‘Strategy is effectively the map which takes you to your destination… tactics are the vehicles you’re going to use to get there.’
Jenna Tiffany has worked with many businesses who mistook tactics for strategy. She decided the best way to help them – and many others – was to write a book. Because books, as her foreword writer Dan Barker points out, ‘can literally perform magic’, providing all the value of the most expensive course on earth, in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost.
In this fascinating conversation, we discuss not only marketing strategy, but the way in which that strategic approach is so essential for writing a business book.
Jenna’s website: https://letstalkstrategy.co.uk/
Jenna on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennatiffany/
Jenna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennatiffany
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge September 2022: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-sep-2022
WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/extraordinarybusinessbooks
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Jenna Tiffany, who is a multi award-winning marketer and author. She’s been recognized as one of the top 50 marketers to follow in the world. The Founder and Strategy Director at Let’s Talk Strategy, Jenna is a chartered marketer and awarded fellow of the IDM with over 10 years marketing experience and has consulted with brands such as Shell, Hilton and World Duty Free, to name just a few, on marketing strategy.
And her new book, Marketing Strategy: Overcome common pitfalls and create effective marketing, it’s here, look, won the Sales and Marketing Business Book of the Year Award 2022. So welcome to the show Jenna, and congratulations.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, thanks so much. Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Alison Jones: It’s good to have you here. Tell me a little bit about what that moment was like.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, it was a little bit bizarre actually, because I, unfortunately, couldn’t be in the room when the award was announced and there was a slight delay in me being notified. And then me actually finding out that I won the award and I actually found out through someone who sent me an email saying, congratulations. So I was like wow, okay, that’s brilliant.
And then obviously all the communication then came through that I’d won. So yes, I’m incredibly honoured. I’m really, really chuffed. You know when I first wrote the book, I just hoped that it would help one person and then I’d feel like it had been a valuable piece of my time.
So to get one of the most prestigious book awards in the UK is really amazing to me. So yes, it means a lot to me.
Alison Jones: What a shame though not to be in the room and whoop and holler and go up on stage.
Jenna Tiffany: I know. yes, it is a real shame. I wish I could have been there, but sadly, you know, it’s just one of those things.
Alison Jones: No, absolutely. It is a really interesting, what struck me about this as well is it’s a bold endeavour and I love the way that you walk the talk, by the way, there’s a little kind of, here’s the avatar for this book. You’re showing your working as you go through it.
Marketing strategy. It’s not a field without any books in it, is it?
Jenna Tiffany: No, there’s a lot of books about marketing and strategy, and it’s a very broad topic as well.
Alison Jones: So tell me what that feels like as an author going into it. You’re like, okay, what am I going to do here to stand out?
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, for me, I wrote the book because I had faced a lot of challenges in my marketing career of a misunderstanding between strategy and tactics. And that was my whole emphasis for writing the book. And when I went out to the market, there’s lots of brilliant books there, but for me, I felt that they were too… almost too academically focused, where you couldn’t use them in a day to day environment, Where you just want to dip in and out, or you’ve got a particular challenge that you need to deal with, or you are faced with a particular scenario, or you’re starting to do a particular type of campaign. And I didn’t feel that there was a book available where you could just pick it up and run with it.
I felt like the others were, were very, quite heavy and rightly so, you know, it’s a very big topic.
So my goal with the book was to make it almost like a manual, so that you could go in, you can dip in and out. If you’re starting a strategy, you can start from the beginning. If you already have a strategy, you can go to the relevant chapters and sections and see the examples in there.
And I wanted it to be, to really put the emphasis on this is what all needs to go into a strategy to help marketers, students, business owners understand that these are all the elements. These are all the moving pieces that should be in a strategy rather than a lot of time and a lot of focus is spent on tactics.
Alison Jones: I wonder, let’s explore that a bit, because I thought that was really interesting. You, I mean again, I sort of understood this as soon as you said it, I was like, of course, but I’m not sure I would’ve been able to articulate it before reading it. So tell us your distinction between strategy and tactics and why they’re both so important.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, so strategy is effectively the map which takes you to your destination. That’s what strategy is. So it’s all of the detail of the what, the where, the who you’re targeting. Tactics are the vehicles you’re going to use to get there to that destination. So tactics definitely have a part to play. If it wasn’t for tactics, you wouldn’t be able to fulfill your strategy.
But the kind of biggest misconception I think is a lot of businesses think they have a strategy, but actually they have a lot of tactics and they haven’t necessarily planned out how they’re going to use those tactics, they’re just running with them. And I faced a lot of this and I’ve worked with lots of different companies and well, we have a strategy and, okay, so what are your objectives and who are you targeting? Oh, well we are just, we are using these channels because our competitors are, and we know that they work, so we’re just running with it.
Whereas actually taking a step back and just, almost taking a bird’s eye view of, okay, this is what we’re trying to achieve and this is where we’re trying to get to. And this is where the tactics can help us get there.
And for me, that was the missing piece, which was my whole emphasis of writing this book.
Alison Jones: And particularly for small business owners, I think the tactics can be, they’re very shiny and there’s a new one along every five minutes. And you can spend a lot of time, you can lose a lot of time, mastering them, can’t you? It’s changing faster than it ever has been, I think.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, and I think, I mean, I see this with both small and large businesses where there’s quite an emphasis to chase after what I call the shiny shiny. So the new shiny object there, and of course marketing is a very creative area. We have that creativity with lots of ideas and we need those elements definitely. And you need that within your strategy as well.
And I think the kind of other challenge that strategy has had is that it’s been seen as quite an arduous, time consuming process that, you know, you have this document and you never look at it again, and it doesn’t need to be a real padded out document, could be on a page of A4, it’s effectively putting your plan together.
But that kind of a downfall in approach of running after the next shiny tactic is something that I think increasingly has become a bit of a challenge in marketing. Because like you say, there are just more and more that get added and changed and developed. You know, and there’s new evolutions in those tactics on a constant basis.
And I think we only need to look at something like Clubhouse and how a lot of organizations ran after Clubhouse with no strategy. They just saw it as the next shiny tactic. And where is it today? I’m not even sure many people still use it. So that for…
Alison Jones: …like Second Life, you know, it has its kind of followers and they are devoted, but there there’s very few of them now. Yes.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, so it kind of had that big peak and then to nothing.
And that, I think that for me was a really good example of where we’ve just chased after tactics again and not necessarily thought about our audience and where they are, because it’s not about what the business wants to do, it’s about where the audience is, and to be able to attract and captivate that audience.
Alison Jones: And I thought that really struck home to me when I was reading the book that there’s also sort of temporal distinction between your strategy, which doesn’t change actually that much, you know, it’s a much more fundamental part of your identity as a business. And as you say, you can hop in and out of different cars, but it’s the same road.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, exactly. And that’s kind of, that was my whole emphasis with the book where I wanted it to be something that would still be relevant in 10 years time, because the core fundamentals and the foundation setting of a strategy stay the same. It’s the tactical part of how you’re going to get there and maybe the evolution of electrical vehicles and things like that it might change, you know, and that might change in 10 years time. But actually the whole planning of that has remained the same.
Alison Jones: Yes, yes, really interesting. And it is of course a book for business people and also for students and it’s going to be on lots of reading lists, I’m sure. There was a phrase in your foreword, which is by Dan Barker, that I absolutely loved, and he’s talking about the fact that a book can give you a huge proportion of what you would pay very much money for any sort of MBA course.
And the phrase I’ve written down here, he said it is ‘a great book can literally perform magic’. And which of course, as a publisher, I love. But I was just wondering how you feel about that as well, because my sense is that books are typically undervalued as business learning tools.
Whereas actually, there’s a huge amount of stuff in here if you just sit with it.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, I think you know, Dan Barker is brilliant. He’s an amazing marketer and has worked some really quite incredible campaigns. So he is definitely someone to follow on Twitter. But he, I think he’s got a real essence there of what books give business owners, CEOs, directors, everybody, students. And when I’ve worked with lots of global CEOs and directors from all different countries, all different cultures, the one thing that’s quite consistent with all of them is that they are avid readers, both readers of topics about their business and their industry, things outside of their business and industry to really start to expand their mind, their knowledge and promote other ideas.
Because when you start coming out of your own, you know, your own silo, your own bubble to an effect, you start to then generate those ideas and come away from that and be able to actually adapt that to your industry and to your business.
And reading a lot of fiction as well, doesn’t have to be, you know, a serious book. I think sometimes we, you know, we all typically come from more of a academic background, but I’m quite an avid reader of fictional books, just to try and take my mind out of a, in a different, put it into a different place to generate those ideas and consolidate your thoughts really.
So I do think there was a time, a couple of years ago, where there probably was an emphasis on, do we still need books now we have the internet? But there is so much information available on the internet, it’s hard to consolidate that into a useful format. And I think that is where the essence of books still remains. I think they’re still incredibly valuable.
Alison Jones: There’s something about the offline-ness of them as well, isn’t there? That you can do deep work. You can sort of remove yourself from the distractions and the noise and the kind of the sameness of the screen, which gets replaced by new stuff all the time and immerse in a book. I’m interested as well that you make the point about fiction, because I think we don’t talk about that very much on this podcast, but it’s really true.
And there’s quite a lot of evidence showing that it increases your empathy, your wellbeing. It’s one of those one things that you can do to improve your state of mind and your sort of mental health, it’s taking in time out to read fiction.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, definitely. I mean that’s my biggest go to, to just switch off and be in a totally different place and just relax and not have, you know, I have quite a busy mind, I’ve got a really busy day to day, so it’s good for me to just step out of that and fiction’s a big part of that for me, definitely.
Alison Jones: Yes, and you make the point as well about the creativity, which is interesting, you know, as a marketeer, I guess it’s one of those things that takes you from where you are to some, a different place. And when you’re in a different place, you can see things from a different perspective and make new connections and all that good stuff.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, exactly. I think that’s really important. So we tend to shy away from it quite a bit, I think as an industry and I do lots of training, I work with lots of universities and I always try to bring in examples that are outside of the comfort zone of the attendees. So it might be completely different to what they’re used to.
And that always generates the most amount of ideas because it puts everybody’s mind in a completely different place. And I think that’s where you start to generate those ideas. So like, when I was writing my book, I was in a completely different environment and that just helped me get into a different frame of mind.
I think we should definitely put more emphasis on that rather than looking at something that’s always, always relatable doesn’t necessarily always expand your mind or develop your experience.
Alison Jones: It’s that Brian Eno thing, isn’t it. If you want to end up somewhere different, you start somewhere different.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, exactly. yes,
Alison Jones: You said about writing in a different place. Tell me a bit more about that. What does writing look like for you? How do you do it best? What do you love about it? What do you find frustrating?
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, so before I wrote my book, I typically write lots of blogs, lots of white papers and guides and things, but I’ve never written anything to the extent of the book. Certainly not in word count anyway.
Alison Jones: It’s hefty, isn’t it? It’s…
Jenna Tiffany: …it is, it’s a hefty book. yes, and my initial thought was I could bring a lot of content that I had already written and use that as like stimulus to then bring things together.
And I thought, well, I’ve, you know, I’ve been writing for years. Oh, this will be fairly straightforward. And I laugh because they’re definitely wasn’t the case.
Alison Jones: Okay. How hard can it be I’ve got loads of stuff. I’ll just put it all together and make it into a book. Yes, I mean, you can do that. People do do that but the result is not great.
Jenna Tiffany: No exactly, and you have to adapt it and actually your writing style adapts, I think when you’re writing a book as well, because you need to have it, it’s structured in a completely different way to a guide or an article, it’s completely different. So for me, it was a case of going in my hammock in the garden and just turning off the wifi and just starting to write and pulling together thoughts and ideas and a template of a structure. So I had the pleasure of working with Kogan Page as my publishers. And they were brilliant at coming in with ideas and suggestions and the editing team was awesome there.
And I provided like an initial structure. They gave me an initial word count of what the total book needed to be and what the absolute maximum was. And that was a bit daunting because then I realized how big of a project this is going to be with that hefty word count. Which actually we ended up increasing further in the end.
Yes, so I kind of went through a stage and I was using this brilliant writing tool actually called Scrivener which maybe some of your listeners have also used. And I found that incredibly good to just keep my mind focused on, right, this is my word limit for the chapter. And I broke everything down by sections, otherwise I felt it was just too overwhelming.
And I would lose my place and I wouldn’t necessarily have the focus for the chapter because I’d be then thinking about something else so that Scrivener really allowed me to just dip in and out of different chapters and not have the challenges that Word was starting to present quite early on. So I moved to that straight away.
And it all went pretty well for the first couple of chapters. And then, I think I was around about four chapters in, and then the pandemic hit. So all my friends were like, oh, that’s brilliant because now you must have a little bit more time to just focus on it and not feel so busy. As I was still running my agency as well.
But I just wasn’t in the head space to be writing a book during that time. It was too much uncertainty. I’m sure a lot of other authors felt the same. And I then missed a couple of deadlines, they had to be extended. And I really wanted a lot of input from other marketers and business owners and it just wasn’t an appropriate time to be reaching out to people. And some people were no longer there, you know, it was a really difficult conversation to then have, and that was a lot of movement.
So I did as much as I could, but actually the publishers then started to delay quite a lot of book launches because of the pandemic and the impact it was having with other authors.
So I know I wasn’t alone in feeling like that. So it actually gave me a bit of breathing time to just take some time out and then go back to my original thought of why I’m writing this book in the first place.
Because you kind of lose your way a little bit when you start and you’re really enthusiastic and you’re like, yes, I can get this done. You get about halfway and you think, oh my God, I’m not sure I’m going to finish this. And then you get towards the end and you go through the editing phase and then you feel like actually I’ve kind of got this together now. But when I was getting towards the end and close to final manuscript, I actually then developed the strategy framework, which is the full structure of the book.
So I actually changed the structure of my book a month before…
Alison Jones: You know, I have this huge theory that basically when you write a book, one of the best reasons for doing it is exactly that, is it really helps you clarify and shape your intellectual property.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, and that’s a great way of putting that actually, because I do lots of speaking, I do lots of training and I was using lots of other people’s materials and crediting their materials. And I thought I’ve got lots of thoughts on this and I could develop these frameworks. And I think I could do this in a different way and give a different perspective.
And it’s definitely given me… and that helped me consolidate my thoughts as well. I think having that teaching background really helped me to put it into a structure and a format that anyone could then pick up and use and there’s templates and frameworks in there.
And now I’m presenting at events and it’s all of my own material because I’ve spent all that time on the book.
But I also found out just before the month before the final manuscript was due, that I was pregnant and I had really bad morning sickness and anemia. And I had to get through that final month of getting this final manuscript together and going through all of the referencing and editing. And that was really tough.
And, my husband helped me massively. I wouldn’t have got through, I don’t think, without him and definitely wouldn’t have hit the deadline. So that for me, I think, was the most challenging part, was that final bit of just checking that you’ve put everything in there. Are you really happy with this? Is there anything that you’ve missed and just making sure that it’s going to be an end product that you are really proud of and that you actually wanted it to be when you started.
Alison Jones: Yes, and one of the things that, as I say, right the beginning, that you approach this yes, like an author writing a book, but also like a marketer designing a product. So I guess, and you might not have thought about it that way before, but what do you think you brought to the act of writing a book from your identity as a marketer?
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, interesting question. I’ve never been asked that before actually, but I do think I probably did. And I haven’t really thought about it that way of coming at it from that angle. But I suppose I did just naturally, probably do that. I brought a lot of my own personal experience to the book.
So I actually took a bit of a risk with the book because, you mentioned at the very beginning where I’ve actually applied these frameworks to my writing and development of the book. And I did that to demonstrate that this, firstly, it could be used for anything, these frameworks and models, but also this is the process that I’ve gone through because we learn by doing and seeing examples and case studies. And that’s a bit of a risk to do that because you’re kind of unveiling the secrets to what you were trying to do with the book, in some essence.
Alison Jones: You can get quite self-conscious about it, can’t you, when you start talking about the, feels a bit meta…
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, a little bit, yes and at the time the publishers weren’t a hundred percent, didn’t quite understand where I was trying to, the angle I was trying to take with that, until they started to then see it and realize that actually yes, okay, that, yes, that works. But I don’t think I quite knew how it was going to play out until I started to really develop the book and get it, you know, more than halfway.
Then I could see that, yes, this is going to work and this will actually bring it to life. I also as a marketer spent a long time, going back and forth with the designers of the front cover of the book, to which they probably still don’t want to talk to me. So that for me was the, I think, so you know, the packaging of this, the packaging of the book for me was really important. So the colors are my company’s brand color. You know, the whole, I didn’t want it to look like an academic book because that was not what I was trying to write. So I had to do some compromising on that, but I really, I pushed hard on getting the overall look of the book the way I wanted.
Alison Jones: A lovely blue. What do you call that blue?
Jenna Tiffany: It’s a particular, it’s a particular hex code. Yes, it’s just my company’s colour blue. My husband’s a designer and did all the brand guidelines and that’s our company blue. And so I really wanted it to fit in with the suite of our own assets.
Alison Jones: Yes, no, the visual identity thing is really powerful, isn’t it? Brilliant.
And if somebody’s listening and they haven’t yet started, or maybe they have started and they are heading towards that difficult middle time that you were talking about or on the other side of the process, what’s the one thing that you wish somebody had told you when you were starting this?
Jenna Tiffany: What, started writing the book?
Alison Jones: Yes.
Jenna Tiffany: I think how much, not how much time it’s going to take, but how much you’ll learn by going through that experience. So whether you are an avid writer or not, I think there’s a lot that you learn from writing the book, both in terms of how it needs to be structured. You know, all the different, you’ve got lots of different people inputting at different stages and critiquing effectively your work. And you have to not get too precious about that.
But on the other side to also, if you really believe in something that you’ve included and you feel it adds value to the book whilst you’re writing it, or you’ve got a really strong idea for the book. Then keep that as the core essence and don’t dilute that because you want it to be something that when you go to pick it up and people talk about it that you think, actually I wrote that and I’m really proud of that. And I’ve included everything I wanted to include in that. And you know, it has to be something that you want to put your name on and not shy away from.
But anyone who is starting out, it definitely takes a long time to write a book. So it took me three years from initial idea to publishing the book and just to get it to a place where I was really happy for it to get signoffs, to include quotes and interviews and so on as well. If you’re going to include anything like that, to plan it right at the beginning, because it takes really long time to get those approvals, but they add such a great additional layer to your content if you can get them in.
Alison Jones: Yes, and I think that point’s really important because it’s amazing how many people see it as almost like a race, you know, write your book a fortnight, write your book in a weekend.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes.
Alison Jones: You don’t want to be rushing this because it’s a really important process of idea maturation and connection and all the things that you’ve just talked about there, it isn’t something you want to get over with as quickly as possible.
Jenna Tiffany: No exactly. And you want to have time to play with it. You want to have time to add things, take things out, rephrase, you want to have time to actually digest what you’ve written and then also to have time to get other people’s input. So I got other marketers, other business owners, but I also got people that aren’t involved in marketing and got their feedback because if they could use the book and they got value from it, then I knew that I was on the right lines of making this an easy to understand and digest in a digestible way that I was really aiming for. If that wasn’t the case, then I would know that I still had some more work to do.
There were quite a few moments where I thought, oh, I feel like I’ve done enough now. And I think with a book it never really finishes. I think it never really ends. So you have to get it to that point where you are happy with it and you go back to that original vision that you had.
Otherwise you could spend a lifetime working on a book as well.
Alison Jones: Yes, and nobody ever gets to read it.
Jenna Tiffany: Exactly and I think that’s, you know, if you have a great idea, you’ve got a real passion for something, then write that book because it will add value. It will add value to people. You know, I’m really glad that I now took the plunge and did it, and just probably didn’t initially fully think it all through, but I’m glad that I just went for it because if I probably had thought a lot more about it and maybe, you know, really, really sat myself down and thought about it. I probably would’ve talked myself out of doing it.
So I’m really glad that I took the time to do it and I am very proud of the book. And if anybody out there has got an idea and you’re thinking, oh, I could write a book about it, then start, just start writing.
Alison Jones: That’s I mean, brilliant. Thank you. It’s great. Great way to end that conversation.
I’m not going to quite end it though, because I always want to ask people about a business book recommendation. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a business book, if there’s a particularly good fiction book, as we were saying earlier, that you’d like to recommend, then feel free to do that too.
But what’s your recommendation for people listening to the podcast? What should they pick up and read?
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, I do have a recommendation. I keep getting the title wrong. So I actually, and I want to make sure I get this right because it is a brilliant book. So it’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. So I noted this down earlier and I was talking to my students about it last week and I didn’t say the full title. So I’m glad that I’ve thought about it now.
Yes, so Thinking, Fast and Slow is an absolute brilliant book. It’s brilliant for anyone writing actually, because it gives you a good place to check in and sense check, actually, am I thinking about this too fast? I need to just slow down. And it’s got some really good, just initial thought provoking ideas in there as well.
I find that quite an inspiring book that you can just jump in and out of and re-pick up multiple times and still get something new from it.
Alison Jones: Yes, it is an absolute classic. Yes, and you are right actually, I hadn’t specifically thought about the application to writing, but in a sense that’s all writing is doing is putting you into that slower system of thinking, isn’t it? It’s kind of forcing you in there.
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, making you really take that step back and assess. Assess what could be your day to day industry or topic and making sure that you are covering all bases and maybe not overlooking something because it might not be your favorite part, but actually it might add some value to somebody else or a different perspective might come in.
So yes, I find that it’s a really, I really love that book. One of my favourites.
Alison Jones: Brilliant, great recommendation, thank you.
And Jenna, if people want to find out more about you, more about the work you do, more about marketing strategy, where should they go?
Jenna Tiffany: Yes, so connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m on there just /jennatiffany. I’m also on Twitter the same, and you can go to our company website so, letstalkstrategy.co.uk. We’ve got blogs and articles and guides on there as well, but feel free to reach out to me from there.
Alison Jones: Brilliant, thank you. Absolute pleasure talking to today. Thank you so much for your time.
Jenna Tiffany: Thank you so much for having me, a pleasure to meet you and speak to you today as well.