Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

It worked for them. Will it work for me?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

During a recent meeting, I was asked about an early viral video campaign I developed way back in 2006. My client loved what we had accomplished and asked whether he should do the same thing. My answer: “Maybe, maybe not. You’re asking the wrong question.”

Marketing discussions should never start with execution. Is mobile marketing a good idea? A new TV commercial? Twitter campaign? All are useful tools if used in service of the correct objective. But there’s the rub: unless tactics are designed in service of a specific goal, a great tactic may lead you in the wrong direction. “What’s the objective?” should always be the first question of any marketing discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Street Fighting Strategy

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

[excerpt from our ebook, The 13 Deadly Sins of Marketing]

On the mean streets of marketing, where thugs lurk in every alley and aisle, your choices are few. Five strategies, that’s it. Of those, only two of those are worth pursuing. Of those, neither will succeed if they haven’t been built with a keen understanding of the competition as they will exist tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Your Innovation Sweet Spot?

Monday, January 9th, 2012

It is fashionable among innovation writers to scorn Sustaining Innovation (what this blog calls Organic Growth) – the kind of incremental product changes that allow ads to scream “New! Improved!” These writers generally applaud Apple’s ability to create new markets via Disruptive Innovation, conveniently forgetting that Apple is also masterful at Sustaining Innovation.

We have argued that the only rational innovation strategy is to balance effort behind both organic sustaining growth  and disruptive innovation. However, Clay Christensen, Harvard’s innovation theorist, points out that companies have a greater chance of success by specializing in one or the other. Specifically, he argues that Read the rest of this entry »

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Why You Need a Strategy for Innovation

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Companies that believe they must choose between organic growth and innovation will inevitably fail – it is a false choice. In a recent post, we defined organic growth and discussed what it can and cannot accomplish. Here, we continue with innovation. Sustainable success is all about balancing the two.

Innovation was last decade’s business buzzword, and for good reason. Real innovation is hard, but the potential payoff is huge. High risk, high reward.

We define innovation as the commercialization of a marketplace discontinuity. By definition, then, innovation has unpredictability built in – no one is good enough to truly disrupt with planned regularity. And that makes many managers uncomfortable Read the rest of this entry »

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Why You Need a Strategy for Organic Growth

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Some managers are lucky. They passively coast to growth inside high growth markets – the market drives their growth. Eventually they’ll fail, of course, but for now, it’s great to be them. Most managers, however, face the difficult decision of how to allocate resource between the other two available growth drivers: 1) organic growth, and 2) innovation.

Many leaders believe they must choose one or the other, that it is not possible to execute both successfully. In fact, it’s become quite fashionable to claim that only “white space strategies” – disruptive innovation – can drive growth.

We disagree.

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The 3-Dimensional Customer

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

It’s easy to talk about being customer-focused. It’s less easy to focus on specific customers. There are so many, and so many different types! Here are three customer dimensions to consider when selecting your growth strategy. It’s not a trivial exercise: wrong focus, no growth. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Art of Being Inconsistently Consistent

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Effective entrepreneurs keep their organizations focused on unchanging goals. At the same time, they cannot become married to specific plans because conditions change. While striving to balance consistent vision with adaptable plans, leaders must also ensure all stakeholders opt in. Whoever said it was easy?

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Vision: Finding Your Sweet Spot

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

If you could create your perfect career or company, where would you begin? If you had to choose, would you pick something that makes a lot of money over something you care about? How about something that you excel at?

Why choose? In fact, Jim Collins argued in Good to Great that the great companies don’t choose. They insist on having it all.

Regular readers know I am a big fan of Jim Collins. However, I have never been completely comfortable with the language he uses when discussing his Hedgehog Concept and the “sweet spot” where excellent companies take germinate and grow.

Here is how I explain it to clients. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Leaders Manage the Unforeseeable?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

[The following is excerpted from our new ebook, ROADMAPP]

Great leaders have a bias towards Action. They plot their course, set their sails, and point their helm at their destination. They strike a noble pose, appearing to all as masters of their fate.

Except that even the best sailors get blown off course with great regularity.

The Bad News: No matter how good your preparation and decision making, plans never, ever, ever go according to plan. Build your plan knowing that something else will happen.

The Good News: You can correct your course. Read the rest of this entry »

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The 4th Question that Leads to Insight

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I recently posted a discussion titled “The 3 Questions that Lead to Insight,” which triggered several discussions with colleagues. There were two areas of controversy. First, is insight different from vision, strategy and action? Second, are these 3 questions sufficient? Let me address those by saying Yes and No, respectively.

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Successful Journeys Begin at the End

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Way back in the 80s, when dinosaurs and your author roamed the earth, Stephen Covey advised us to Begin with the end in mind. Good advice then, good advice now.

Every successful journey starts with a decision about where you want to go. But destinations are not one-size-fits-all. Read the rest of this entry »

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Today’s Dumbest Business Article

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Sometimes an article is so dumb you just gotta comment. Try this from “It’s Is All About You” on Entrepreneur.com: “The best way to deal with competition is simple: Ignore it. The greatest leaders don’t care what the competition thinks.”

Gosh, I guess all those leaders I’ve admired weren’t great after all. Because most of my role models obsess over the competition.

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Planning and the Entrepreneur

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Last fall (Nov 9, 2009), there was a provocative posting in The New York Times titled “Why Don’t All Entrepreneurs Write Business Plans?” The author, Scott Shane, reviewed the literature and summarized some theories. Worth reading, but even more interesting to me were some of the comments:

  • “A business plan is never finished, so at what point while writing one do you actually begin? That has been my challenge.”
  • “[Entrepreneurs] feel their time is better spent working hard and putting in long hours to ensure the business succeeds.”
  • “Honestly the concept of a business plan confuses me, unless it is used in search of seed capital. If it isn’t, what good is a plan?”

Each of these comments reveals a misunderstanding of the basic process of business. Business is about managing continuous change. It never stops. That leaves you with two choices: floundering in a sea of chaos (reacting), or staying mindful of your goal and making regular course corrections (proacting).

The business plan is never finished? Well of course! Business is never finished. The plan is a snapshot at a point in time. It should be developed with full awareness that it will be obsolete the moment it’s finished. But by exercising the discipline of identifying the key issues and selecting the key strategies that will drive success based on today’s conditions, you will have a clear understanding of what needs to be adjusted when conditions change tomorrow.

Time better spent working hard to ensure success? I used to have a pet rat that worked real hard running in a wheel. It never got anywhere. I’ve found that managers who regularly get off the treadmill to take a long view of their business are the ones who succeed long term. And are happier. And get more done.

No specific purpose for the exercise? That’s missing the point. The purpose is to provide purpose. A good plan identifies goals and shows how all the pieces fit together. A good plan helps employees understand how their efforts contribute to the whole. Teams become stronger. The company ceases to be about the whims of the management and becomes about working together for a greater good.

Now, do companies frequently misuse business plans? Absolutely. They treat the plan as written in stone. Instead of becoming an enabler of nimble change, the plan becomes a straitjacket. Or they overwork it, take it down to the tiniest detail, forgetting that conditions change. They spend way too much time chiseling a masterpiece, then feel stuck with it.

I once worked for a mid-sized company that turned the business plan into religion. Months were spent building and collating vast spreadsheets, as if the sums of numbers based on assumptions about assumptions were Truth. Of course it was way too complex to revisit all those assumptions as the year unfolded, so there was a blind focus on the plan’s metrics and how to achieve them rather than what should be done to manage to actual conditions (always different from the original assumptions).

So yes, business planning, like any tool, can be misused. But I believe that virtually any organization can achieve superior results with a balanced planning process build around proper expectations.

As Stephen Covey says, to be effective you need to be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first. That’s what building a business plan is about. It takes you out of reactive mode, identifies the watch-outs, sets the goals, and outlines the steps.

And one more thing: today’s plan is only a plan. Expect reality to be different. Be nimble. Keep the plan simple enough that revisiting it is simple.

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Is “Niche” Really a Strategy?

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Some marketing strategists argue that there are only three strategies: go head-to-head with competitors, target a differentiable niche, or change the game. We disagree. There are really only two – at least if you want to win.

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Stumbling Towards Innovation

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Sometimes the best way forward is just to start, knowing you’re probably going in the wrong direction. Simply breaking with the status quo and getting in new kinds of trouble stimulates innovation.

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