Weekly INsight: Focus First

Ever since we were little lads and lassies, we have always been told to focus because there’s always an end-goal we are striving to attain. This is true in life and business. Focus first is a significant challenge for marketing teams, because in the age of modern-day marketing, there are too many options. In the direct marketing ecosystem, we ask for data – lots of data so we can focus. Unfortunately, that does not lead us to the end-goal because too often, the business does not have the right data and the team loses focus.

You have seen company objectives, like grow revenues to reach $10 million by 2020. Do it by adding six new accounts that each generate $200,000 annually. The six new accounts will be in the silos of beauty, automotive, agriculture and telecommunications. Now, it’s up to the sales and marketing teams to figure out the magic formulas to achieve the $10 million goal.

Our first reaction is that we need a strategy. INsight #1 teaches us that before there can be a strategy, there has to be focus. Focus is the big-bang that ignites the marketing process. This INsight suggests that INNOVATION should be the first focus. Where should we focus first? As a strategist, I suggest that marketing teams need to focus on their broad market ecosystem first.

INsight #2 suggests that it’s the ecosystem that opens the door for innovation. Innovation is not just new products and services, but new ways of thinking to inspire brand growth. The first focus is to recognize that innovation is not a straight line and is in a continuous state of disruption and interruptions. Let’s explore this.

As we focus on the market ecosystem, the next step is to SEARCH. Focus alone is not enough. Marketing needs to peel the layers of the ecosystem back and identify its key driving forces. Consider the social changes that are swirling around every brand.

When politicians don’t act, brands and retailers do, and they are doing it in the name of public good, believing that, as good corporate citizens, they will attract more customers. Consider the role CVS played when it removed all tobacco products from its stores. CVS bucked tradition, removing “chemicals of concern” from its shelves, as well as unhealthy classes of foods, and it has thrived. The role of guns in our society is another national debate. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Patagonia and Delta Air Lines are shining examples of the shift in corporate accountability to consumers and stakeholders regarding gun issues.

Robert Safian, “Fast Company” editor, writes, “Doing good work for the planet creates new markets and makes companies more money.” Perhaps, the search for innovation is closer than most marketers believe. INsight #3 suggests that innovation is just as much seeing the forest through the trees as it is creating new products. Marketing does not have to continue to scan the market horizon for the next innovation. That’s because innovations are being born from the disruptions happening every day.

Beyond social forces, search for the pattern shifts in the political, economic and technical arenas. Each of these external forces impact consumer behavior, attitudes and buying patterns. The future is being created now. A high-level vice president at Daimler Benz said, “At the board level, there is no talk about combustible engines anymore.” Jim Hackett, CEO of Ford, recently said their focus is on battery-powered cars with a small gasoline engine for emergencies. Goodbye gas stations; hello power stations.

Once a brand’s focus is aligned with market forces, SEARCH takes over. Hire the best data scientists you can find. Align the appropriate artificial intelligence tools to identify and employ the data that will help set a new course for your brand. Understand that momentum is power and diversity is opportunity. Capture the dynamics of the market and harness them. Seek out what does not exist yet in your marketplace and learn to navigate the new transformative age.

Focus, innovation and search requires the marketing team to understand that addressing the marketing challenges in the Age of NOW! Is a process. Here’s my approach.

  1. Focus first on market dynamics.
  2. Search for innovative ways to capture the market’s momentum.
  3. Listen to what the market is telling you –from customers, competitors and stakeholders.
  4. Learn from listening and create a strategy to create growth.
  5. Create sustaining campaigns to propel growth.
  6. Execute better than your competitors.

Last week, I listened to our Infinity Direct account teams present new creative initiatives for our clients that were derived from the thinking above. Every brand has a story to tell. Our job is to tell it to the right audiences at the right time through the right channels. And it all begins with focus.

Bart Foreman – Executive Strategist @ Infinity Direct
Turning old ideas into new thought leadership

Bart Foreman • March 18, 2018

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