By Jarred King, president of Swagger Media.

The common saying in entrepreneurial circles is that business owners tend to "ready, fire and aim" -- meaning we steady our position, shoot at our target, then realize we should have aimed before pulling that trigger. This results in efforts that miss the target wildly, send employees scrambling to duck for cover, and ultimately waste resources.

This could also result in damage to the brand, lost customers, and a general lack of cohesion within marketing communication channels. As a business owner, I'm certainly not immune to impulsive decisions, love at first sight with new trends or ideas, and any other of the numerous distractions that can take a team off course.

It's critical to have a great group of people doing the "readying" and "aiming" so that a company is prepared to properly and tactically "fire" at the right time, in the right direction. In our experience, this comes through effective strategy. Strategy can take many shapes and price tags. It can range anywhere from a simple sketch on the back of a drink coaster to a comprehensive brand strategy document. Ultimately, it involves a clear focus on the following:

  1. Goals: What are you trying to achieve through these marketing efforts? What does success look like? Do you have a victory condition (i.e. mechanisms that determine how you win)?
  2. Target: Who are you aiming for? Is your audience clustered in a small group outside of Des Moines or do they span the globe? Are they young, old, short, tall, purple, or made of felt?
  3. Language: This isn't just the actual language (English, Dothraki, etc.) but the style and channels in which your target audience prefers to communicate. Are they employees in your company or new customers who live on Pinterest? There are likely going to be multiple places to connect with your intended audience, and each place may need a variation or new language in which to communicate with your brand.
  4. Timing: Is this something that has to happen tomorrow or else fissures in the Earth's crust will reveal themselves, thereby swallowing humanity and eliminating any chance of ever providing a 20-percent BOGO again? Or is there time to develop a plan, split test amongst different pieces of creative, then refine through each sales channel?
  5. Execution: I always try to start with the seed first (that core goal or idea) and then plan out the trunk (first stage), branches (second stage), and finally the leaves (third stage). Every business is different and may require more or fewer stages. The key is not jumping into the tactical solutions too quickly without having cohesiveness with that core idea and how it will resonate with the customer.

Once you have a clear idea of the above, your team will be better aligned to help execute, your aim will be better, and your results will have a much greater chance of success. It's hard to do it alone and as I've learned from experience, you need a good team behind you to help you stay on course during the process. 

Jarred King, president of Swagger Media, is a driven leader known for clearly defining and aligning teams and consistently delivering results that exceed expectations.