I have a guilty pleasure for reading horoscopes and following the zodiac (don’t judge.) I always read the Chinese Zodiac at the top of the year to see what’s in store. When I read the 2020 outlook for the Year of the Rat, it resonated big time because it’s all about:

    •       Being restless, inquisitive and clever
    •       Minds that are constantly on the go
    •       Being curious and innovative
    •       Taking an opportunist outlook
    •       Valuing space and flexibility to create new potential 

 “Creating new potential is only possible when you know where you want to go.” 

In the absence of a clear vision, everything has potential, which means nothing is actually in focus. Our clients typically have a vision but sometimes that vision has shifted as the market changes and the company needs to respond. Other times that vision needs to be articulated and amplified as its been rumbling around in a founder’s head or scribbled on a paper napkin. A vision is just an idea unless it is 1) written down 2) communicated with everyone responsible for making it a reality 3) aligned to a strategic plan that makes it happen.

In our daily work with our clients here at Growth Street, we identify trends and patterns and apply our expertise to close the gaps that hold back growth. As you zoom-in on 2020, start by answering these three questions (be honest!):

  1.   Do you have a detailed business plan for 2020? 
  2.   Do you have a detailed marketing plan for 2020?
  3.   Do you have organizational alignment around the goals, objectives and KPIs that will measure success?

If the answer to all three is YES, nice work! A+ for effort. I still recommend you skim the blindspots below. #alwaysbelearning #alwaysroomforimprovement

If the answer to any is NO or SORT OF, I strongly recommend you keep reading. As you learn about the 5 blindspots, write some notes about how you can take each back to your team and create an aligned, executable 2020 vision plan.

#1: ALIGNMENT

The number one reason companies fail to reach their goals is lack of alignment, which presents itself in lots of different ways, such as:

  • Misalignment between the customer and the brand
  • Misalignment between sales & marketing
  • Misalignment between the brand and the market
  • Misalignment between the executive team and the organization
  • Misalignment between the organization and how success is measured

The result?

  • Customers don’t understand the company’s value
  • The brand is not resonating in the market
  • Marketing is not generating enough qualified leads
  • Sales is not meeting their numbers
  • Competition is eating your lunch
  • Executives don’t understand the customer’s needs and desires
  • Teams are not resourced or organized to succeed
  • And the list goes on. 

The #1 way to get aligned is to start at the top. Executives must be aligned with a clear strategy and detailed plan that defines the who, why, what and how, along with clear goals and KPIs. This plan must be shared with the organization (often in pared down forms), so that the organization can “roll-up” to successfully meeting the 2020 goals.

#2: DIFFERENTIATION

Does your brand have clear whitespace you can own to differentiate and stand out?

If not, you’re flushing time, money and resources down the drain. Take the time to SWOT your market, chart your competitors, understand where they have the potential to take you down and get ahead of it with new thinking and ideas. Review your brand position against your competitors and make sure it clearly stands apart. We recently completed a brand strategy engagement for a client and through our SWOT analysis we found that 5 out of 7 of their key competitors were saying the exact same thing – almost word for word. No bueno. Customers don’t have the time or energy to try to figure out why you are better or different. Spoon feed it to them.

#3: PRIORITIZATION

All of our clients are growing fast. Whether they’re a seed stage business trying to raise an A round or a $24B company trying to get to $50B, they want to grow. When we come in and see their list of priorities and goals for the year, it’s usually overwhelming and unrealistic. Their teams are running ragged trying to keep up and move too many initiatives down the field at the same time. Are you master of some or master of none? Master of some means you have 3-5 strategic goals (or less!) that drive the business. Each team has a small number of goals that roll-up and there is laser focus on the big bets and big wins that should make up 80-90% of focus.

Clear the decks on distractions. Prioritize the rocks – the big milestones –  and move the gravel to a bucket on the side. Decide what matters most and create a wait list for the other ideas and experiments that should not/cannot take up valuable time and resources. Exercise control over what moves forward and what waits.

#4: FLEXIBLE CONSISTENCY

One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is “goal jumping.” It happens when a campaign, product or initiative is launched and abandoned quickly because it’s “not working.” I worked for a CEO who was notorious for goal jumping. As soon as a campaign launched, he would give it a few days and want to pull the plug. That’s not how building businesses and brands works. Your strategy must have “flexible consistency.” What this means is that, instead of goal jumping, you give things time in the market, you flex and measure results. Customers need to hear things 10x on average before it begins to resonate. Abandoning ship too fast is costly – it’s disheartening for the team and requires ginning up new ideas fast. It could also mean giving up on something that could have worked. At the same time, you need to be flexible and know when to tweak the campaign or refine the messaging. Marketing is the art and science of test, learn, optimize. Time-box and set clear metrics to help you make the best decisions to support the strategy.

#5: MEASUREMENT

We work with lots of smart people. When the creative juices are flowing, it’s easy to act on impulse. One of our clients is a B2B technology company that is spending upwards of a million dollars a year on conferences and trade shows. When I asked about the return on the investment, I received blank stares. How many leads do you capture at each show? Are they qualified leads that actually result in sales? How many partnership opportunities do we cultivate? Do they actually turn into revenue-generating relationships? In the words of Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Everything is measurable. Even if you don’t meet the goal or get the metric right the first time, write it down and try it. Every business plan and marketing plan should have clear goals and KPIs. All tactics (campaigns, channels, etc.) should roll-up to those metrics.

Measurement is an evolution of sound hypotheses, data collection and smart analysis. Here’s to a prosperous and growth-filled 2020!

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