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Marketing: Are You Proactive or Reactive?

August 28, 2018

Do you set your marketing objectives, develop a strategic and tactical plan and then stick to it?  Or do you find yourself constantly reacting to what your competition is doing? If your competition has you on the defensive, then you need to take a serious look at your brand and your marketing efforts.

Even the biggest brands and the best marketers can find themselves on the defensive at times. Once the competition has you reacting, it is easier for them to keep you there than it is for you to break the pattern – to be proactive. This happens because you are so busy trying to defend yourself you lose track of your own objectives and the long term vision and plan. And ultimately you lose sight of what your own brand is really all about. As a Certified Brand Strategist, trained through the Brand Establishment, it is my job to help my clients remain proactive and to make sure they stick to the plan that will help them meet their objectives.

Sometimes the hardest part of breaking a reactive cycle is for the company to step back long enough to realize they are in this rut and need to recalibrate. In situations like this, an outsider’s point of view can often be useful.  I find that putting a number of smart marketers (internal and external) in a room to discuss the situation and to brainstorm can often bring perspective and find a strategic path forward to break the cycle. 

To get out of reactive mode, the company has to commit to the long term vision, to the path forward and believe in it.  That often means educating the sales team about the plan and then not bending to pressure from the group when they lapse and expect marketing to react.  (In fairness, if you have been in a reactive mode, the sales team has become conditioned to expect this.)

“Sometimes the hardest part of breaking a reactive cycle is for the company to step back long enough to realize they are in this rut and need to recalibrate.”

If you are often in reactive mode, then your competition is being a better marketer than you are.  You are allowing them to define and control the conversation with your customers and prospects.  They are succeeding in convincing clients what they should care about the most and what should be important to them.  Those criteria are usually heavily skewed to the competition’s strengths.     

Each situation is different and needs to be assessed individually. There are times when you do need to react or respond to something the competition is doing.  In some cases, this can be a perfect opportunity to have some fun and be highly creative, using guerrilla marketing and/or public relations tactics. Some of my favorite campaigns for clients have been developed under such circumstances.

Often, however, you are best to stick to your own strategy and plan and not to react. The key is to get back to basics. Go back to your brand and remember what it is all about. Ask yourself what your brand stands for that your competition will have difficulty countering. Review or write down your objectives. Determine/review your own strategy and your message (not relative to the competition). If you consistently execute and deliver against this, without allowing yourself to be distracted by competitive messaging and antics, then you can and will succeed in changing the conversation.  That will put you back in proactive mode with your customers and prospects.  And that’s exactly where you want to be.


President of 31st Line Strategic Communications, Karen Sample has more than 30 years’ experience in advertising, public relations and marketing and has led both advertising and public relations teams for agencies and within corporations. She has extensive experience in helping companies manage change both from inside a corporation and as an Agency lead. Karen achieved the Brand Establishment’s prestigious designation as a Certified Brand Strategist in 2013 to become the only Certified Brand Strategist in Canada.

About The Brand Establishment

The Brand Establishment perfected the first contemporary brand development process specifically for small to mid-sized advertisers more than two decades ago. These tools and procedures have been utilized by companies in virtually every business sector – hundreds of times.