Market Planning

Have you ever found yourself in a store, at a till, swiping your card and walked away from any sum of your own money without knowing what you were buying? Not likely. This kind of thing happens every day in consulting houses and agencies all over the world. This is how I compare the idea of developing advertising campaigns without a solid link to your business objectives or concrete way of measuring the impact afterwards. I’m not going to sit here and beat up ad agencies, because the larger issue is that companies don’t give most agencies anything to work with.

Advertising without a plan
You need to ask yourself… Why am I communicating with the public? What is the call to action I’m trying to create? Is the value of that call to action worth more than I’m spending? What perceptions that are blocking further market progression am I trying to move?

Advertising without measurement
Here’s a couple more things you need to ask yourself… What are the most core aspects of our business model that cause people to want to do business with us? How are we doing in each of those areas? Where are the greatest gaps? How successful was our last advertising campaign in moving those core brand attributes forward?

Here are a few things to think about:

You need to establish a clear path for your advertising BEFORE you release the advertising hounds. You won’t know what this path is before you conduct enough of a study of your business environment to know how your brand performs in it’s natural habitat… the open market. Once you have implemented your campaign, you won’t really know how successful it was until you have compared the desired shifts in brand attribute perceptions against an updated measurement sample.

This is a simple sort of framework, but if you’re lacking any of these components… stop swiping your card until you have all your ducks in line.

Open Minded Planning

Plans come from the minds of individuals. The quality of your plan is largely based on the quality of input information available, but even more largely based on the kinds of “thinkers” you have in your organization. While it’s true that strategic people tend to rise to the top, this isn’t always the case.

I’d like to highlight an attribute of an effective strategic thinker … an open mind. I’m sure everyone likes to think they have an open mind, but this is likely more true for some than others. And for all of us, it’s likely more of a sliding scale depending on the topic.

One aspect of being open minded is knowing the difference between what is fact and what is opinion. Even when an open minded person is reasonably sure of a fact, they remain open to information that contradicts what they believe is true. This creates the opportunity to increase the quality of our beliefs and for alignment between perception and reality. While our brains naturally look for information to support what we believe about the world around us (hence, we remain sane) the open minded person has developed the discipline of considering new information honestly. By adopting any new belief, you automatically create blind spots to information that doesn’t support your new belief. It becomes a catch 22, but the recognition that our minds naturally do this is a big step in the right direction.

As you move into your next planning session, become aware of the mental habits your mind has developed. What kind of a shot do you give new information?

Options thinking

As you read about companies that were particularly successful in some way, do you see a common thread? I don’t see articles being written about companies that were incredibly effective in their black and white approach to business, how a power and control culture won them new markets, or how they capitalized on emerging market by leveraging their old boys club management structure.

Incredible companies are those that don’t think in terms of either/or. There are more options than what we’re currently capitalizing on. Too many companies current think like this: You win or I win. You get the raise or I do. This kind of thinking is based on the assumption that potential is fixed, based on how things currently are. This is a business approach that is completely devoid of vision. (Sure, there are realities about market-share etc… that needs to be seen in the current state – but companies need to add a layer of planning that looks out further to how things could be.)

Instead of cutting back on employee benefits to reduce costs and temporarily boost profits, what would happen if your high staff turnover rate was cut in half and employee productivity went up significantly because you were able to boost employee morale and loyalty. What would happen if you were able to partner with a competitor to create a new market and share development costs rather than fighting over old declining markets? What would happen if we started to question the assumptions behind much of our planning to consider the possibilities of how we could create something new and different based on our unique competencies and opportunities in a different way that would uniquely position us in the marketplace.

What could that do for your business?

Designing a metrics framework

I have been doing some more work with a client this week to design a set of metrics for a cooperative strategy. Obviously with a strategy like this, there are more dimensions to consider when laying out metrics than for a standard set of team measures. One has to take into consideration positioning risks and opportunities as well as what level of objective accountability you want to create. When strategies are shared across corporate lines, it often results in a much higher degree of accountability that normal for someone in a line-manager level job.

Here are some thoughts to consider when designing your strategy metrics:

Measures are used for many purposes:

• Measure the degree of success in a focus area
– Are we meeting expectations in the critical areas?
– Is the current strategy effective in creating the desired results? (a good use of resources)

• Understand the complex of dependant relationships between multiple areas of performance
– How do each of the areas we’re measuring impact each other / how are they linked?

• Positioning within an accountability structure
– Maintain objective accountability
– Strengthen support from the powers that be

Make sure they demonstrate some of the signs of a good measure:

• Expresses the desired outcome in a way that is clear
• The results are actionable: it will help you make choices
• Are linked to the long-term direction (either strategic direction at the corporate/division/team level, or through the tactics that support implementation of a corporate strategy/project)

Finally, when you’re dealing with metrics that have a high degree of visibility, you should ask yourself questions like the following:

• What tangible outcomes does the board/exec sponsor want to see demonstrated through this strategy over the coming 2-3 years?
• What kinds of outcomes can this strategy reasonably be held accountable for?
• Do the expectations for the strategy align with what can be accomplished in it’s current form / with the current resources?
• How do we want to position this strategy with the board? What messages do we want to reinforce through what we’re measuring? (example: this strategy is designed to create XX outcome in this area, aspects of your positioning that you feel need to be managed specifically)
• Within the current accountability structure are there any positioning risks that could negatively impact the success of the strategy (that we should be mindful of as we design the metrics) Example: Risk of people slipping back into thinking this is an internally focused profit strategy; lack of tangible profit could create frustration
How many measures are appropriate for the scorecard?

Once you’ve covered these initial bases, you should be in a better position to start formulating the metrics for each individual focus area of your strategy scorecard.