Innovation begins with a great idea?

You have an idea. And what happens next goes something like this:

The idea is fleshed out. Then it’s funded. Then it’s enhanced, tinkered with, focus-grouped, and marketed. Then you tinker with it some more, and, finally, you bring it to market. Sound familiar?

If you’re lucky, potential customers will love your idea as much as you do. If you’re really lucky, they’ll not only pay you for it, but they’ll also tell their friends about your great idea. And if you’re really, REALLY lucky, your idea will catch on. It’ll go viral, as they say, and embed itself into the public mind.

At this point, you’ve made it. Your work is done. Right?

Not so much.

Because when you make it, something happens. Your idea does so well, your customers love you so much, they start chomping at the bit for a new idea! A better idea! They expect you to replicate the same stroke of genius that made them love you in the first place. They’ve come to expect this from you.

Here’s the problem: you don’t have a new idea. But that’s okay, you tell yourself. You’re going to market the hell out of this one! Add a bell or whistle. Tweak the formula, change the color, offer a discount, and come up with a snazzy new logo and brand identity. That’ll do it! Right?

No. It won’t. And it doesn’t.

You end up spending time and money on ideas that fall flat. You don’t have revenue to show for all the resources you’ve put in. No matter how hard you try, how many bells and whistles and new features you add, your company has hit a plateau.

No more growth. Now WTF do you do?

This is where MakeBuzz comes in. I’ve been helping build hyper-growth organizations using a set of principles based on the idea of disruptive technology. Disruption has become a buzzword, but in reality, there’s a philosophy behind it. The process I use involves systematic innovation, agile management, and prioritization principles.

The results? Technology-driven solutions that focus on a customer’s ACTUAL needs and wants. In other words, I make a living helping companies restructure by showing them the path to responsible, sustainable shakeups. No bells and whistles required. (Or, even worse, logo redesign.)

Here’s the trick: you need to find a balance between old-world principles and the ever-changing opportunities of 21st century commerce. Every business has many moving parts, but increasingly there are three major parts that fall apart faster than ever:

  1. Lack of understanding the customer at a core level.
  2. Incomplete, haphazard, or weak products.
  3. Inability to understand how to reach customers.

There’s enough to say about the first two issues to fill a book (maybe later). But item number three is quickly improving. And this is giving SOME organizations hope. Hope of survival, that is. The world is changing so quickly, most companies can’t keep up.

Here’s the history. From 1999 – 2012, digital media could be arbitraged at scale, and traditional marketing could still create real brand equity to support the emerging, direct response-focused world of digital media. Personally, I used to take advantage of search. First, SEO. Then SEM. I would “buy the dictionary.” Low bid it all, seek out the performers, and scale. Call it the Darwinian version of direct response marketing.

I became pretty good at data management platform (DMP) technology, which allows a business to streamline digital marketing. But then, something happened. Technology has evolved, as it tends to do, but this is not necessarily good news for brands.

Here’s why:  

Less than 10% of all available inventory (of search terms for SEM, for example) is not profitable to brands. As online publishers approach the cost of traditional print publishing outlets, something changed. Building a business is not easy, and now that a funnel that used to be affordable isn’t, you see the problem.

What happens next I call “saving your way into bankruptcy.” Companies move to trim the fat, which almost always leads to a downward spiral. You have bad ideas (which, really, you don’t even need) multiplied by bad top of funnel. There’s no real demand creation, only perceived. It’s like vanity metrics (engagement, likes, friends, followers) for CRM building. Yeah, you got 50 new contacts in your database, but they cost you $50 each and you don’t even know if they’re high-value customers. This is not a strategy that leads to profitability and growth, or even survival (if we’re going to be honest).

Marketing should only reach a named, addressable audience. It should only use media that is strategically crafted to create real business outcomes. (Hint: redesigning your logo and “modernizing” your brand identity does not lead to sales. You want sales, right? If not, stop reading.)

It’s no secret that most companies operate below capacity. Or maybe it is a secret, because so many of them do. But the truth is they shouldn’t. And they don’t have to. There is a better way.

This is the reason I jumped ship on digital media as we know it. And I think you should, too. Here’s what I suggest.

Flip the model: why bother with media and advertising, incrementally building your CRM, when you instead you can start with a named, addressable audience. Instead of incrementally building your CRM database, when you can have the CRM for the entire United States and then filter down to find your best customers from there?

Because it’s impossible, you say? Actually, it’s not. That’s what I help companies do.

What happens is you’re able to create a tangible “future CRM” filled with clones of your very best customers (look-a-likes). Then you can invest your marketing dollars on media that speaks directly to them. Only the people who truly want and need your product. Thus, you’re building your business on reliable, predictable growth that can be aligned to the financial management of the company.

Your chief revenue officer is going to love it. In fact, you may become the next CRO.

Instead of filling your CRM “bucket” one raindrop at a time through expensive and unpredictable marketing, why not start with a bucket filled to the brim? Then you can filter out the contacts that don’t belong, and scale your company from there.

I predict that by doing this, your company will grow to its optimal size and operating capacity MUCH more quickly than it would otherwise. Not only will your company survive in the age of Amazon Prime, but you’ll leave competitors in the dust.

This is the future of CRM. It’s a cutting-edge way of looking at marketing. And, more importantly, it works. In the past, this approach wasn’t possible, but the dramatically increased capacity of data storage, computing power, and connection speeds have changed everything.

People often forget, but these concepts are critical in a true big data environment. And the good news is that it’s now possible for every brand to have their own “customer clone” look-a-like CRM based on real world data. This enables incredibly fast growth to a company’s optimal market size. You can do infinitely more than in the past. Predictably, and at scale. The challenge is to put the people and processes in place.

Are you ready to move faster? Does your business allow for experimentation? Taking chances? If so, the time to flip the old model is here.  To everyone else, best of luck. You’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully before it’s too late.

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