March 6, 2023|Kim's Blog, Marketing, Strategy|
Be more strategic – A metaphor: Analyse, join and align the dots

At the start of March, there was an online PM Forum workshop on “Being more strategic”. Delegates were from legal and accountancy firms with roles as varied as marketing, digital marketing, business development, PR and key accounts (executives, managers and a director). Below is a summary of the key themes discussed and the poll results as a further learning resource. Be more strategic – A metaphor: Analyse, join and align the dots

Be more strategic – A metaphor: Analyse, join and align the dots

At the start of the session we talked about what strategic means to us and how we explain the need for strategy to our internal stakeholders. Many have seen the brilliant diagram that shows how we move from data, to information, to knowledge, to insight, to wisdom and then to impact. It could act as a metaphor so we could summarise the strategy process as follows:

Analyse the dots – Where are we now?

The starting point for strategy is analysis. Many use a situational analysis or marketing audit.  Here we collect and analyse the data – often from many sources. Sometimes we may need to conduct some research.

We obtain data about our external environment – using a PESTLE analysis, competitor analysis and understanding trends in our markets, sectors and clients. Then we consider data about our internal environment – our finances, our people, our services, our marketing and business development, our systems, our culture etc. And we analyse the analytics from our digital marketing performance.

From the data we obtain information and knowledge – where we summarise and see patterns to identify trends, opportunities and threats. Often we identify trends by placing a line of best fit across the dots on a chart. Or we might have different sized dot on a portfolio analysis of our services/products. We also look at the outliers to discern weak signals. This provides us with some insight into what is happening and helps us to anticipate what options there might be for action.

This short article explains why humans are so good at noticing patterns (and even better than AI algorithms) and outliers: Why the Human Brain Is So Good at Detecting Patterns | Psychology Today

Join the dots

We take our data, information and insights and talk to people in our firm in meetings and workshops. We might speak to those who are experts in particular topics for deep knowledge or those who are a little removed – to harness other mental models and gain an outside perspective. We join our internal dots.

Sometimes we can see how the joined dots in other industries can help us join dots in our own.

By engaging others in our analysis and thinking we build interest and engagement amongst our people and our teams. And we can also look at where the dots indicate opportunities or threats that span across the firm. Think, for example, about the patterns of cross-buying and cross-selling for clients that use several services of the firm. Or the patterns we find amongst particular kinds of client groups or segments.

By joining the dots we can provide evidence which supports our thinking and ideas about how we can best move from our present position to our future desired position – which is the essence of strategy.

Align the dots – Where do we want to be and how will be get there?

Once we have people engaged in analysing and joining the dots we can discuss our aims and objectives – where we want to get to.

We noted at the session the importance of knowing “Why are we in business?” The golden circle (another dot?) mentioned by Simon Sineck. Golden Circle model: Sinek’s theory value proposition : start with why (

There may be different views and priorities over what we want to achieve so we align our stakeholders around what we hope to achieve.   This also manages everyone’s expectations.

Jim Collins famously used three circles/questions (three overlapping dots?) in “Good to great” to help develop our Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) to find the intersection of these three questions:

  • What are we deeply passionate about?
  • What can we be the best in the world at?
  • What drives our economic engine?

Then we can consider the rational and creative ways that we can best achieve those aims and objectives. So we generate a variety of ideas and options – or strategic options. Further analysis and discussion will help us select or choose the best options. And then we align people around those choices to pursue the best strategy(ies).

Ideally, our strategies and plans will direct our scarce resources in the best way to meet the challenges in our external and internal environments so we achieve the impact desired that we articulated in our aims and objectives.

Key points from the delegate discussions

What is strategy? How would you describe strategy to stakeholders?

We started with a discussion about what evidence we could see of strategy in our daily lives. There were observations about:

We considered which professional service firms were admired for their strategy. Shoosmiths was noted for clarity, vision and being progressive as well as being aligned. Memery Crystal was mentioned for knowing exactly who they are, who their clients are and directing their efforts into the right work. I mentioned how I admired KMPG and Weil Gotshal & Manges (US law firm) for participating in a TV documentary about “How to Crack the Class Ceiling” (and the possible introduction of class into discrimination legislation) in employment policies BBC iPlayer – How to Crack the Class Ceiling

Delegates discussed how they defined strategy and described it to their fee-earners both before and after we looked at a variety of definitions.

  • Analyse, understand and choose how best to reach the end goal
  • Build a holistic view of what we need to do (not just about think about fees)
  • Recognise that success might look different for each stakeholder
  • Align actions with the firm’s values and at various levels
  • A plan of activity to meet our objectives
  • Agree the best way to generate better clients and more fees
  • Decide what we will do to reach our objectives
  • Consider how to find our own path through the competition

How can you improve your own and others’ strategic thinking?

  • Find time to conduct analysis and think
  • Block regular time (e.g. weekly or monthly) to consider strategy
  • Find creative space and collaborate
  • Have the confidence to question tasks/aims etc
  • Check whether proposed actions align with strategic goals
  • Be willing to learn and unlearn – to ditch old ways of thinking as well as adopting new ones
  • Apply the tools to ongoing problems and campaigns, rather than throwing all our current plans out the window
  • Challenge rather than always do what’s been done before
  • Embed strategic analysis in day-to-day role and all work projects
  • Look up some of the recommended reading and challenge others

Highlights from PESTLE analysis

A useful tool to look at what is likely to happen in five years’ time in the external environment that will impact your firm and its markets/clients.


  • Shifts more regularly than usual
  • International uncertainty
  • Prospect of a General Election


  • Recession and how it will affect things
  • Things now slowing down after Covid
  • Reduced investment
  • Inflation
  • Lower business and consumer confidence
  • Return to offices and changes in property and employment trends


  • Social media – what clients want to see and how they want to see it
  • Metaverse and the use of virtual reality
  • Impact of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Cybersecurity


  • Changing retirement patterns
  • Different ways to meet and interact with people
  • Generational differences
  • Impact of working from home on property and family life

How much time, effort etc should be devoted to crisis planning?

One delegate observed that it was critical to consider contingency plans and crises management for business continuity and survival but that the global pandemic was probably not in many firms’ strategy. Black Swan thinking (unknown unknowns) may help here: Be more strategic – Strategy in a post-Covid19 world (

All strategies and plans should contain a risk analysis and the most common risks to consider were thought to be:

Why do you need a business plan? 10 reasons why (

Marketing planning in a nutshell – simple and complex plans (

Delegate reactions

Delegate aims for the session

  • Recently promoted
  • Hoping to build our digital strategy
  • For a bit of a refresher on some of the strategic principles and using them practically
  • Contribute to our strategy planning process
  • Learn how to measure delivery
  • Keep planning on track
  • Better understanding of strategic thinking
  • How to be strategic working with sectors
  • Apply strategic thinking to bids
  • Implementing the firm’s five year strategy plan
  • Be more proactive in strategy development and implementation
  • Develop my experience and skills
  • Just finished CIM course and want to develop my strategic thinking
  • Starting marketing strategy development for teams
  • Refocus myself on thinking strategically rather than being driven by day to day operations.

 Delegate takeaways from the session

  • Take the time to think strategically
  • Create a clear plan (rather than getting stuck in the day to day!)
  • All the frameworks that you can use within strategy
  • The signposts to further learning
  • How intelligent everyone is
  • Challenge structural bias
  • Use PESTEL externally and SWOT internally
  • Don’t act without taking the time to think through how everything aligns
  • Hierarchy of different plans
  • Take time out to plan
  • How to speak/think more strategically
  • Using the frameworks
  • Strategy is the route map – a helicopter view
  • Reassured that competitor positioning is the aspect everyone else is weak on too!
  • Typical strategies
  • Different analysis models
  • Joining the dots between individual fee earners and firm-wide strategy, useful plans
  • How to challenge generally

Amongst the thanks and feedback were comments about how the session was useful, interesting, thought provoking and motivating.

Delegate poll results

What is your sector?

  • 67% Legal
  • 33% Accountancy/insolvency/actuarial

How much experience do you have in strategy?

  • 22% None
  • 11% A little
  • 67% Average

Which topic is of most interest to you?

  • 70% Thinking strategically
  • 20% Understanding business strategy/strategic analysis
  • 10% Marketing and business development strategy

Where is your main strategic focus?

  • 20% The firm overall
  • 20% Sectors
  • 30% Department/practice group/service line
  • 10% Individual fee-earners

Which area presents the biggest challenge?

  • 20% Strategic analysis
  • 30% Strategic options
  • 20% Strategy choice
  • 30% Strategy implementation

Have you completed a marketing audit for your firm/team?

  • 20% Yes
  • 80% No

Which element of strategic analysis do you think you most need to improve?

  • 10% Internal analysis – strengths and weaknesses
  • 20% Internal analysis – past clients and sources of work
  • 10% External analysis – competitors
  • 20% External analysis – sector issues and trends
  • 40% External analysis – far environment (PESTLE)

Which of the following is closest to describing your goals?

  • 10% Really well defined – objectives and KPIs for financial and other measures
  • 40% Well defined – revenue, reputation and relationships
  • 50% Partially defined – There are some goals and objectives

Do you have a marketing qualification?

  • 50% Yes
  • 40% No
  • 10% Sort of

Which frameworks have you or do you use?

Which segmentation approaches ae used at your firm?

  • 100% Market or industry sector
  • 70% Size of business
  • 60% Job function
  • 50% Geography/region
  • 20% Nature of relationship
  • 10% Personas
  • 30% A mixture

Back to basics – importance of segmentation and personas (

Marketing and BD planning – Segmentation, Rock Stars and Engagement (

How do you rate your firm’s measurement of marketing/BD effectiveness?

  • 0% Excellent
  • 50% Good
  • 40% Average
  • 10% Poor