Pitch imperfect: When strategic thinking misses the mark

The big day has finally come: the pitch.

You and your team have been working feverishly for a week pulling together your response to the RFP. Digital strategy, audience research, creative execution, and a business case for significant future growth. You did your competitive research, understood the landscape, and developed a strong story about a 3-to-5-year arc of work. You hone your story, removing extraneous detail, crafting a presentation that will fit your time slot. And then you’re ready, finally. You deliver the goods, standing in front of a stony-faced client in a dark room for an hour that seems like a minute.

You finish on an upbeat and optimistic note, talking about opportunity and the future, summarizing your big framework of ideas. After a brief pause, the senior client in the room says, “Some really good ideas in there. That’s all great…but what’s my next step?”

[Pregnant pause]

“Ehhhh…Next step?”

And so a plain truth is laid bare: people in business love to talk about strategy and vision, but most of the time they care most about what’s next.

It’s easier to hold on to what’s next than it is an abstract vision for an uncertain future. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, the ability to know precisely what to do next is an incredible skill, provided there’s a strategy behind it.

A good, actionable strategy makes sure that succession of next steps go in the right direction. It helps avoid the “Ready…Fire…Aim” problem. But eventually strategy and tactics have to meet, and failure to anticipate this crossroads means risking your great strategies becoming a Model T that crashes into the gas-guzzling SUV of reality.

So be a strategic thinker. Have a vision and a plan. But always be thinking about that first step…