John Deitz
Optimal Enterprise
Marketing and the Smart Guy Test
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A colleague of mine has a unique way of sizing things up. He calls it the "smart guy test". It's simple. Take any initiative you want to assess.  Stand back and engage your objectivity; ask yourself what the objectives are, and decide if the actions being taken are REALLY likely to meet those objectives.  If the answer is "no" or "don't know" -  the action plan probably fails the "smart guy test".

In a busy and complicated world, it can easy to get caught up in fruitless momentum that seems supportive and meaningful, but doesn't produce the results you need.  Standing back with true objectivity (that's the hard part) can be a powerful eye-opener.  We find many companies operating with marketing strategies they've outgrown or were never optimum in the first place. As a result, they hit a plateau in revenues. Yet they continue to operate in their comfort zone with little regard to producing the specific results they need.

How smart is your marketing plan? Here are a few questions you can ask to self-assess the intelligence of your marketing efforts:
  1. Does the marketing plan express the business model?   Make it a point to know how your company generates profits.  Do you sell through more than one sales channel than others? Which channels are most productive - not just in revenue, but in profit realized?  What are the growth plans for each channel?  Shouldn't that be a factor in creating appropriate marketing strategies and/or allocating your marketing budget?
  2. Do you sell a product or a solution?   The most powerful transition many companies make is from selling "products" to selling "solutions". This seemingly subtle distinction will get you out of the product "feature war" mentality and raise your value proposition a dozen notches. It changes everything.
  3. How well do you understand the customer need?   What methods and strategies do you use to listen, and how well do you listen? We see many companies producing cool widgets, and intriguing customers to buy them. But that's different (and more costly) than producing a solution to a need, and effectively reaching the audience that's experiencing that need.
  4. Where do customers look to seek a solution to their need?  When do customers realize they have a need that your product satisfies? What is their thought process, and where do they go to satisfy that need? Are you reaching them in those venues?
  5. Are you getting your message across?  A common mistake with sales pitches about technology is to focus on features or attributes of the product, i.e. what it is.   We find the most effective messaging focuses on the problem it solves, i.e. what it does, how it is used or what it enables.  Describing your product as a "verb" rather than a "noun" will get your messaging back on track.
Put the "smart guy test" to work for you. If you find you are too close to the situation to be objective, call in an experienced and objective third party to help you carve out a strategy and a create a plan that will creatively get the results you need while sticking within your budget. You'll be amazed how powerful and stimulating a little objectivity can be.

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