Category Archives: growth opportunities

Want to Innovate? Make Sure You Have a Seat at the Table

Blog-chairs1For most companies, the top marketer, usually called the chief marketing officer, is part of the senior leadership team and sits on the executive committee or management board. In other words, marketing has a “seat at the table.”

But here’s the challenge. If you let things slip in terms of your team’s skills and effectiveness, you’re going to lose that seat. If marketing is seen as weak or ineffective, over time, other departments will slowly start stealing away your responsibilities. If left unchecked, your department will dwindle, leaving your team little more than a sales support function.

Here are some examples. Imagine you have a talented marketer in your department who handles sales forecasts used by manufacturing to decide how much product to make. She leaves to take another role, and her replacement is just not as good. Eventually, the manufacturing team will step in and take over forecasting. Hey, they’re doing it because they need to get the job done.

This could happen in other areas. Pricing could go to finance. Product development goes to R&D. Distribution slips away to the supply chain group. Marketing promotions goes to Corporate Communications, and so on. You’re left with a bunch of junior marketers who do nothing but create sales aids. Not good.

The biggest challenge is that many people believe that anyone can do marketing. Other groups see the marketing department as a great development opportunity for their staff.

For example, the national sales manager wants to give division sales managers new challenges and experiences. They apply for a job in marketing despite having no marketing skills. Other departments do the same thing. Over time, you end up with a marketing department that, by design, is operating at less than 100% effectiveness. You’re in trouble.

Here’s what you can do about it. First, you have to build a marketing department that is seen as having a strong core - it has solid people, strong processes, it meets its obligations, and it positions itself as leading the charge against the competition. That means you have to focus on getting the right talent and building competency within your team.

You have to create an amazing team of people with leadership skills so other departments see marketing as the hub of all company activity.

You must change people’s perception of marketing-as-a-cost-center to marketing-as-an-investment- center. Money spent on marketing will yield a sound return on investment. That means you have to deliver on your promises.

So evaluate your current situation, your talent pool, and your responsibilities. Create a plan to build a strong marketing core. Then go and get back that seat at the table.

Grow By Creating New Categories

TabascoA clever way to find new growth is to change your market category or create a new one. When you create or change your category, you’re redefining the boundaries of your market space, and that opens your eyes to new targets of opportunity. Let’s look at how to do it.

One way to do this is by zooming up from your current category. That means you dial the category definition up a bit to create a bigger market space.

Here’s an example. Take the McIlhenny Company. It was founded in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana, and it makes one of my favorite products - Tabasco Sauce. Today, the company competes in its traditional category definition: hot sauce. But if it zoomed up that definition, it would imagine itself competing in the condiments category, putting it up against companies that make ketchup, mustard, and so on. That simple change in perspective might lead to new ways to communicate their brand or perhaps find new shelves to occupy at the grocery store.

But it doesn’t have to stop there. Let’s imagine the company zoomed up even more to a very broad level of food and beverages. Sound crazy? Well, not really. Viewed this way, the company might imagine creating new food items with its secret hot ingredients inside. Perhaps foods like pizza, or spicy tasting snacks. How about Tabasco chocolate bars. Imagine a new Tabasco carbonated beverage - cold, spicy, and very refreshing. The growth opportunities can seem endless when you zoom up.

Another way to redefine a category is to do just the opposite - zoom down. By doing this, you’re creating a subcategory that helps you focus your sales efforts more effectively to create growth. Let’s go back to our Tabasco example. To zoom down, you start with your current definition - hot sauce - then imagine dialing it down to a more precise definition. In this case, imagine a category called pepper sauce, or perhaps Louisiana pepper sauce. The trick here is to take a unique ingredient in Tabasco, like pepper, and create a new category definition with it. Be careful not to get so narrow that you limit sales. You have to promote this new category definition so consumers see it as a better choice over the hundreds of products out there.

A final way to find new categories is do what I call plotting the market. I sometimes need to see my market as a two dimensional space where I can plot my position versus my competition. This may help me see empty spaces that I can move into. Let’s do an example.

Imagine you compete in the personal computing market. First, I create a x-y plot where the x axis is the main, category benefit. In this case it would be computing power. On the y axis, I use another important benefit that consumers seek. Let’s use mobility.

In the lower right, you find desktop computers - powerful but not mobile. At the top left of the plot, you find smartphones - very mobile, but not so powerful. And in between, we plot laptops and tablets. Now notice the spaces in between these computing solutions. Today, we see companies trying to fill these voids with more powerful tablets, net books, and so on. All of these become potential new category definitions.

So take a look at your current products and services. Then, zoom up, zoom down, and plot your markets to find those new sales growth opportunities.

Grow By Creating New Categories

TabascoA clever way to find new growth is to change your market category or create a new one. When you create or change your category, you’re redefining the boundaries of your market space, and that opens your eyes to new targets of opportunity. Let’s look at how to do it.

One way to do this is by zooming up from your current category. That means you dial the category definition up a bit to create a bigger market space.

Here’s an example. Take the McIlhenny Company. It was founded in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana, and it makes one of my favorite products - Tabasco Sauce. Today, the company competes in its traditional category definition: hot sauce. But if it zoomed up that definition, it would imagine itself competing in the condiments category, putting it up against companies that make ketchup, mustard, and so on. That simple change in perspective might lead to new ways to communicate their brand or perhaps find new shelves to occupy at the grocery store.

But it doesn’t have to stop there. Let’s imagine the company zoomed up even more to a very broad level of food and beverages. Sound crazy? Well, not really. Viewed this way, the company might imagine creating new food items with its secret hot ingredients inside. Perhaps foods like pizza, or spicy tasting snacks. How about Tabasco chocolate bars. Imagine a new Tabasco carbonated beverage - cold, spicy, and very refreshing. The growth opportunities can seem endless when you zoom up.

Another way to redefine a category is to do just the opposite - zoom down. By doing this, you’re creating a subcategory that helps you focus your sales efforts more effectively to create growth. Let’s go back to our Tabasco example. To zoom down, you start with your current definition - hot sauce - then imagine dialing it down to a more precise definition. In this case, imagine a category called pepper sauce, or perhaps Louisiana pepper sauce. The trick here is to take a unique ingredient in Tabasco, like pepper, and create a new category definition with it. Be careful not to get so narrow that you limit sales. You have to promote this new category definition so consumers see it as a better choice over the hundreds of products out there.

A final way to find new categories is do what I call plotting the market. I sometimes need to see my market as a two dimensional space where I can plot my position versus my competition. This may help me see empty spaces that I can move into. Let’s do an example.

Imagine you compete in the personal computing market. First, I create a x-y plot where the x axis is the main, category benefit. In this case it would be computing power. On the y axis, I use another important benefit that consumers seek. Let’s use mobility.

In the lower right, you find desktop computers - powerful but not mobile. At the top left of the plot, you find smartphones - very mobile, but not so powerful. And in between, we plot laptops and tablets. Now notice the spaces in between these computing solutions. Today, we see companies trying to fill these voids with more powerful tablets, net books, and so on. All of these become potential new category definitions.

So take a look at your current products and services. Then, zoom up, zoom down, and plot your markets to find those new sales growth opportunities.