Bullets then Cannonballs

The famous management consultant and educator Peter Drucker used to emphasize that business has only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. As Peter said, “Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

Taken to an extreme, he’s suggesting that everyone in the business, particularly leadership, should spend 50% of the time really focused on their marketing.  A whole company marketing effort, not just the marketing department.

We look at successful marketing that supports a company’s vision as analogous to the Greek Parthenon. This ancient structure has withstood the test of time with its greatest strength coming from its still-standing columns. Think of those columns as all your marketing initiatives. You want them to be sturdy. Yet unlike the Greeks, you’re not yet sure which ones will prove successful.

Why the uncertainty? We know from behavioral science that we don’t completely know why people become attracted to our products or services and what tips them over to eventually buy.  So we try multiple methods to test and determine what approaches are most successful.

I recently read a book by Jim Collins called Great by Choice.  You may recognize Collins from his best-selling book Good to Great.  In Great by Choice, he and co-author Morten Hansen follow what they call 10Xers. These are companies that experienced 15+ years of spectacular stock market outperformance while in a turbulent and uncertain industry environment.

Not surprisingly, two areas of strength for each were innovation and marketing. Thank you, Peter Drucker.  One of the common practices – firing bullets then cannonballs.

This analogy has to do with gunpowder and money.  So think of firing off a cannonball; it will take a lot of gunpowder. Similarly, your company’s marketing cannonball is going to cost a lot of money to try to hit a target.  There’s high risk in doing that. And lots of distraction.

At this point, you have no empirical evidence to target. Instead of a cannonball, fire off a bullet.  You’ll probably miss it. That’s okay;  you learn and adjust.  You’ll fail more quickly and more often, but you’re getting closer to that target.  Once you’ve found the target, take out a cannonball and fire.  As we used to say in the military: Fire for effect.

So how did Collins’ 10 Xers do that? They kept their risk low; got the empirical information they needed and then, having committed a low amount of capital for their bullets, launched effective, broader marketing initiatives.

By effectively firing your marketing cannonball, you have all the things in place to successfully attract more customers and clients to your firm.

I think “bullets then cannonballs” is a great analogy for any new marketing project. And will work as well for innovation projects, which we will discuss in the next few videos.  Slowly target, taking smaller steps, and narrow your focus to what will be most effective.

Before signing off, I want to offer you a free copy of Great By Choice . Sign up for this blog today and we will send you a copy of Collins’ new book.

So until next time, enjoy.

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