We increasingly live in an agile workplace, and workshops are a key part of agile practices. 

With so many workshops being run these days, how do you ensure your marketing strategy workshop inspires the creative thinking and positive outcomes you are looking for?

Marketing strategy workshop definition and outcomes

A marketing strategy workshop is an environment of collaboration where collective ideas and critical analysis from team members can be transformed into something better than we could have achieved on our own. This could result in better product development, better customer understanding, better branding, or better marketing and sales execution.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, running a marketing strategy workshop is about leadership and this blog is about providing you with the best chance to lead and achieve these collaborative outcomes.

Here are 10 useful tips on how to run a successful strategy workshop:

1. Plan for success with plan B and C

A workshop is a lot of work and planning a successful one takes a lot of organisation and planning time. You should firstly review why you want to hold a workshop and establish what you want this workshop to achieve. Should there be limitations regarding the scope? Who should attend? What location is ideal? What catering? What should the agenda be? Who will speak and when? There are so many elements that need to be thought of and planned for. By having a plan, you will force yourself to think about the alternatives to the choices you have made. And when things inevitably veer ‘off plan’ you’ll have plan B and C options at the ready to cope with almost any scenario that might crop up in your workshop.

2. Communicate clearly housekeeping issues

If you are organising the marketing strategy workshop, then you have been designated its leader, so you need to take charge from the start! It is usually the little things that derail your strategy workshop and the root cause of these little things is predominately based around poor communication. By communicating housekeeping issues right upfront everyone will behave as you intend them to. Housekeeping issues to provide clarity on are:
- Time allocated to agenda items
- Lunch and tea breaks
- Mobile phone and computer usage
- Toilet locations
- Participation requirements
- Who the casting voter will be
- Follow up plans

3. Understanding the importance of attendee roles

A marketing strategy workshop is not a focus group and nor is it an employee brainstorming session. It is a strategic meeting designed to achieve great outcomes. So, the roles that people will play are important. There needs to be a decision maker to not only break deadlocks, but also provide leadership and vision. You will want some experts in the subject matter and potentially cross-functional representatives to attend as well. External stakeholders like creative writers, market researchers, or even suppliers and customers can be very insightful and help challenge normative thinking. Mapping out these roles as a strategy workshop facilitator and leader is important to ensure smooth running and will reduce the emphasis on the facilitator being the main contributor. By manipulating the structure of the group, you can achieve outstanding outcomes in collaboration and thinking.

4. This is your chance to be creative and build confidence

A workshop should inspire better thinking. It should be a vehicle to unlock nuggets that the business can leverage strategically. To do this we need to make attendees feel relaxed, welcome and important. Using carefully selected words that inspire and build up the confidence of attendees by checking in with them on how they are feeling is a good idea. The workshop facilitator and key business decision maker need to bring their charm - using interactive ways to get contributions flowing. Warm up exercises or icebreakers are a great starting point and these need not be related to the business at all. Presenting case studies from other industries that have faced similar challenges can also stimulate thinking and projective aspiration.

5. Select a strategy framework that works best in a workshop environment

We are all familiar with planning tools like a SWOT analysis. However, are they likely to stimulate new thinking? And will they work well in a workshop? Probably not. In this customer centric world, it’s best to start any strategy session with the end customer in mind. Even for B2B businesses this thinking takes attendees away from their company’s own self-interest which is likely to be the biggest barrier you will face in generating new ideas and concepts. Running your own design thinking based ‘shark tank’ could be something to try. As a part of this design thinking you can get attendees to draw and start prototyping ideas and potential strategy options. Often it’s only when marketing strategy is visualised as an execution that you can see its power or lack thereof.

Deep dive into your business with a marketing strategy workshop with us!

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6. Use constraints to drive better, more critical thinking

Sometimes when it’s all blue sky it becomes all care and no responsibility. It can also lead to lazy thinking and doesn’t always lead to practical outcomes. By setting up constraints we force the brain to work harder. These constraints don’t have to be practical considerations like budgets or time. You can even invent constraints like, “imagine if our major customer deleted our product range tomorrow. Or imagine a competitor doubles it marketing spend and actively targets our customers.” You can use these types of constraints to generate diverse thinking for a wide range of potential scenarios.

7. Consider using games to generate new thinking with strategic outcomes

If you are adventurous you might be inclined to gamify* some of your favourite strategy planning tools. The best tools to gamify are those that force attendees to choose between alternative inputs. This could be anything from choosing between alternative marketplace scenarios, investment options to choosing between words that best represent the benefits and attributes of a brand. Games using dice, cards and spinning devices ensure plenty of fun and engagement. Plus, they help stop any overt dominance from individual group members. Strategic games are also better for larger groups where it is likely that some members of the audience will go unheard. Remember, games are supposed to be fun, so make sure fun is at the heart of any games you decide on.

*Gamify = Taking something that already exists and integrating game elements and principles into it to improve motivation, understanding and engagement.

8. Document everything, especially the magic

In workshops, participants are given the freedom of thought for which they are rarely afforded on a day to day basis. So, while it is easy to get carried away in the moment, if you fail to create a record of what is being said and written, then you may well miss the magic being created. Indeed, often the magic does not reveal itself until well after the workshop has finished, which is why a record of everything said and written is crucial. It is important that the facilitator focuses on his or her primary role – facilitation. So utilising video or audio recording is a great way of ensuring everything is captured word for word. Alternatively, you can have a dedicated note taker attend the session. Using large Butchers paper to record group exercises is a great idea, handouts that attendees can fill in or write on and post-it notes to indicate preferences and notes creates valuable, documented resources that you can refer back to.

9. Utilise individual exercises to avoid groupthink

Workshops Workshops can easily be dominated by large and influential personalities – especially leaders who have positional power.  So, it’s a great idea to break up the group work with individual exercises.  Indeed, we would recommend starting with individual exercises after the initial warm-up and ice-breakers. This allows and commits everyone to the generation ideas, insights and feedback no matter how brilliant or silly they think they are. We often use silent voting and fast five exercises as an extension of this thought, with the creator of an idea being given the chance to explain their thinking before any opinion and feedback is given. This creates a safe environment for conflict avoiders and restrains dominant personalities so everyone is able to input. Feedback can then be considered in the light of voting and the creator’s rationale.

10. Sum up with clarity and develop a follow up plan

Feeling exhausted? Despite this, it’s really important to leave the group clear around what the next steps are and inspired to execute the direction agreed. Check in with the group. What was achieved? What became clearer? How are they feeling? Then the facilitator and or the decision maker needs to sum up with clarity and inspired insight. The follow up plan should be agreed and documented with responsibilities allocated.  

Planning and running a successful strategy workshop is hard work and there are no silver bullets for success. Enquire about one of our marketing workshops that can dive deep into your brand, customers or new products. Enquire about our workshops today.

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