Strategy: What is the Big Picture?

hand with compass looking below at mountains

Strategy: What is the Big Picture?

Taking a review of your marketing strategy.


All good strategies apply Strengths to maximise Opportunities.

Before we start preparing a marketing plan, we need to take an overview and look at the big picture.

This is especially the case if you are starting out, or new in a role, or have joined a business where the marketing or sales targets are not being met.

There’s a chance that the problem isn’t that the marketing doesn’t work, the problem could be with the strategy. By that, I don’t mean the marketing strategy, but the organisation’s strategy.

From time-to-time every organisation needs to reflect and take a bird’s eye view to make sure they have the right map.

Let’s take stock, take a breath, and look at the big picture and do some ‘macroeconomic research’.

Looking Outside


Research your Market

First up, we need to get an accurate picture of our industry and market. To do this, let’s do some desk research. IBISWorld is a repository of market research.

IBIS uses Porter’s Five Forces as its framework.

This was developed by Michael E. Porter in 1973 and is a useful way to get a big picture of an industry.

Threat of new entrants.

  • How easy is it to enter your industry and start competing?
  • For example, is government regulation a barrier? Are technology and capital required?

The Buying Power of Customers.

  • What are the major market segments?
  • What determines demand?

The Power of Suppliers.

  • Do suppliers wield a lot of power, or it is buyers?
  • Are there issues along the supply chain?

For example: South Korea produces half the world’s chips for everything from smartphones to cars. South Korea had a diplomatic falling out with Japan who has been the supplier of the necessary chemicals to manufacture the chips.

Threat of Substitutes.

  • How easy is it to substitute one service for another?
  • Self-service is also a substitute.

Industry Competitors.

  • Who are the main players?
  • How is the landscape carved up?
  • Is there a monopoly, duopoly, a whole lot of bit players?
  • Is it a red ocean?

Other places you can look at macro research are:


These will differ in whatever country you are in, but you get the gist.

If you have money to spend and what a detailed picture: has forecasts and detailed data for a fee.

Qualtrics is also a professional consultancy used by bigger organisations for a fee.

IBISWorld Research

I like IBIS because it’s an international trove of information with country-specific national data.

So let’s start by looking at IBIS. If you are a member of an educational institution or have access to IBIS’s full reports, go ahead and have a good read through yours. If you can’t access a paid subscription, there is still quality free overviews worth checking out.

Go to and look up your industry.

Read through these and in the table below, extract only the KEY learnings you can take from this. Remember it is not about having lots and lots of information. It is about having just the key information from which you can draw intelligence.

Fill in the key data for your Industry.

industry tableSWOT Confusion

A lot of people will tell you that to do strategy, you start with a SWOT analysis. That’s a chart of your organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

But they usually don’t know how to do a SWOT correctly. You can’t do a SWOT before you do the research. SWOT is a very powerful tool but only when used correctly and, in my humble opinion, with some modification.

We’re not ready for SWOT yet. I’m going to be a pest and suggest something else.


You have probably heard of PEST or PESTLE. This little template helps us look at the big picture in an analytical fashion. Its key purpose is to identify opportunities and threats. See where I’m going?

Traditionally, PEST has been represented as a simple four square matrix like below. A business owner or manager would list the handful of factors that are occurring presently, and likely to occur in the near future, that will impact your industry.

pest matrix

As well as our observations, I like to push it a step further and succinctly describe the Implications of each.

This allows us to start thinking strategically.

Your PEST With Implications

As you can see, we simply add a column next to each category where we can think about the implications of these trends. 

Here is an example for Physiotherapy. The upshot of doing this is that we reveal the opportunities on their way.

pest with implications

To guide you through what to write, ask yourself these questions.


  • What are the governing body and critical legislation for your industry?
  • Are you in a domestic or international marketplace?
  • Are there any government or trade restrictions or protections in place or on the horizon?


  • How competitive is the industry? Are there barriers to entry or is it easy for new players to start competing?
  • What impact if any is the current economic climate having on the industry?


  • What trends are emerging for consumers?
  • Are there environmental or ethical considerations?
  • How is our client-base changing? (e.g. aging, more health-conscious?)
  • Are there any new demands or expectations?
  • How are lifestyles affecting the industry? How are our clients behaving? What is important to them?


  • Have there been any disruptive technologies to affect the industry (e.g. VoIP phones disrupted landline telephony, digital cameras disrupted film manufacturing)
  • Are there any foreseeable advances on the horizon? (e.g personalisation, customisation?)
  • How is the use of technology being adopted by clients / customers?
  • What effects is the Internet having on the industry?

man standing on rock outcrop looking at nearby hills 



You can probably brainstorm 10 items for each square, but we want the few that are the most significant. This is not a numbers game. We want to cut the list back.

After you have filled in the template, from each list, select the two or three most significant factors your business must address.

There you have it. Using all your reading and knowledge you have about your industry, and these two tables, you can start to form a view of where things are going.

Next, we need to look at who else is in the game.

You may also be interested in How to Unlock your Big Picture Strategy: A step by step guide for services