Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches, Channel Execution

Don’t Run Before You Can Walk

Many of you will have made New Year resolutions at the start of January.

Many of you have already failed…you know who you are.

There are a number of reasons why New Year resolutions fail.  One of the key ones is that we are good at setting a goal.  But we are not good at breaking a goal down into concrete steps to get us there.

For instance, say your goal is to run a marathon.  You don’t set that goal and then go out the following morning and run 26.2 miles and think “right, that’s one resolution in the bank, what’s next…”

The only way of training successfully for a marathon is to take incremental steps towards the target.  You gradually build up the distance you run each time, so that at some point you are able to complete a marathon.

This is how we learn to do anything new.  A baby isn’t one day lying on its back on the floor, the next day running around the house causing chaos.

You can’t run before you can walk.

Why are we talking about this?  In our industry, driving behaviour change is really important – whether that means getting more shoppers to your store or to buy your category or brand.  You have strategies – category, channel, brand, innovation – to help make this happen.

However, these strategies often face one of two problems.  Firstly, they can be too reliant on one big change happening.  For instance a category strategy that is reliant on a new location, layout or fixture solution.  Great, if you can land it.  Not so great if you can’t.  It’s like going to bed on December 31st and hoping that you can run a marathon the next morning.

nSecondly, a strategy may rely on a big shopping list of ideas and actions.  There are plenty of things that can be done.  But there is little prioritisation.  There is little sequencing of what to do, in what order.  It is like training for a marathon and saying “today I will run 5 miles, tomorrow, I will run 15 miles, the next day I will run 1 mile”.

Most change happens incrementally.  Strategies and action plans need to reflect this.  They need to have a sequence of steps that allow you to walk then run.

How can you do this?

There is a simple structure you can use (1) Do First (2) Do Next (3) Do Later.

Any action should fit in one of these buckets.  Then, importantly, you do those actions in order.  Start with the ‘Do First’ stuff.  This gives you the foundations to move to the ‘Do Next’ stuff.  This gives you the foundations to move to the ‘Do Later” stuff.  Let’s take 2 examples of what we mean…

E-Commerce.  It is easy to get excited by the shiny new technology in the digital world.  Someone senior has just been to a conference and heard all about Voice.  You get asked “what is our Voice strategy?”.  But you’ve just been on a retailer website and your product didn’t even appear in a relevant search.  You probably need to fix that before moving on to your Voice strategy.

So, ‘Do First’ is likely to be around getting all the product basics right – right image, right name, right description, right link to search.  ‘Do Next’ might be about rebalancing your online portfolio to products more likely to be bought by the online shopper – premium, larger packs, family products. ‘Do Later’ might be how you win in Voice.  This makes sure you walk (get the product basics right) before you run (tackle Voice).

Innovation.  This is an area where we see a lot of running before walking.  Companies are often thinking about the next piece of innovation before they’ve landed (or launched) the current innovation.  There is a list of 15 SKUs that are in the pipeline.  Companies are just trying to stay on the innovation treadmill.

Instead a ‘Do First’ action could be about properly establishing a new innovation in a core flavour or variant.  A ‘Do Next’ action could be about extending into other mainstream flavours.  A ‘Do Later’ action could be about moving into new needs and occasions.  You need to follow this sequence.  If you don’t, you won’t have an established range of products – a sound base – from which to expand into any new needs and occasions.

To drive change you need to know where you are heading.  Then you need to have a sequence of steps to get you there.

If you try to run before you walk you end up on your arse.

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week,