Ancient Chinese Riddle: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four of them decide to jump off. How many frogs are left sitting on the log?
The answer in just a minute...
What is it about five frogs that makes me think of the marketing challenges faced by growth and mid-size companies today? Is it that great marketing strategies should address five key issues? No. Simple models about complex things like your company’s strategy never work. Is it that marketing today requires the abilities of an amphibian to adapt to multiple environments? True, but that’s not the reason. Is it that when I think of great marketing I think of old Bud Light commercials? Could be. I had a beer before I sat down to write this.
The reason this ancient Chinese riddle reminds me so much of marketing in growth and mid-size companies is the answer to the riddle – 5. If five frogs are sitting on a log and four of them decide to jump off, you are left with 5 frogs sitting on a log. Because there is a very big difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it.
That is the challenge that so many companies face today. The CEO knows what he or she wants to do. They have a good idea of the direction they need to take the company. The challenge is getting there. The world’s greatest strategy sitting on a shelf with nobody to own and lead the implementation is as useless as five frogs sitting on a log. And with everyone in the organization laser-focused on bringing in the business today, who can own the implementation of tomorrow?
The challenge is moving an organization that is very happily operating. Many times the organization is working very hard and is being successful. But CEOs today know that to sit still is to die (the frog in the slowly-heating pot of water analogy). Mid-size companies grow and flourish because they can react faster than the giant corporations. With every company large and small coming out of hibernation, the challenge today is even greater. However, in order to actually do something, you need to get your frogs to jump.
In my opinion, that has got to be the role of marketing. Marketing should be looking outside the company at the markets, customers and competitors. The marketing strategy has got to be based on the external issues and opportunities. But that strategy alone is worthless if marketing cannot use it to lead the implementation. And I don’t mean the creation of the next set of brochures. Often times the majority of the work done by an organization in order to move into a new marketplace or target a new customer segment is done by the organization as a whole. But it is marketing’s job to translate the CEO’s vision into a market-based growth plan and then help the organization see what needs to be done to implement the vision.
It takes a clear unified vision to get people to jump together. But the vision or strategy itself is useless unless you have someone who can lead the initiative and lead the organization to jump together.