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November 2006
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January 2007

The 80% Solution

Nobody can do it better than you.  That's obvious.  And impractical.   I learned a long time ago that if someone can do the job 80% as well as you, give it to them.   The results will be better than you expected.   As we have large marketing tasks I've also learned that standard agencies are a waste of money.   In this day of instant communication, anyone who is any good is off on their own.  Which means you get the second string players.   So the best bet is to tap into the community of independents.    In my case they can do the job as well as I could and bring in fresh perspectives.

Forecasting Basics

Earlier I talked about the difficulty of building a good forecast for a new product.  But just saying it's hard and throwing out a WAG number doesn't cut it when you have to project production.   It's the whole supply chain thing.    Too much, and you're eating inventory.  Too little, and you have real unhappy customers who tell their friends.

Fortunately for us we've been talking to a lot of people for a year now.   So when we build our forecast model for the launch, we actually have names of real people who are interested in our product and service.    But the unseen side is a fast uptake of the long tail on what we are doing.

How fast can you scale?   What if you're 10x too low on your forecast? 

For us, we have very strong and very large partners providing help on our critical items.   And to keep in check, instead of using a fixed  quarterly forecast, we're using a rolling 90 day go-forward average.  So we load upfront some excess capacity and then as we move into the quarters we factor in the actuals.  No big swings.   Now we are comfortable that we can meet any demand while keeping overhead in check.

Just talk to them like they're people

We're full bore heading to our launch.   And one of the biggest discussions we had was what is our company's voice.  We decided that we're people, our customer are people, and we'll be approachable and treat them like the smart people they are.

Some people have a problem with this.  Most default to buzz-speak.   So I've come up with a scale here.Infomercial
On the left side is "Market Speak".   You know:  "We are the leaders in widgets and our synergistic approach leverages current infrastructure....."  On the other end is "Buy our stuff and you'll be driving a Bentley in 90 days.  Let's hear from Joe who went from sleeping in cardboard boxes....."

I think we're all a lot better off moving to talking like people.  But most of all make sure you find your voice and everyone you work with knows what it is.