Strategic Planning | The Brainzooming Group - Part 31 – page 31
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Maybe I’m too much of an event planning strategist at heart, but I ALWAYS want a Plan B. Even if things almost always go as planned, creating an alternative strategic plan protects you beyond when your business strategy doesn’t work correctly. The strategic issues you think through when creating Plan B often lead to innovations which make Plan A so much stronger.

This strategy was top of mind last week after seeing Doug Merrill, former CIO of Google speak at the Thinking Bigger Speaker Series sponsored by Kelly Scanlon’s KC Small Business.

During his basic and brief presentation, Merrill talked about the micro and macro advantages of storing your data in the cloud and the downside of traditional methods of storing and printing data. He underscored the strategic advantage of using Google applications to provide universal accessibility and searchability for your data.

Great idea, and when Google has a stock price well over $500, it’s SO benevolent, and it does funny April Fool’s Day stuff (such as calling itself “Topeka” in appreciation of Topeka, KS renaming itself Google), the strategy of storing everything with Google is a viable, innovative Plan A.

Suppose though some future cataclysm befalls Google. Wouldn’t it be a smart innovative strategy to have a Plan B to protect yourself?

And think about this: Is the Google Plan B business strategy to position itself as “Too Critical to Fail” as self-protection against who knows what bizarre future financial meltdown or data terrorism strike that may happen?

I’m not saying; I’m just wondering and thinking about my own Plan B’s. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Did you notice the incredible full moon last week? Especially at its rising and setting, the moon, at least as seen from here in Kansas City, loomed very large and clear.

Its magnificent size, however, is an optical illusion. It’s caused by our human inability to visually process the moon’s size accurately relative to its distance from us. Against objects in the foreground we see the moon as much larger than when it’s over head. Cut out the distraction of the foreground with our hands, and the moon appears no bigger than when it’s high above us.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to large objects in the sky with us humans. It’s frequently applicable to how we view life’s challenges. As potentially major issues appear on the horizons of our lives, we see them relative to near term pressures and concerns in the foreground. In this position, problems can seem unbelievably large and clear, even when they are in reality much smaller.

When you’re facing a situation such as this, strategic thinking approaches can help eliminate the foreground issues of our lives. A strategic perspective places us in a much better position to view potential challenges realistically and with a creative problem solving strategy. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I used to ask weekly on Twitter what strategic or innovation topics people would like to see addressed in Brainzooming articles. One request from back then was to write about how not to over think business strategy. Having been in a business where it seemed you’d hear “don’t over think it” five times a day, the topic hit a little too close to home, and I didn’t ever do a post on it.

Time's Running OUtNow, with a little distance, I offer some strategic thinking questions to ask your team when you need to quickly move into convergent thinking mode during business planning:

  • Does this issue really matter for our business opportunity? Will it materially change any important business results?
  • What if we could only implement one innovative strategy in this situation? What would it be?
  • If we had only 25% of the time (or resources), would we concentrate our efforts on this business opportunity?
  • Without any additional information, what does our experience suggest as the most successful potential business option?
  • If we had to halt our business planning and make a decision in the next five minutes, what would it be?

Couple any of these strategic questions with a fixed amount of time for dialogue (i.e., “We’ll talk about this for 10 minutes) and a required decision (i.e., “When time’s up, you have to briefly state what business decision you’d recommend or the course of action you’d take right now).

You may not get the most rigorously vetted, innovative ideas, but using a strategic thinking exercise and a limited amount of discussion time will help quickly catalyze your strategy decision so you can move to implementation. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Raise your hand if you’re trying to hit plan with fewer marketing resources than you had last year or the year before. Okay, that looks like just about everybody; put your hands down.

Knowing what specific strategy works may be difficult to determine, but here are 12 strategies you should consider when facing limited marketing dollars and people:

  • Don’t make across the board cuts – it’s easy to do the math, but it leads to crappy results. Go all in on high potential, innovative strategies and cut others out completely.
  • Stop doing things that don’t add value for customers. Ask them what they don’t use or need, and especially find out what you do they’re not even aware of. All candidates for elimination.
  • Don’t eliminate your thinking time. It’s easy (and stupid) to think you can stop strategic thinking as a way to save time and get on with implementation. With fewer resources, you’ll need planning to make sure you get things right the first time. It’s painful and costly to fix screw-ups once you discover them in-market.
  • Set your goals higher to force radically re-considering how you deliver for customers.  It seems contradictory, but stiffer goals will push you to explore what really matters and what you’re willing to sacrifice today for potential success tomorrow.
  • Figure out who else in your organization has appropriate talents & might want to help grow the business.  A lot of times people are looking for new ways to contribute, grow, and develop strategically when there aren’t dollars for training.
  • Build on strategies you already have in place. Don’t needlessly create new messaging with no built-in awareness. Even something generally on strategy may work harder for you than the perfect strategy which requires starting from scratch in getting customers to understand it.
  • Beyond using what you already have in place, see if strategies that have worked previously might be right to pull out again. Chances are if a strategy resonated before, some part of your audience will remember it, making the sell-in easier.
  • Also test some innovative concepts you explored before but never used. Is now the time to try them out in a new market situation?
  • As you plan your marketing strategy, make sure everything you do is designed to create multiple impacts. You have to get more from what you do if you’re going to be successful. It’s too expensive to pursue strategies which will work in only one-off market situations.
  • Make sure you’re taking advantage of every customer contact to test, learn, and/or adjust your marketing mix. You may not have dollars for formal research, so you need to learn as much as you can every day, even if the learning methods are non-traditional. Adjust and learn what you can.
  • Stretch your team in new ways to make them stronger performers and better leaders. Muscles get stronger when you challenge them repeatedly. Same with people and teams.
  • Strengthening muscles also need time to recover if they’re going to get bigger. Same with people and teams. Make time to celebrate great contributions and the wins you deliver to help sustain and motivate your team.

Those are my twelve. What would you add to the list? – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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At the invitation of Brainzooming email subscriber Terry Kincheloe, I attended the second 2010 meeting of KairosAnalytics, a Kansas City-based web analytics strategy forum last Thursday. Tony Fortner, Consumer Experience Strategist at Sprint, presented on “Social Engagement Strategy.”

In the course of laying out his perspective, Tony covered culture, values, economic theory, World of Warcraft, strategy creation, the challenges of measuring social community business impacts, plus a few anecdotes on the internal politics at Sprint. Needless to say, it was an evening full of stimulating strategy ideas!

Rather than trying to play back notes from all of Tony’s presentation, here are a few takeaways:

  • So much of creating a vibrant online community strategy goes back to culture, values, and much of what we were taught as children: decency, helping one another, the golden rule, keeping your “hands clean”, loyalty, trust, etc.
  • Tony commented about feeling ethically bound to “say something” when a decision was being considered which would harm a customer. This creates a clear distinction for me. I’d place the emphasis on being bound to protect customers by actually stopping a harmful action. “Saying something” can be a self-serving exercise (esp. when you walk away in frustration), when what’s really needed is creating a positive result from the discussion.
  • For many (most?) companies, embracing the idea of a real community goes beyond innovation and is a radical strategy. If you’re trying to introduce a new, visionary strategy such as this inside a company, be sure to match up with someone who excels at the steps it will take to make it happen. And if implementation is your strong suit, go out of your way to align with someone who can communicate the strong vision necessary for the organization to make strategic changes necessary to be successful with a community.
  • Despite all the discussion on best practices, real learnings often come from the ends of the spectrum, not the middle. To understand where things are headed, look toward the people and companies pushing the limits.
  • Not every brand is going to win with a social community strategy. Some pre-existing business models simply aren’t going to fit with the innovation imperatives a community-based strategy implies. It’s clear some businesses are going to lose because of social networking-driven strategic change.

It was a great session. In July, I’m speaking to KAIROS on what could ostensibly be seen as the same topic Tony addressed – social media and strategy. Because there are so many ways to address the topic, it was reassuring to see our angles will be complementary, but different enough to have new things to say. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Ranking among opportunities can be tricky during strategy and innovation planning. Rigorous metrics may take too long to gather. A simple A/B/C or 1/2/3 ranking strategy, though, ignores underlying assumptions about how beneficial or costly an option may be. Absent some kind of description, your “1” ranking may be very different than someone else’s “1” ranking.

This video clip from the “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation” presentation discusses a beneficial ranking strategy which includes giving descriptions to each ranking point. Using this prioritization strategy, participants are forced to pick a descriptive ranking for each opportunity. This important step stimulates strategic discussion since each person has to weigh in with a choice others are able to interpret. It sets the stage for a clear opportunity to agree or disagree and use strategic discussion to move toward a stronger overall prioritization decision. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Someone on the team side in NASCAR racing had asked me what business people look for in racing sponsorship proposals. The list below highlights characteristics that would set a sponsorship pitch apart as warranting attention beyond its move to the physical or virtual recycle bin:

  • You MUST GET THIS! You have a brand, just as a potential sponsor does. Be ready to explain how the brands fit with one another. You want your brand and the sponsor’s brand to enter an extended relationship. For the relationship’s success, your brand must be supportive and complementary to the sponsor’s brand. Clearly show you’ve thought about a strategy and share what you do to actively manage your brand to maximize audience awareness and ensure a strong reputation.
  • Do homework on the potential sponsor and its BUSINESS objectives. Don’t start with sports talk. Show right away you’ve made an effort to understand what’s important in the sponsor’s business. Connect the assets you have to how the sponsor can create more happy customers, revenue, and profits from doing business with you.
  • Focus on what the sponsor’s trying to achieve in its primary business activities and how the sponsorship contributes – not the other way around. I’ve actually had drivers start with how important a sponsorship is…in helping them achieve their racing ambitions. Frankly, the sponsorship pitch isn’t about making your dreams come true. Enough said.
  • Talk about how your sponsorship assets can help attract attention. Pretty pictures of sponsorship assets (i.e., racing cars) are in everybody’s presentation. What’s rarely seen is a creative treatment of how these assets can be strategically and innovatively used to grow revenue and profit for the sponsor. Don’t simply say how many tickets are available. Share the innovative ways you’ve considered to maximize the value and reach of those tickets.
  • Your audience may not be fans – but they do want to know what you can do to make their fans feel special. It’s dangerous to assume a potential sponsor is a fan of your sponsorship category. Certainly though, they’re big fans of their own businesses, brands, and customers.  Focus your appeal on how you can make the sponsor’s fans feel special with insider and exclusive experiences.
  • Demonstrate you’re legitimately metrics-driven. While this includes background on your sponsorship performance, it’s really important to show how many of your target sponsor’s customers you can reach along with numbers on how effective other sponsors who’ve partnered with you have been at growing their businesses. Provide real ROI metrics, or at least important components in the ROI equation.

There you have it from my perspective. In reality, the specifics work for preparing other sports, entertainment, or charitable sponsorships. The list can also help marketers determine whether a sponsorship proposal is worth considering for a next step. So how about it marketers – what else would you add to the list of requirements you have for groups seeking sponsorships?

If you’re pitching sponsorships, adopt these principles, and you may have a shot at a second phone call. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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