Four Tough Pills to Swallow for Growth

You hired a strategic consultant to help make some much-needed changes in your company. Now, it is time to get the ball rolling.

While your head might be ready to make those adjustments, your heart might be throwing a bit of a tantrum. Constructive criticism can be difficult to digest when you feel protective of the teams and systems you have worked so hard to put in place. Even if the recommended changes are completely rational, some might surprise you while others insult you.

But after the initial sting, you will soon realize that being open to criticism makes you a stronger leader. Deep down, you know that you hired a consultant because your business is not reaching its full potential. In order to implement the changes that will encourage your business to grow and thrive, you need to open yourself up, listen, and really take part in tough conversations.

Find the Silver Lining

Let us take a look at some of the toughest pills that a strategic consultant might prescribe you and consider why (and how) you should swallow them with a smile.

  1. “You need to revamp your team.”
    Criticisms about your team can be the hardest ones to accept. You might love the members of your team like family. They have stuck with you through good times and bad and have helped you build your company from the ground up.

    But in many cases, personal attachments to team members can blind leaders from seeing the dysfunctions that are actually holding the company in a rut.

    It is important to look clearly at the skills and experience of your team members. Ask yourself, “Who do I need today to take my company to the next level?” Goodbyes are always hard, but it is better to say them now than after your business has collapsed.

  2. “You need to pivot your product strategy.”
    Many leaders founded their companies based on a great idea. Subsequently, they are so married to this idea that they avoid revising their product strategy when necessary.

    The saddest thing I have witnessed is when founders realize this strategy problem too late. For example, we once had a client come to us with Google-sized aspirations, but the company had been hemorrhaging cash for the past several quarters. Unfortunately, it was far too late to make the crucial changes in the product strategy.

    To avoid this dreadful situation, do not delay. Instead, complete the tough work now to ensure your business model is healthy.

  3. “You need to focus.”
    Many entrepreneurs have so many ideas on the drawing board that they struggle to properly execute any of them. The ideas might be phenomenal, but without focus, they will never graduate from the brainstorming stage into a living product. The office will forever be a maze of half-finished plans and good intentions — and frustrations for everyone.

    If your strategic consultant comes to you with this criticism, do not start backpedaling with excuses. Instead, go against your natural instincts and thank them.

    While being told to focus might make you initially feel constrained and less entrepreneurial, that discomfort will soon ease once you see what a little focus does to your chosen idea. Move forward by pinning down what this focus looks like for your company, and then keep tabs on new ideas and ventures so they do not go astray.

  4. “You need more structure.”
    Sometimes, observing how a company operates is like watching kids play soccer. Everyone is running for the ball, and no one is executing against a clearly defined role. The result is a messy game in which goals are random and someone is bound to get hurt.

    A lack of structure in a company can be just as damaging as a bad idea. When departments are not communicating or collaborating, everyone moves forward without a clear purpose.

    If this is the problem your team faces, there are many ways you can start bringing structure into your operations. From regular conversations between teammates to clear, shared documentation, adding structure helps team members stay accountable by giving them distinctly defined roles, priorities, and goals.

Know in your head — and heart — why you are inviting a strategic consultant into your company, and understand what your goals are for the process. If you really want to push your company to new heights, you need to be willing to embrace and find value in these tough conversations.

Categories Digital, Operations, StrategyTags , , , , , , ,

Growth Hacking: The Balance of Art and Science in Marketing

The science of marketing can be intimidating, especially for the many marketing leaders who come from creative backgrounds. Instead of crunching numbers and relying on data, many prefer to focus on their own gut feelings, opinions, and intuition. This is the traditional “art” of marketing, and though it is still important and relevant, it is not the only side of marketing that matters.

If you only embrace the art of marketing, you can still end up with beautiful marketing assets and collateral — but these materials will not necessarily speak to your target audience. For example, TBGA once worked with a client that had been sharing a story that its audience was not interested in hearing. But after we interviewed industry analysts and conducted market research, the resulting data helped the client realize it needed to restructure its narrative. Once it did, the brand doubled its pipeline.

Introducing Growth Hacking

As data collection and tracking methods grow, the marketing world has shifted from a qualitative to a quantitative focus. Marketers are increasingly using data analysis, systematic observation, testing, and measurement to better understand their customers, prospects, and influencers. They are studying broad behavioral patterns and using these actionable insights to create campaigns that improve business outcomes. Here are some strategies that your team should use to get you on the right track:

  1. Using the Scientific Method
    The rise of big data has turned marketing into a science. Similar to the likes of Newton and Einstein, brands are hypothesizing, testing, and refining experiments based on data. They are also beginning to embrace ideas from other scientific disciplines such as psychology, sociology, neuroscience, economics, and computer science. This marketing discipline is what some call growth hacking.
  2. Balance Creativity With Hard Facts
    A key to embracing the science of marketing involves overcoming a psychological quirk called confirmation bias. Many leaders will opt to focus on specific metrics that tell them they are on the right track, ignoring any data that tells them otherwise. The beauty of data, however, is that it is inherently objective and unbiased. Gravitating toward flattering metrics completely defeats the purpose.
  3. Rely on the Right Data
    Today, data analysis should play a vital role in every brand’s creative strategy, and it should also help brands craft their quarterly goals. It should fuel every campaign you create and every milestone you set.

    Some leaders fail to question whether they are using the right data, whether there are other factors to consider that are not represented within the data, and how much weight they should be giving the insights they glean from the data — and this can cause problems, too. If you do not ask the right questions (or if you fail to ask any questions at all), your marketing programs may not provide your desired results, and you will not be able to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.

If the thought of embracing the science of marketing seems daunting, TBGA is here to help smooth out the process. We are a team of data-driven marketers who come from a variety of backgrounds. We have a proven track record of helping brands establish key metrics, test hypotheses, analyze data, ask essential questions, and, at the end of the day, tell a story that moves the needle.

We can help you do the same. Ready to get started? Contact us today for a one-hour consultation!

Categories Marketing, Operations, StrategyTags , , ,

Weekly Roundup: Joining a Startup, Staying Lean, Thought Leadership and more!

As you know, we share two of our favorite articles and blog posts each day. For those of you who do not have time to read each of them, we have compiled the top 5 articles that have been shared the most:

  1. Small, Young, Cash Strapped and Lean? Good.  http://ow.ly/2ZlZsb via Brady Josephson of Huffington Post
  2. How To Create A Thought Leadership Strategy That Supports True Innovation http://ow.ly/2Z716T via SAP
  3. 5 Things Every Startup Should Know About Hiring http://ow.ly/2ZlZs9 via Carlo Cisco of Tech.co
  4. Why I Left a Big Tech Company for a Small Startup http://ow.ly/2Z717j via Adrienne Wiessman
  5. Building a Culture that Ensures Your Company’s Success http://ow.ly/NJTrV via Trailblaze Growth Advisors

What was your favorite?

Categories Marketing, OperationsTags , ,

Weekly Roundup: Unicorns, False Assumptions, New EU Tax Rules and more!

As you know, we share two of our favorite articles and blog posts each day.  For those of you who do not have time to read each of them, we have compiled the top 5 articles that have been shared the most:

  1. Why False Assumptions and Wrong Metrics Can Kill Your Marketing Success  via Susanna Gebauer
  2. The 3 Competitive Defenses of Enduring SaaS Companies  via Tomasz Tunguz at Redpoint
  3. The Most Important Advice I Could Give You About Unicorns http://ow.ly/2YLPTO via Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures
  4. How Will the EU’s New Value Added Tax (VAT) Rules Impact US Based Businesses? http://ow.ly/2YLPTv via Ed Leiber and Small Business Trends
  5. Simple Market Research for Your Business Plan   via Trailblaze Growth Advisors

What was your favorite?

Categories MarketingTags , , , , , ,

The Science Behind Creativity?

Steve Jobs is widely regarded as one of the most creative business owners in American history. Not only was he one of the “founding fathers” of the personal computer era, but he was able to take a struggling company – Apple – and set it on a trajectory to become the company with the highest valuation in the world (as of March 31, 2014).

In 1982, Jobs won the Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington D.C. During that speech, Jobs discussed his theory on creativity, which essentially boiled down to emphasizing the importance of unique and wide-ranging experiences. Few dispute the validity and value of that lesson; however, many have sought out a more concrete way to understand creativity – both where it comes from, and how we can generate it more reliably.

Recently, an article from the Columbia Business School addressed the very question of whether scientific principles can be applied to creativity. Can science, in fact, be at the foundation of creativity?

In the article, the author indirectly expands on the ideas that Jobs shared more than three decades earlier. However, instead of simply relying on personal experiences, the act of reading and learning from the experiences of others can be used to generate creative ideas. Creative ideas don’t simply come “out of the blue,” the author states. Instead, they are built on the great ideas that came before them. This principle is self-evident from the very fact that this author was likely influenced – whether directly or indirectly – by the speech Jobs gave in 1982, and the creative business philosophy Jobs engaged in during his life.

The article also discusses a study conducted by Professor Oded Netzer, who was able to uncover a “schematic link between the various components of an idea and its perceived creativity.” In the study, which was fairly involved (and can be read about in greater detail by clicking here), Netzer was able to make several conclusions.

  • Ideas tend to fall on a spectrum of either “familiar” or “novel.” Where they fall on this spectrum is determined largely by the individual components – either familiar or novel – of which the idea is made up.
  • There needs to be an equilibrium between novel and familiar concepts in order to make an idea appropriately “creative.” If ideas were too familiar, a separate novel concept could be used to make the idea innovative. If an idea was too novel, then familiar concepts could be found that would make the idea more palatable to the average user.

Leverage this Research to Improve Products and Marketing Strategy

The results of Netzer’s study are obviously on the cutting edge, and it will probably take some time before the ideas truly take hold in the mainstream. Nevertheless, there are a number of lessons from the study that marketers can use in their own efforts.

Most importantly, marketers who want to be innovative and creative must have a strong sense of balance between novel and familiar ideas. Too much in either direction will lead to suboptimal effectiveness.

Beyond that, everyone (marketer or otherwise) can learn from the inherent truth found in the study — namely, that many things in life (marketing and business included) require a level of “harmony and balance” if they are to be successful. While this might seem a bit too philosophical for some, those who are able to internalize these ideas will be combining the best parts of science, business, and innovation into their own lives.

Categories Branding, Marketing, Operations, StrategyTags , , , , , ,