Marketeers mapping a marketing strategy

Mapping your marketing strategy

As marketers, we often draw analogies in our content to help our audience to visualise, relate to and better understand the topic at hand. Whilst some analogies are forced, once in a while we strike gold. Funnily enough, it was in the middle of a moor where I realised that marketing strategy involves the same five features or questions as navigational strategy. Simply remember the five Ds of navigation and you’ll be able to map your next marketing strategy in no time!

The five Ds of navigation

In theory, anyone can navigate across a hill, moorland or mountain so long as that person defines five simple features of the adventure. Here’s how you can relate them to the world of marketing to craft your new strategy:

Destination. Have you ever set out for a walk without knowing where you want to end up? Then why would any marketer start to plan, or worse start to execute, without knowing the purpose or ‘end game’ of their efforts? The start of any good marketing strategy is the end point. We need to ask: where do we want to be, what is our goal? It’s arguably the most important, but often the most difficult, question to answer, as it requires forward thinking and a little bit of bravery. If this is a difficult question in your business, then start small. Even the fittest walkers train before they take on a long-distance trail.

Distance. You’re aiming to summit Snowdon, but do you know how far you’ll walk to reach it? To answer accurately you first need to know which of the mountain’s six paths you’re on. You can use the landscape to pinpoint where you are in Snowdonia, just as you can use the market landscape to understand where your business is. It sounds simple, but often involves using frameworks like the SWOT analysis to help us find the answer. Once you have a sense of where your business is today you can estimate a metaphorical ‘distance’ to reach your goal.

Direction. Knowing your destination and distance, you can use a map and compass to decipher the direction of travel. Unfortunately, there isn’t a map for marketing and if there was, you’d probably find too many paths to make sense of. There is no ‘one way’ to do marketing, so this is where you need to make some choices. To simplify the process, think about defining your marketing mix with the four Ps (price, product, place and promotion) to create a roadmap, or direction, you need to follow to reach your destination.

Duration. As a walker, you can control and change the duration of your journey by altering your pace, but you’re also influenced by the terrain, the weather conditions and many more factors. Similarly, as a marketer you’ll have some capacity to influence the speed of your journey by tapping into available resources, but there will be external forces at play too, such as the economic climate and legislation. Creating SMART goals can help to estimate your intended duration.

Description. In the great outdoors we’re trained to look for ticking-off features that let us know that we’re on the right path towards our destination. If we don’t see these features along the way, we need to stop to course correct, often resulting in a change to our original route plan. In marketing, we need to have an awareness of what we expect to see or experience on our journey to success. You might want to note these as metrics, which let you know whether you’re on track. Think about the milestones in your marketing plan that will alert you to course correct before it’s too late.


In reality, both marketing strategy and outdoor navigation require skill and experience to execute successfully. You can have the best book on these topics to hand and still struggle to apply the learnings. To succeed, you’ll need to practice, practice and practice some more.

It’s also natural that we’re tempted in both these fields of expertise to capitalise on new technologies to help us. However, experience tells us that the pen-and-paper (or map-and-compass) method is irreplaceable as foundational knowledge, which should be enhanced rather than replaced by the shiny new tools on the market. As most marketers and navigators will attest, it’s the blend of human skill with new technology that will prevail.

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