“If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes resolving it.” Albert Einstein.
Whether you are feeling the pressure to deliver new product features, designing new marketing campaigns, or planning new business innovation initiatives, you should spend 55 minutes defining the following five things, to set yourself and your team up for success.
1. Get really clear on the specific group/s of people whose lives are going to be impacted by your initiative
To accurately measure the success of your initiative, it is essential that you get really specific on who it is for.
You could be designing a new process for selling to new customers online, and you think this will have the biggest impact on the lives of your internal stakeholders. However you need to ask “is this going to significantly impact all my internal stakeholders?” and “is this going to significantly impact only my internal stakeholders?”.
Repeating this question with your answer will eventually take you to the most specific group/s of people who will be impacted by your initiative: for example; our accounts receivable team and our sales team, and the purchasing decision maker and accounts payable officers in our customers who do not require customisation of their products or services.
Depending on the nature of your initiative, it may also be important to define who your project will affect and who could be potential road blocks to your success.
2. Articulate how your initiative/project/campaign will help the people who it is designed for, reach their business goals faster
- Your sales team might be chasing your business goal of increasing revenue by 20%, and this initiative will help them automate new sales and free up their time for more sales, thereby increasing their revenue by 15%,
- Your finance team may be driving towards achieving your business goal of decreasing operating costs by 20%, and this initiative will help decrease the amount of time finance has to spend setting up a new customer by 50%, decreasing the cost of sales by 10%,
- You need to be able to demonstrate how your process or initiative or campaign will help your customers achieve their business goals. In the example above, it will be to help them run their business faster, and spend less time on things that don’t add value to their bottom line i.e unnecessary order processing and wait time.
3. Be rigorous with measurement and don’t be afraid to change
Based on an understanding of the audience and the business goal you are looking to achieve, you will be able to design your steps to achieving a successful outcome.
It’s important to understand the difference between lag and lead measures when formulating your plan. Lag measures are those explained above, achieving 10% reduction in sales costs, increasing sales by 15%. They provide direct business value, but can not be achieved without the combination of deliverables and actions that produce lead measures.
Lead measures are harder to quantify than lag measures. In the example above, it may be a combination of the time the project will take to complete and the amount of resource that it takes to execute, which will provide a full picture of whether the project was successful or not.
Digital marketing provides a good example of this, with “impressions”, “likes” and “shares” (that deliver little business value in isolation), driving lag measures like “form submissions” or “online sales” (which deliver business value). Lead measures outside of digital marketing are difficult (but not impossible!) to manage and monitor.
This is where experience is power. Experience means that someone will understand the whole range of tools they have at their disposal, know how to leverage each one, and when, to achieve the business goals as quickly as possible. An experienced manager will have an idea of what to expect from each activity/tool/deliverable, and will understand the value of monitoring performance of lead measures to make sure they can increase or decrease an activity depending on its impact on the overall goal.
Emerging managers can fast track this learning by ensuring they put the time and energy needed into gaining a clear understanding of the target audience, the metrics and the impact they are having on achieving the business goal, as described in the points above.
4. Acknowledge your constraints and assumptions
Before building your plan of activities, you need to identify any commonly held assumptions and outline any constraints you have to work around.
Commonly held assumptions can be easy to test if you have followed the above steps robustly. For example, you may be assuming that the purchasing decision maker and accounts payable officers in your new customers who purchase non-customised products or services, want to be able to buy online. Before you invest time and resource into developing a new process for this, it would be advisable to ask a small group of them to describe how you could improve the buying process for them, to ensure you align with their needs.
As a marketer you may assume that your product or service is useful and valuable to your chosen target audience, because you have articulated how it will help them achieve their business goals faster. Best to test this out and make sure you have the correct value proposition, and/or the correct market segment.
Constraints around resource, budget, competing priorities and time frames also have to be factored into how you will achieve your lag goal as they will help frame up the structure of your plan.
5. Formulate your plan
Based on the data, knowledge and experience you have available to you and your team, design a program of work that you think will reach your business goals the fastest.
Break down the work that needs to be done into chucks and attack it logically, where it lines up with constraints and measures.
For example if I was going to design a marketing campaign to drive new customers into the new online buying process designed above, I would ensure I had a plan around buyers in each stage of consideration of the products and services I sell i.e how I will reach and persuade non-customers that they have a problem, how I will educate those aware of their problem that my business has the solution, and then how I will motivate them to engage and eventually buy.
To deliver these outcomes, I would include activities in my toolkit including content creation and placement, calls to action and promotion of enquiry channels, and I would ensure that my lead measures would be directly related to these, for example landing page impressions, adwords traffic, social sharing, likes, shares and everything related to driving new sales of people buying straight-forward products and services online.
I would make sure I was really clear on my lag measure: the number of sales completed online each week, and I would regularly monitor the lead measures to ensure they are optimised, increasing, decreasing or changing the activities to ensure that I am delivering value to the business. My constraints would dictate how quickly and how cheaply I will be able to deliver these outcomes.
The same goes for any other piece of innovation or business project. Too often businesses and managers get caught up in the mouse trap of delivering and lose sight of creating value.
Planning doesn’t have to be painful, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or long-winded, so long as the clarity around business goals, specific audiences and their related behavioural change, assumptions, constraints and measures are taken into consideration.
If you are needing an outside perspective on any projects or investments you are about to make, and want to spend one hour ensuring you have set yourself up to succeed, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.