By Robert Hackman | 4C Consulting August 4, 2016
The case study “Red to Black” made the claim, that if done well, strategic marketing can be a company’s fastest way to turn-around sales and create significant year-over-year revenue growth. This case study describes the value of adopting a simple problem-solving approach to achieve impactful outcomes – and sometimes break-through results.
Identifying obstacles and committing to their resolution represent important strategic practices not necessarily maintained by all organizations. Companies perform best when continual problem-solving is an embedded cultural habit, and innovative companies require it. Problem-solving is always most powerful when it is directly connected to where an organization is headed and why.
Once a problem is solved, the question is “What’s next?” What are the next best problems to solve and how can they be identified with accuracy?
The market opportunity identified in Red to Black was sound reduction between floors in apartment construction. The market was large and forecasted to grow long-term. Reducing sound in walls, was identified as a durable growth market six times greater than the one for floors. At the time, however, the company’s wall solutions were high-cost and low-performing. To penetrate the market for walls, the firm needed to significantly lower the cost of its solution, improve its performance, or both.
Given these obstacles, why did the marketing group decide to commit further resources to resolving them? It decided solving these problems was the best way to accelerate the market acceptance needed to insure meaningful, ongoing revenue growth.
It used a simple, repeatable assessment process.
Problem Evaluation Criteria
Is the solution aligned with the company’s core purpose and initiatives?
What customer problems will it solve?
What are the forecaster pay-offs over time?
Barriers to staying with the problem included
Previous failures to solve the problem, a belief the problem was unsolvable
Other demands for management’s time and attention
Competing budget priorities
Long-term access to a large untapped market that could facilitate revenue growth whether the market was growing or not (payoff over time)
A sustainable competitive advantage – the firm would become the only solution provider of its kind for both walls and floors (solve customer problems)
The company could leverage the impact of its marketing and sales efforts across two large complimentary markets (align with core purpose and initiatives)
The group identified too many potential benefits for participants throughout the supply-chain, all “in the path” of work, people and processes already in place, to list in this article.
More failure – testing in conjunction with other products was unsuccessful
Analyzing competitors to learn from their successes
Discovering better questions to ask – continually talking with experts
In this case, the solution resulted from paying attention to a fundamental law of acoustics. It came from analyzing competitive data, asking what made them more successful, and wondering if the firm had missed something. It turns out it had.
This simple result was made possible through persistent attention, analysis, and consideration of differing perspectives. It offered proof that difficult, complex problems do not necessarily require expensive and complicated solutions.
The company was fortunate. The results surpassed what it believed was possible. The firm’s new wall assemblies simultaneously made it the high-performance leader and the low-cost provider, truly a breakthrough.
It is critical to remember that it would never have achieved these results without the capacity to identify and evaluate worthwhile problems and the discipline to stay with them until they were resolved.
The same process was used to identify, evaluate and solve many smaller problems across numerous areas of the business.
The benefits of solving particular problems should be identified and quantified to evaluate their significance in relation to others
Problems with big payoffs are worthy of persistent focus and committed effort
Failure must be tolerated and even encouraged as part of the innovation process
Dedicated time for creative problem-solving and reflection by individuals and teams is required for meaningful advances
Learning to ask better questions is the first step to getting better answers
Too frequently organizations get hyper-focused on production (working in the business) and fail to allocate appropriate time and resources to innovative problem-solving (working on the business) that can generate enduring payoffs.
Determining responsible ways to stick with solving your organization’s most important problems, both big and small, generate improvements that collectively create sustainable competitive advantages and long-term success.
Robert Hackman is the Founder and Principal of 4C Consulting, a Consulting and Executive Coaching business centered around helping companies, their leaders and associates grow and flourish, so that they can live the lives they want and leave the legacies they intend. He can be reached via the 4C Consulting Website www.4cconsulting.net, email firstname.lastname@example.org and text or voice at 484.800.2203.
Picture by: Orlando Espinosa