“With tactics in the driver’s seat, everything changes: long-term vs. short-term becomes meaningless; prediction is still possible as an activity, but probably futile in its results; action beats analyzing-, correctable replaces dependable. The one thing that we know is that it’s in the learning rather than the deciding.” The Death of Strategy – Forbes.com
The company story is the company strategy,” says Ben Horowitz.
In the book, Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds by Gaston Legorburu and Dareen McColl, they capture the idea of what I would call today’s branding. It is no longer about segmentation and channels. It is about connecting through shared values and experiences.
Storyscaping is more than a philosophy; it is a methodology and approach that you can apply to your business today. We further define Storyscaping as a landscape of emotional and transactional experiences, where each connection inspires engagement with another, so the brand becomes part of the consumer’s story. When you use the Storyscaping model, it will enable you to evolve your craft in a way that makes it easier to connect to the physical, virtual, and emotional Experience Space that surrounds the customer.
Today’s marketing is about being there….in the space of your customer. Conversion is a result of relevance. Relevance opens the doors to experiences that matter, surprise, and bring value to our prospects and customers. Starting that conversation, even on a website is determined by how relevant you are to that person. Relevance is the key to that door. Without it, you can’t experience the value that you have to offer. With it, your customer will enter. The power of relevance is not how connected you are to what they already know. The power is in the experiences that you offer.
Marketing is a messy subject. It is not linear. It is not a deterministic process; you do this and this happens, cause and effect. Anyone can come up with a great marketing strategy and in the same vein anyone can come up with a marketing idea. As long as you build plans, websites and develop strategies in isolation of customers your chance of success is minimized.
To do this, you must turn off the Solution Machine. Design thinking is perfect for situations where we’re looking at a future that doesn’t exist yet, i.e. sales. Analytic tools break down very quickly. Design thinking is the tool for defining that messy middle through prototyping alternative futures. Rather than creating data for them, we simply target users experience. We can then observe from behaviors and preferences which ones are working better than others.
The core of what’s in a design thinking approach is extreme focus on the user and their experience; visualizing multiple options, testing those in the hands of the users, and iterating very quickly from less appealing options to more appealing options. It just relies on experimentation which analytic problem solving processes don’t need to rely on those as much because, in the world of analytics, we have source data from which to work – Tim Ogilvie.
No longer are we using linear tools that are used to measure and support well-defined end to end processes. Today’s world has introduced more and more uncertainty. As a result, it has forced us to get closer and closer to our customers reducing reaction and decision time. This type of thinking is best supported through the concepts of Design Thinking. As good as an overview that I have found is contained in the book, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers (Columbia Business School Publishing). The tool set described:
- Visualization: using imagery to envision possible future conditions
- Journey Mapping: assessing the existing experience through the customer’s eyes
- Value Chain Analysis: assessing the current value chain that supports the customer’s journey
- Mind Mapping: generating insights from exploration activities and using those to create design criteria
- Brainstorming: generating new alternatives to the existing business model
- Concept Development: assembling innovative elements into a coherent alternative solution that can be explored and evaluated
- Assumption Testing: isolating and testing the key assumptions that will drive success or failure of a concept
- Rapid Prototyping: expressing a new concept in a tangible form for exploration, testing, and refinement
- Customer Co-Creation: enrolling customers to participate in creating the solution that best meets their needs
- Learning Launch: creating an affordable experiment that lets customers experience the new solution over an extended period of time, so you can test key assumptions with market data
In BRANOPS, we scale by looking at marketing from a Growth Mindset. We don’t start with a complex market and try to work back by tweaking and modifying it. Think about Gall’s Law:
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.
We spend to much time, money and knowledge trying to be clever or manipulate customers through these magical sales funnels. The alternative path is to think of them as learning zones. My practice is to differentiate between clusters and provide value within those groups through learning launches.
My conversations do not center on personas, link bait, and manipulation. You don’t change mindsets in an auto-responder. It is conversations about real people, moments, patterns, and opportunities. Starting this way allows the qualitative to guide the quantitative that old USA principle: Understand, Simplify, then Automate.
I approach your efforts by carrying out five to twelve experiments (sprints/marketing campaigns) on three to five different ideas (or versions of a similar idea). The number of experiments should be aligned with the consequences of failure. That may sound like a lot of experimenting, but typically should not take more than a couple of weeks – less time than what most teams would spend to write a marketing plan or a road map. How much tactical execution I need to do is what really consumes the time. Give me an idea of what a weekly budget would look like based on these four questions:
- How much are you willing to invest?
- How much time or money can you afford to lose if it doesn’t work out?
- How much certainty do you need before making a decision?
- Are the results from other experiments you’ve run so far conclusive or inconclusive?
- How much of the actual work are you willing to do?
You could even call this a soft launch if you would like. But it can be done quickly and with little overhead and evolve into something much bigger. The idea is to create a strategic direction through small incremental iterations. It is less about theorizing and planning and more about designing and deploying in a type of a sprint.
Below is the reference material for the tools that I use in my work. There are multiple ways to go about the described process such as Scrum, Story Branding, Design Sprints, etc. This is not meant to be prescriptive. Let me know if you have an interest in pursuing.