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More Than A Numbers Game: Defining Your Marketing Strategy

While financial health is essential to any successful business, the truth is that falling prey to the wrong numbers game can be one of the worst things for your marketing strategy and your business growth. Sure, it can be difficult to look past numbers and budgets — especially when discussing growth potential with C-suite executives and management teams. Here’s how to keep a focus on the numbers from standing in the way of your growth potential.

More Than A Numbers Game: Defining Your Marketing Strategy

Go with the “Goldfish Principle”

Have you ever heard that a goldfish will stay the same size in a small bowl, but when placed in a bigger pond, the same goldfish will double in size? It’s the same with your marketing plan and a company’s growth potential. If your marketing team is told that it’s there to execute a line item listed on a spreadsheet, it will perform just that function. However, if the team is given the freedom to think about the company’s potential and imagine a different type of outcome from marketing tactics, then they can bring a new type of leadership to the business.

Strategy-focused marketing requires a different type of expertise. If you want people to use their cognitive abilities to think beyond the realm of what is currently possible, you need to motivate them — and give them a bigger pond.

Ponder the possibilities

Some company executives struggle with thinking past their current state of business. They have a few large clients who pay the bills, and they assume they can always find ways to get a little more money out of those clients. But this approach puts a cap on possibility and limits growth potential.

Rather than thinking, “How can we squeeze out a little more money?” you should ask, “What’s the next step?” When companies get too comfortable, they become complacent and stagnant. That’s why your business needs to continually aspire to grow and remain relevant. There is always room for improvement.

Mitigate “Marketing Budget” mentality

When you think of marketing as a budget item, you limit the possibilities of your company. Instead, consider marketing as a vehicle to take your organization a step further. Take the time to research and consider market demands and opportunities. Often, the best marketing occurs not with the dollars you spend, but rather, with understanding the new audiences and needs for your business’s products or services.

Reconsidering ROI

The strategy of considering marketing potential changes the way we think about the return on investment of those marketing dollars. It forces us to ask, “What is the business’s growth potential?” before asking, “How much will this marketing campaign increase sales?” It causes executives to consider what it would take to double the size of the business, not what it would take to maintain current sales levels.

Level Up

Instead of asking limiting questions, like how much a new product will sell, ask questions that allow your business to level up. Start by determining how high is “up.” If you really get it right, how big could this new product, new segment, or new market be? Then, look at what would it be worth to grab that big market. This is your ceiling. You know you don’t want to spend more than the “up” number.

Next, look at your break-even number. How much do you have to sell to cover the cost of development and launching with a high, medium, or low marketing budget? The “How high is up?” number is an estimate, but the break-even number should be a fact. This is a great time to involve your CFO, who can be an invaluable team member when it comes to balancing finances and investing in your company’s potential. You can also look at investment timing and building in stage gates. By the time the next set of money needs to be spent, how much more will you know?

Nobody should run a business based on gut feeling without regard for the numbers. But numbers should not be your strategy, either. By creating a marketing strategy based on possibilities rather than pennies, your business growth won’t be confined by the cells of a spreadsheet. It’s all about looking past the goldfish bowl to the bigger pond.

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Images:  ”goldfish jumping out of the water  /

Art Saxby is the founding principal of Chief Outsiders, the largest executive level consulting firm that helps the CEOs of mid-size companies implement their visions of growth. His career started out in the defense industry moving into the corporate planning and strategy and then marketing at Frito-Lay. He then later continued his executive marketing development at Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, and Compaq Computers.

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  • Welcome to Tweak Your Biz Art and I love your first post, especially the “Goldfish Principle” – it’s so true. You have shared some great tips that make a lot of sense and I’m sure people don’t think this way that often – which is what is holding them back. I’m really looking forward to your next post.

  • Atul V. Minocha

    Very thoughtful advice. Too much focus on “the budget” also creates a perverse incentive due to “use it or lose it” aspect prevalent in many budgeting cycles.

  • Tom McCrary

    Marketing as an investment instead of a cost – thinking that will help you get to a bigger fishbowl…

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