For our marketing portfolio, stepping back to grow, is about taking a periodic look at our business with a critical eye to make tough decisions. Growth isn’t only about what you decide to do. It can be about what you decide to let go of or step away from.
Yesterday, on Whitney Johnson’s Calm Amidst the Chaos LinkedIn live the topic was the 5th step in the personal disruption framework Step Back to Grow. When explaining this step, Whitney often adds the phrases. A tiger crouches to pounce. We pull a slingshot back to shoot. A fist back to punch. We step back to focus our energy on the step forward.
Whitney shared that her daughter decided to delay going to college this year to step back and think about what path she really wants to take. Sometimes doing things like that is really hard. It means making a decision that can seem contrary to expectations that people place on you. Congrats to both Whitney and her daughter for having the relationship where her daughter has the room to make this type of decision and be supported in it.
I couldn’t help but think of No Bid decisions
In hearing this look at Step Back to Grow as making the difficult decisions to say no to things my thoughts went to thinking of a No Bid decision.
I’ve worked along side some very successful sales teams over my career, ones that achieve millions in sales quotas. I can tell you even for them No Bid is hard. Most sales teams have a process to reflect on a Bid / No Bid decision. I think very few actually make that No Bid decision. They come up with ways to justify bidding some how. I’ve seen situations where winning a tenure can risk a company’s sustainability, and yet people still launch into what can be an expensive proposal preparation. And then undertake a mad scramble to delivery when they win, sometimes losing money because the actual work is not profitable.
And retiring existing products, campaigns or channels in your marketing portfolio
Equally difficult for marketing teams is retiring an existing product, campaign, channel, or even market segment that is now underperforming. One who’s time has come. We all focus on fail fast when innovating something new. But its harder to walk away from something that has become stale when it’s old. We hang onto the previous investment and gain. If it has some traction, we stay with it. Even when it’s no longer profitable to continue.
Is there a Marie Kondo version of thanking a product for the wealth it’s brought us in the past and then just letting it go?
In all seriousness, I do think that there is a need to constantly be evaluating our decisions around how we spend our marketing and sales budgets. To treat the work that we do as an investment portfolio. A marketing portfolio. To have criteria decided ahead of time as to when we might start something new and cut something old. And at the same time, always review that decision criteria. This is strategy at it’s best.
Depending on your business needs you may want to slice this investment portfolio in a way suits you best – Product, Market, Channel. And the create a criterion ranking that fits. In tailoring a approach, here are some things to consider:
Past, Present and Future performance.
Rather than just looking at the near term, we may want to take a wider view and look at the overall trend. This can be tied into the maturity. Does the product, market or channel one with room for growth or improvement? Considering an overall trend we may rate things differently if we expect something needs time to develop, is running smoothly, or is at risk of being past it’s peak. This doesn’t mean that we through out the old and keep the new – we just might look at their performance differently – and find a way to normalize things for comparison.
Vulnerability to disruption.
Is there trends and changes underway outside of your company that are impacting, or you expect to have an impact. Is there a way you can rank the risk of a product to be upended? It might be worthwhile to also add a time frame to it. Something may be ripe for disruption, but you may decide to stay with it until the disruption occurs.
On Point. On Brand.
Is this supporting the overall business strategy? Does it align with the overall goals, culture, and direction of the company, or pull it off course? Though hard to let go of things that might be profitable today, if other changes in the company are occurring then it might sway the decisions.
Overall mix of Innovation and Sustainability.
It is useful to consider what is the right mix for our business now. A younger company may have no choice but to be all about innovation. A company that’s been in business longer can change the mix and work on introducing innovation, even at the risk of reassigning budget away from things that are working. It is interesting to decide on a rule of thumb. Much like a financial portfolio has a mix of growth, balance and income that is dependent on the owner’s propensity for risk. A business can make the same types of decisions for it’s company and consider an agreed on balance of innovation and sustainability.
For our marketing portfolio, stepping back to grow, is about taking a periodic look at our business with a critical eye to make tough decisions. Decisions that may seem to defy expectations. But are meant to slingshot us forward to better growth. Growth isn’t only about what you decide to do. It can be about what you decide to let go of or step away from.
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