At Jackson, we help client executives, marketing professionals, sales teams, and communication managers confront the daily challenges of their respective businesses. Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of complex problems—positioning, pricing, vision, messaging—and we’ve helped find solutions for these challenges. What we’ve realized along the way is that sometimes the solution is not as complex as it seems.
We could bore you with some bullet points of simple solutions we’ve learned over our 35 years in business (we have plenty), but we’ll save those for another day. Instead, we’d like to share a few timeless tales that illustrate some key lessons on strategy.
A Lesson on Positioning
Scott, a newly hired marketing manager with a Carolina nut tree farm, asked the owner a question regarding the proper pronunciation of the farm’s main cash crop. “Is it pronounced pee-cans or pe-cahns?”
The wealthy farmer said, “Scott, it’s like this: I grow pee-cans, but I sell pe-cahns.”
Even when producing a commodity product, there’s always a way to market it as premium.
A Lesson on Pricing
Carol faced a difficult challenge. Her company produced the industry’s highest rated technology products, but her sales force was often undercut by competitors falsely claiming they could meet the major customer’s quality, timing and volume demands at a lower price. She told this story when faced with pricing objections:
An elderly woman from the old country walked into her neighborhood butcher shop.
She told Sam the butcher, “I’d like a half dozen lamb chops. How much do they cost?”
He replied, “For you, they are $1.75 a pound.”
Unimpressed, she said, “But I can buy them across the street from Joe the butcher for $1.50!”
Sam replied, “So, who in the heck sent for you? Go, buy them from him!”
She said, “He doesn’t have any.”
Sam replied, “Well, if I didn’t have any, I would sell them to you for a $1.25.”
If you’re the industry’s top producer, you have nothing to gain from chasing marginal players (who are unable to deliver) down a pricing rabbit hole.
A Lesson on Communication Strategy
In his first week after joining the communications staff at Turner Broadcasting, Bob’s manager invited him into a meeting and said, “You may as well get used to this. You are going to find yourself doing it a lot.”
It seemed that CNN founder Ted Turner had spoken at an event the previous day and made some controversial comments that now needed to be walked back.
Turner’s team would have to put out a communication to explain, “What Ted meant to say was…”
The manager noted, “We get the irony that we are a media company and would never allow anyone else the opportunity to walk back a statement.”
Unless you own a major news organization, it is always difficult to walk back ill-considered or off-message comments.
A Lesson on Setting Goals for Your Strategy
Albert Einstein once boarded a train, took a seat and began searching for his ticket as the train pulled out of the station and the conductor came through the car.
Einstein reached into his jacket pocket, side pockets and trouser pockets desperately searching for his ticket. The conductor said, “Don’t worry about it. We see you on the train all the time.” Then he continued through the car.
When he reached the rear of the car, the conductor looked back and there was Albert Einstein on his hands and knees, looking under his seat and searching through his bag trying to find his ticket.
The conductor hurried back up the aisle and said, “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein. Don’t worry about it. We see you on the train all the time. I’m sure that you bought a ticket.”
Einstein answered, “Thank you. Yes, you are correct. I bought a ticket for this train, but I need to find it because I don’t know where I am going.”
You’ll never get where you’re trying to go if you don’t know where you want to end up.