the customer journey.

Securing options – securing the future

Basics

Definition options in pbsm

We define options as possibilities that we can use. In other words, options are courses of action that are open to our company, but which we do not wish to take on the basis of our own decision.

In practical terms, we also use the topics and content of our core strategy components to decide which options we use and which options we do not use. The abandonment of an option may be permanent in nature or correctable. Whenever we decide for or against an option, we are also required to consider the consequences of this decision.

Meaning

In a world of rapid change, securing future options for action is an important part of securing the future. The smaller the future room for maneuver becomes, the smaller the possibilities for shaping one’s own future. To keep options open, we must first identify the risks to future design opportunities. Only if we know these risks can we reduce them.

We safeguard the options of a company by

  • Reduce dependencies. Dependencies reduce one’s own design options, i.e. one’s own options for action.
  • create new options for action. New options for action arise from new infrastructures or new possibilities for market cultivation, customer care, etc., which the company itself can dispose of.
  • safeguard existing options for action.

Recognize and reduce dependencies

Dependencies are a risk for future design options. Companies are dependent on many things. From the market, from the economy, from social, political and legal conditions, from technical developments, and these are certainly not all the influences that affect our current and future design options. However, we will not be able to directly influence most of these influences.

What we can influence and shape is the degree of dependency we enter into beyond that.

Options at the level of the strategy component Channels

One of the most essential and obvious Dependenciesthat we are familiar with in social media is the Dependence on external social media channelsTo avoid misunderstandings, we will rarely be able to do without external channels, but we can shape the way we use them.

  • One way to reduce dependency is to use an alternate communication channel or a backup channel. In this case, we try to secure our reach and contact and relationship with our social media users through an additional channel.
  • Another way is to design channel use. We use the external channels as dissemination media, place the core – i.e. the user benefits of our social media offering – on our own platform and also ensure the additional accessibility of social media users beyond the external social media channel as part of the use of this platform.

This approach should be practiced from the beginning. A later change is not quite as advisable as a consistent and thoughtful start. However, “better late than never” also applies here.

Of course, we cannot assume that we will be able to completely secure all social media users in our external social media channels or bind them to our own platform. It is therefore questionable to completely abandon the protection of our social media offerings. The user benefit that we offer our social media users on their own playing field is crucial for success. If this benefit is convincing, most users will follow us. If this benefit is manageably attractive to the user, we will not be able to secure contact with a large proportion of users.

Secure options for action

Due to the splitting of the channel functions into information and distribution channels (external channels) and the performance/benefit channel (our own channels), we not only reduce our dependency on external companies, we also increase our performance potential because we are no longer restricted by the limited performance potential of external social media channels and thus – especially in terms of user benefits, such as motivation and participation – more attractive offers are possible for social media users.

The more freedom we have to design our social media offerings, the more competitive our social media offerings can be.

This not only gives us a competitive edge over our competitors, but also enables us to define significantly greater corporate benefit from our social media engagement.

For example, an open channel structure – where we can incorporate new channels and dispense with obsolete channels – is much more flexible and future-proof than a static channel structure, where a change in channels corresponds to a loss of reach.

Usage formats that preserve our options in changing competitive situations or reduce those of the competition are, for example, more helpful for securing the future than usage formats that can be structurally undermined by competitors – through more powerful usage formats.

Options at the level of the topics of the strategy

If we decide not to include certain topics in our strategy, on the one hand we decide to focus the strategy, on the other hand we withdraw from the markets in social media for which these topics stand. The latter is problem-free if the company as a whole does not want to focus on these markets.

It becomes more problematic if these markets continue to be important for the company. Then there may still be good reasons not to address these markets with the strategy, but we need to communicate the problem from this decision and solve it in other ways if necessary – for example, by developing our own strategy for these topics or working on them at levels other than social media.

Options at the level of strategy components

If we decide to use or not to use certain content in the core strategy components, this has a corresponding impact on the options available to the company.

If we abandon certain motivations, it reduces the options that the company uses. Whether these options are usable later depends on their content. Motivational structures can be added on. Supplementing or replacing existing types of motivation with different types of motivation can become much more problematic if it changes the nature of the social media offering as a whole.

Creating new options for action

By creating new options for action, we give the company additional room for maneuver. New options for action through social media are possible in particular through additional channels for market cultivation.

  • If we design our social media channels, which we use for market cultivation, in such a way that we can freely dispose of them and design them as we see fit, we thereby increase the options of the company.
  • If we build our social media channels in external platforms, this not only reduces the design options for the success of the usage format, it also increases the dependency of the company at the same time.

This does not only concern the use of social media for classic market communication, it equally concerns the use of social media for customer retention or the support of existing channels of the business model.