Editorial Note: This post from Steve originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog.

It’s 6am and your alarm clock is ringing.

It’s Groundhog Day again. But there are two types of groundhog days. There’s the one you’re aware of, like the classic movie with Bill Murray. And there’s the one you don’t even realize is happening—where you wake up every day thinking it’s a new day, when it’s really not. It’s just Marketing Groundhog Day all over again. 

This pattern didn’t begin intentionally. It was started by a bunch of smart people who were trying to solve a problem. Then someone asked, “What’s our _________ strategy?”

When someone asked this question, people responded like they had all found the holy grail. “Wow, that’s a really good question,” they said. Why did everyone like the question about strategy so much? Here’s why….

First, they thought it solved their problem for that moment in time. Second, someone on the digital team now owned the problem. And third, it was a logical way to bring closure to the discussion, which of course had been all over the map.

I refer to this phenomenon as the “Marketing Groundhog Day Trap.”

Here are some examples of how it manifests itself…

  • What’s our social media strategy?
  • What’s our digital strategy?
  • What’s our CRM strategy?
  • What’s our video strategy?
  • What’s our mobile strategy?
  • What’s our big data strategy?
  • What’s our SEM strategy?
  • What’s our programmatic strategy?

The problem with this approach is that it lacks the context of your business objectives or overall marketing strategy. If you continue to use it as an approach, you’re creating the Groundhog Day phenomenon for yourself without even knowing it.

That’s because digital channels — email, social media, web, mobile — are tactics, not strategies.

When you approach digital channels without integrating them into the bigger marketing picture, you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels and getting stuck in that never-ending Groundhog Day loop.So, once again, it’s 6am and your alarm clock is ringing. Are you falling into the Marketing Groundhog Day Trap? 

Are you starting your day by meeting a technology company that has a good reputation for creating ________ strategies? Did you have high expectations, but the meeting seemed to wander, and you’re really not sure what next steps should be?

This is not surprising. After all, thousands of agencies, partners, and technologies companies perpetuate that terminology the confuses tactics with strategy. After all, one of the ways they acquire new customers is to offer a “_______ strategy” solution.

It’s OK for someone to offer a “______ strategy”. They just need to connect it back to something bigger. If you’re working with a partner, or an internal team, make sure they understand the business context or the problem you’re trying to solve.

Or better yet, let me suggest a better way to ask the question:

Step 1 – Remind yourself of the business objective and ask yourself if the tactic can help you achieve your objective.

Step 2 – If the tactic can’t help you achieve your objective, walk away. If it can, continue to step 3.

Step 3 –  Reach out to someone who knows about the channel and ground your question in an existing business or marketing strategy.

Your question now goes something like this:

  • How can we use email to better retain customers?
  • How can we use social media to engage prospects?
  • How can we use digital to create more dynamic brand campaigns?
  • What’s the best CRM system to better service our customers?
  • How can we use video to better inspire people to join our company?
  • Is SEM a cost-effective channel at acquiring new customers?
  • Can programmatic ad buying help us more efficiently acquire new customers?

There is one exception to what I’ve outlined above. If you don’t have an understanding of how to use a new channel, and you’re just curious, perform an innovation exercise. This explores different scenarios of how channels or technologies can be applied to your business.

Don’t have high expectations when you go down this path. And definitely don’t think about the work having a short-term impact. In fact, be happy if 10-20% of the work is actually implemented down the road.

Take a moment and think about how you can use this approach to better setup you and your teams up for success. And stop asking generic ________ strategy questions.

If you keep going down this path, you’re not going to achieve much. And before you know it…

It’s 6am and your alarm clock is ringing. It’s Groundhog Day again!