When we were kids (yes, we had cars and televisions back then), there was no doubt that the DC universe of superheroes was cooler than the Marvel Universe. DC had Batman and Superman, the two coolest crimefighters, plus we had the Justice League cartoons on Saturday mornings and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Women on TV. DC… Continue reading Do you Prefer Superhero Strategy Lessons from DC Comics or Marvel?
The Pygmalion Trap The Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who falls in love with the statue he creates, is one of the most enduring stories of all time. The tale shows up in the works of Ovid, the Roman poet who lived in the time of Caesar Augustus. In the 18th and 19th century,… Continue reading Don’t Fall in Love With Last Decade’s Business Model
A man in a well-tailored suit will always shine brighter than a guy in an off-the-rack suit.
– Michael Kors
Mr. Kors may be right, there is nothing quite like a real custom-tailored suit. But it has also been one of life’s luxuries reserved for the fortunate few – a bespoke suit from one of London’s Saville Row tailors will set the owner back at least $2,000 and it could be several times that amount. So, most of us usually settled for an off-the-rack suit, it didn’t fit perfectly, but it was a fraction of the cost.
Too often, companies believe that the purpose of strategic planning is to find some magical ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all their problems and guarantee a path to profitable growth. A frustrating conversation with a client we had a few years ago comes to mind:
Amphora: What do you think of this draft strategy?
Client Executive: I don’t know, it feels like something is missing.
Amphora: Well, is there something wrong with our logic? This strategy should result in higher growth and higher profits.
Client Executive: No, but it’s based on information we already know, I was looking for a big idea.
Amphora: Yes, but this strategy is completely different than how you currently operate; it clarifies the underlying business trade-offs and forces different choices. Is there something you think we overlooked?
Client Executive: I just feel like there should be something more, like an outside-the-box idea.
Amphora: Is there any specific big idea that you think we should investigate?
Client Executive: I thought that was what you were going to come back with.
Expecting your strategic planning team to come up with the next big idea to guarantee profitable growth, is a bit like asking for a plan to lose weight without diet or exercise, or a plan to make money in the stock market without taking any risk. It would be nice if these strategies existed, but it is rarely the case.
The list of books and blogs focused on corporate culture is expansive and it is a topic that has been discussed for decades. Why then is culture still one of the top issues leaders seek to address in their organizations? What holds organizations back from being able to develop the culture they are looking for?
Is your strategy precise or robust? Precise: “Exactly or sharply defined or stated” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) or “Marked by exactness and accuracy of expression or detail” (Oxford English Dictionary) Robust: “Capable of performing without failure under a wide range of conditions” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) or “Sturdy in Construction” (Oxford English Dictionary) It is with some… Continue reading Strategies to Stand the Test of Time
Defining strategy so your organization can soar.
Many mid-sized companies become successful based on the intuition and experience of the CEO (often the founder) and sometimes one or several members of the Senior Management Team. Oftentimes they understand particular customer problems well and have developed offerings that uniquely solve these customer problems. Growth in the business comes from; growing the customer base within their target segment and expanding their share of wallet among customers in the target segment by expanding the scope of the solutions.
It would seem to be straight forward to explain the strategy of the business yet in our experience many companies still struggle creating a well-articulated strategy.
It’s that time of year again – no, we are not referring to the holiday displays starting to appear in stores which seems to happen earlier each year as the holiday season gets longer. We are referring to the equally long season of budgeting that is ongoing for many of you reading this. CFO Magazine… Continue reading Can you make the headache of budgeting a thing of the past?
We heard a familiar lament just a couple weeks ago from a VP of Engineering at one of our clients: “If the Sales team would just tell us the customer requirements, we could get on with designing the product.” We’ve heard something similar hundreds of times, and it sounds innocuous at first – what could… Continue reading “You Want Me to Pay for That?” – The Myth of ‘Customer Requirements’
Our executive sponsor at a long-time client used to start off every Grassroots Strategy session by telling the teams to put a jar in the middle of their table and every time someone mentioned the word ‘product’ they had to put $5 in it. She told them that she was sure that every team would be able to throw a pretty good party by the end of the week with the money they collected. Her point was that they needed to focus on the customer and the problems that they could solve for customers rather than on their product. Professor Theodore Levitt said it best decades ago when he said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Senior innovation leaders confirm that after years of talking about innovation, they are still struggling to integrate customer/market perspectives into the innovation process Amphora Consulting recently completed a survey of 20 senior innovation leaders. Our findings support the perspectives shared below. Complete results of the survey can be found here. Innovation is and continues to… Continue reading Innovation – You Can’t Go It Alone
We continue to believe that done well, market segmentation is not just a critical marketing tool, but can be the defining element of your overall strategy. In our previous blog post, we shared of the most common difficulties in getting to a workable needs-based segmentation. So what can you do to avoid those mistakes above and unleash the power of an effective segmentation?
In our Grassroots Strategy workshops with clients, the highlight of the week is often market segmentation. Done well, it is one of the most important changes in the way you think about your business and customers – the customers you choose to serve and how you serve them impacts both the revenue and the expense sides of your income statement. But too often, teams struggle to do it well.
In 1998 Concur revolutionized the software industry by introducing their Software as a Service (SaaS) pricing and delivery model, rather than the traditional license and maintenance model. The model was revolutionary at the time because for a fixed monthly fee, customers got access to a continuous stream of small upgrades, rather than getting stuck on an old version and facing a big upgrade expense when they chose to upgrade.
Fast forward to today, and it is hard to imagine buying most software through anything other than SaaS. Now a recurring theme that we hear from our non-software customers is that they want to move their business to a subscription-based model, but is XaaS (anything as a service) really the best answer for everything?
It turns out that, as is true for most things, XaaS is not the best fit for every offering. There are seven things that need to be true for XaaS to be the optimal answer for your business.
Decision making in times of unusual uncertainty is one of the greatest, perhaps the single greatest, challenges of leadership. Navigating the current COVID-19 crisis and crafting appropriate responses has been a challenge for leaders around the world. And whatever happens, we are likely to have years of second-guessing as to what we could have done differently. To some extent this is inevitable – with so many unknowns, it is a certainty that we either over-reacted or under-reacted, deploying certain measures either too early or too late; and we may never know which, as we cannot go back in time and try something different.
With all the major sports leagues shut down, perhaps it is more important than ever that we keep alive that grand American business tradition – the sports analogy. So here it goes: boxer Mike Tyson once said “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.” At this point in the Covid-19 crisis, that sums up where most companies are with regards to their 2020 plans – we are reeling from being punched in the mouth.
Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones, and our thanks to those who have been risking their lives on the front line fighting this invisible enemy. As we write this, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, people are talking about plans to re-open the economy. But to Mr. Tyson’s point, those can’t be the same plans that we had coming into the crisis. You’ve been punched in the mouth, what do you need to change before the bell rings to start the next round?
What do Rock ‘n’ Roll, innovation and defense technology have in common? If you’ve heard this story, you probably have a guess. If not, it might surprise you to find the answer is one person: Skunk Baxter.
Pricing is one of the most important levers your organization has, therefore pricing decisions are some of the most important it will make. Set the price too high, and you won’t sell anything. Worse yet, set the price too low and you are leaving money on the table.
That leads to the question, what department or function within your organization is in the best position to set the price in order to maximize earnings?
Rethinking your plans in light of the unthinkable To call these times turbulent is an understatement. Obviously reducing the risk to lives is paramount, but the unprecedented threat of the Covid-19 virus and the necessary response are already wreaking havoc across the economy, with some second and third order effects that may be felt for… Continue reading This is a Time for Thoughtful Re-Planning
In 1759, Arthur Guinness leased a disused brewery in Dublin and began producing beer for the local market. Like most brewers of his time, he produced a variety of beers to meet a variety of tastes. But by the late 1770’s, Guinness was becoming known for his porter. The dark beer that used roasted barley to produce a deep brown color and rich complex aroma had become quite popular, especially among the dockhands in Dublin. In 1799, faced with a shortage of capacity, Guinness made the bold decision to discontinue production of his various other ales and focus exclusively on the porter – the beer we know today as Guinness Stout.
This historical tale underscores one of the most powerful and difficult challenges of strategy – focus.
Frequently, we are asked to tailor our ‘Grassroots Strategy’ workshops to serve as training for product managers. Typically, the identified need is a lack of strategic thinking and/or tools for analyzing markets in a company’s product manager group. Beneath the surface, however, we believe that the problem may run deeper. The problem may be grounded in the very definition of what a product manager is and therefore what the rest of the organization expects from them.
We are asked from time to time if our ‘Grassroots Strategy’ framework applies in the nonprofit world. After some reflection and a couple of attempts to make it work, we are convinced that it does work. However, we have come to realize that nonprofits frequently need to add an additional step at the beginning of their strategy discussions.
One of the most original and influential strategic thinkers of all time, Clayton Christensen, passed away last week at the age of 67. Christensen was a professor at the Harvard Business School, a prolific author, dedicated philanthropist and moral philosopher, as well as being an entrepreneur himself before joining the ranks of academics.
Now is the time that you can settle into running your business. You have a set of sales targets, budget requirements and maybe product launches or geographic expansions that you have planned for and committed to for 2020. But independent of all of this, do you really know what you need to focus on to win in 2020 and set yourself up to win going forward?
Bottom line, effective value pricing relies on first having a good segmentation that is based on customer needs. Or, as we often say in our workshops, “value and segmentation always go hand in hand.”
If you are like many of our clients, you may have thought about strategy and long-term goals sometime in the late summer/early fall and probably presented something to your leadership and/or your board at that time.
Although customer relationships are important, do they really create value for the customer?
Our book, “Grassroots Strategy: Cultivating B2B Growth from the Ground Up” has just been published, so driven by some combination of curiosity and vanity, we have been somewhat obsessive about checking our page on Amazon.com.