There was considerable interest in marketing metrics and ROI at our two-day “Doing New with Less” marketing workshop for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association.

One question we addressed was, “When do you develop marketing metrics during strategic planning for new initiatives?”

Should you develop metrics as you start developing your strategy? Or should you develop metrics after the strategy is developed as a final (or near-final) step in strategic planning?

Our recommendation is to address marketing metrics as you start developing your strategy.



Addressing metrics as you first work on strategic planning pays multiple dividends. Doing so can:

  1. Identify gaps in the systems and processes to track the metrics you need.
  2. Suggest new strategies designed to create needed metrics.
  3. Reveal that you are not aggressive enough in your strategy to fully exploit all the opportunities to generate needed returns.
  4. Show that there is a mismatch between management expectations on the timing of business returns and when you will realize them.
  5. Uncover disconnects between your strategic direction and the metrics you currently have to track progress and success.
  6. Help you sequence developing marketing metrics to match up with the timing for implementing other marketing efforts.

If you’re in the midst of strategic planning currently, make sure marketing metrics are getting due attention early in the process before you’re plan is figured out. If not, you may miss that you are missing the marketing metrics you need while you can still do enough about it! – Mike Brown


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If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download 6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!



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Suppose you see a new opportunity in front of a live audience where there are high expectations.

Do you risk trying something you’ve never done before in front of the audience, or do you go safe and file it away to try in a more familiar venue later?

That was a question at several points during the Transportation Sales & Marketing Association Bootcamp I did this week on “Shoestring Marketing – Doing New with Less.” We covered a wide variety of Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises during the workshop and had the extra time to consider trying some new things.

A Different Test for a Strategic Thinking Exercise

To demonstrate the value of using targeted creative questions to point groups in different creative directions, each row of attendees received a different modifier to explore ideas for how to do more with social media on a limited budget. Two rows received modifiers to “narrow” ideas (simpler, more focused). One of the rows had a “broadening” word (sophisticated), and the other received a “modifying” word (extreme).

Each row had four minutes to generate ten ideas using the assigned modifier. I then asked each row to share the favorite ideas to emerge.

Sure enough, each row had a different favorite answer. More importantly, the only rows that generated the same answer as another row’s favorite were the two rows that were both working with narrowing modifiers.


While I’d never used this test previously to demonstrate why it’s valuable to provide structure to generate ideas (vs. starting with the proverbial “clean sheet of paper”), this experiment was a great validation of the point for attendees.

Issuing a New Challenge to Marketers

In one of the strategic exercises, I asked the marketers to list their companies’ five most demanding customers and prospects as typified by those who:

  • Push for new products and services
  • Have higher expectations
  • Are more complex
  • Are eager to pilot new offerings

I introduced this completely new in-workshop strategic thinking exercise as a pre-cursor to sharing a research approach to stay in front of market trends.


As I watched the audience work on their answers, however, it was clear some participants were struggling to come up with five customer names.

In the spur of the moment, I told the group I wouldn’t ask them to report who could come up with five names and who couldn’t. But I cautioned those who couldn’t come up with five names that this signaled they, as marketers, were too far away from sales. A strategic marketer should be, if nothing else, in conversations with sales management and sales people that regularly surface the names of both positive and challenging accounts.

Taking the Risks and Getting the Returns

So, in answer to the opening question, I took the risk on both of these brand new twists on strategic thinking exercises. Both paid off successfully.

The learning for the workshop attendees, and hopefully for you, is two-fold:

  • Avoid starting to generate ideas with a clean sheet of paper, absent structure and direction to help your creative thinkers
  • If you’re in marketing, stay close to sales and learn, learn, learn about customers

And the learning for us is that both of these drop-in trial balloons have a high probability of showing up in future strategic thinking workshops. – Mike Brown


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I’m recasting a variety of innovation-oriented Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises for a workshop on “Strategic Service Innovation” at the 2014 Compete Through Service Symposium at the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership. Having organized many corporate senior management education programs at ASU previously, it’s exciting to get back to the Center for Services Leadership to facilitate two Brainzooming workshops on strategic service innovation.

Among the strategic thinking exercises we’re revamping is one where companies can explore potential opportunities to identify new markets with brand new service (or product) offerings.

For a traditional, established company, the prospect of entering a new market with something less than what it would have in place to introduce a new offering in its primary markets can scuttle innovation.

The thing is, however, companies emerging with a disruptive mindset aren’t approaching markets as established companies approach them.

If you’re in an established company trying to become a disruptive strategic force in a new market, you have to figure out a way to give your brand internal permission to pursue markets where:

  1. Your brand isn’t a blip of a presence yet.
  2. You’ll be starting from scratch (or close to it) to create a brand position so you can create distance from your primary brand.
  3. You may be introducing a niche offering, so targeting a small share at a premium price is viable.
  4. You may need to spread costs differently in order to consider pursuing a low-priced, share-stealing strategy.
  5. You are creating a product/service and price point combination that isn’t comparable to any market competitor.
  6. Your strategy needs to lower certain risks so you can move dramatically more quickly compared to new entries in your primary market.
  7. Heavying up on only one part of the marketing mix and largely ignoring others is acceptable.
  8. The entry point into the industry’s current customer model may seem radically different.
  9. You’re not over-focused on looking like current players in the industry since doing so can reduce your disruptive impact.
  10. You may be a part-time player, making it unnecessary to try to serve all the market needs with a complete product offering.
  11. It’s possible to be successful against traditional competitors even with major deficits in areas that industry players think are important, but really aren’t in customers’ eyes.
  12. You can over-deliver on a very different set of benefits than traditional players.

Sound scary?

If so, that’s good.

Now give your brand permission to enter a market where some, most, or all of these permissions become realities. That’s when your brand can really shake things up and disrupt! – Mike Brown


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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.

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Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, taught me years ago about the difference between chickens and eggs when it comes to creative thinking exercises.

In the world of creative thinking, Chuck shared how you can equate a chicken with a concept and an egg with an idea.

Just as a chicken lays many eggs, exploring a concept with various creative thinking exercises yields many ideas. Based on the breadth and variety of creative thinking exercises you use, the ideas a concept produces may be radically different.

One great benefit of the chicken and egg approach is this: If you have a single idea, you can morph the idea into a concept by asking questions about what things the idea represents. And once you turn the idea into a solid concept, you can use the concept to generate a whole new set of ideas using other creative thinking exercises.


I’ve been thinking about this while updating our “Doing New with Less” material for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association boot camp this week. When we deliver one of our Brainzooming creating strategic impact workshops, there are definitely a lot more chickens than eggs.

Instead of telling participants to simply return to their companies and do what some other “best practices” company has done, as so many speakers and workshop facilitators do, we deliver strategic and creative thinking exercises linked to frequent business situations. In this way, we’re looking to maximize the value attendees gain through having real tools that will serve them for years.

Most attendees appreciate this strategy of sharing strategic and creative thinking exercises during our workshops.

A few attendees, however, simply want to be told what to do. Those attendees, although few in number, are likely to be disappointed. That’s why we always both probe on attendee expectations at a workshop’s start and set expectations about how they can use what they’ll learn in multiple ways and situations.

If you’d like your team better prepared as strategic thinkers and implementers armed with many tools to enable your organization’s success, we should be talking about how we can customize a creating strategic impact workshop for your organization soon.

We’ll bring the chickens. – Mike Brown


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Our hometown Kansas City Royals are playing in the 110th World Series against the San Francisco Giants. It is beyond surprising the Royals made it back to the World Series after a twenty-nine year absence.

I will spare you the details of the Royals making it to the World Series, because I readily admit not following the Royals closely in decades. My attention this year really only started in September.

Even so, there is a clear lesson for creating strategic impact within the management style of Kansas City Royals manager, Ned Yost.

Kansas City Royals and Tinkering Less


What’s been clear, especially during the Royals first eight straight wins in the 2014 post season is Ned Yost’s primary game plan is to get to the sixth inning with a lead, no matter how slim it is. If the Royals have the lead by that point, he goes to the bullpen and uses one nearly full-proof reliever each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.

In effect, Yost has the Royals playing a six-inning contest whenever possible so that with a lead in place, he can check out of active management for the final third of a typical game.

Because after the sixth inning, as Yost characterized it following the Royals winning game two of the World Series, “my thinking is done. I don’t have to mix and match . . . once we get past the sixth inning, my guesswork is done. We’ve got a pretty good recipe for success with Herrera, Davis, and Holland (the three relievers).”

Don’t let Yost fool you; he also has a couple of other decisions about switching his outfielders around and substituting for a slow base runner.

But all these decisions seem to be nearly as well scripted as the decision to bring in the three relievers.

Creating Strategic Impact Daily

So here’s the creating strategic impact question for you.

Are you a tinkerer who has to see your strategic thinking and fingerprints all over your team’s success?

Or are you willing to do your strategic thinking upfront, develop a high probability formula for creating strategic impact, and then implement it over and over again, no matter how routine your winning formula seems to be?

There is no right answer when it comes to creating strategic impact, but it is a challenging question for many people, I suspect.

I remember hearing Jay Conrad Levinson say in a speech once that one of the worst things marketers (who tend to be tinkerers) can do is getting bored with what they are doing and feel the need to change things just to stay interested.

Far better, Levinson advised (and Ned Yost seems to prove), to be bored out of your mind, but be in a position to implement the same winning formula over and over.

If your ultimate goal is creating strategic impact, maybe it does make sense to get there with as much routine and as little effort as possible. – Mike Brown


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If you’ve participated in our Brainzooming presentations or workshops on social media strategy, content marketing, brand strategy, or even strategic thinking, you’ve likely heard a recommendation to read “Made to Stick,” the 2007 book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath (affiliate link). The primary message of “Made to Stick” is certain ideas ARE “made to stick” through what the Heath’s characterize as a SUCCES

Applying Made to Stick to Social Media Strategy

Made-To-StickSUCCES is an acronym for six principles to help ideas resonate and stay with their intended audiences.

Slightly rearranged here, the underlying principles behind SUCCES are:

  • Stories
  • Unexpected
  • Credible
  • Concrete
  • Emotional
  • Simple

For an updated “Doing New with Less” workshop for a Transportation Marketing and Sales Association bootcamp next week, we are creating a social media module linking the SUCCES formula to social media strategy and stronger content marketing for an organization.

Here are some previous social media strategy links that support the “Made to Stick” framework:






BTW, if you are in transportation, logistics, or simply want to get a strong overview on marrying stronger creativity with smaller marketing budgets, there is still time to register for the TMSA Marketing Bootcamp in Chicago. You can get all the details and register at the TMSA website. – Mike Brown

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           (Affiliate Link) 

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Working on a creating strategic impact exercise the other day, I typed the words “Challenge” and “Change” on a Powerpoint slide.

Suddenly, it struck me that the only difference between challenge and change is the “lle” in the middle of challenge. Take the “lle” out and you get “change.” Add the “lle” to change, and you get “challenge.”

I think it was late at night (or some other time I was mentally exhausted), so I put messages out on Twitter and Facebook calling out the three-letter difference in challenge and change, commenting, “. . . Not sure what to do with that quite yet.”

By the next morning, I had several replies on Facebook and Twitter about what “lle” could represent. The most compelling answer came via Vince Tobias on Twitter, who suggested the acronym could stand for “lots of little excuses.”

What a brilliant answer, suggesting the potential for creating strategic impact and change if you can pull out all the “lle” or “lots of little excuses.”

While I took a little liberty in turning “lots of little excuses” into “lotsa little excuses,” the collaborative quote stands as a great reminder that excuses are all too convenient ways to avoid challenges and to stay stuck in the status quo with what we’ve always done.



Mike Brown


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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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