Ready, Fire, Aim

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This evening was a great night spent with some very well-known sales, marketing and branding experts. We were invited to a very nice restaurant in a private room. The purpose of the meeting was to help a colleague who wanted to take his business to the next level… or a few levels beyond where it is now.

There was a ton of agreement in the room… figure out what it is that you do in a single sentence, identify the traits that differentiate you, develop a process to sell your services based on the value you bring, connect with your network to identify the top prospects to market to and develop a brand that encompasses what you bring to the table.

I didn't necessarily disagree with this… but that's some pretty intense work, isn't it? You could work for years on these things… and end up back at the drawing board because you didn't succeed.

With all due respect to my colleagues, I'm always a bit skeptical when experts provide this type of strategic planning and advice. I've honestly been working in and around marketing departments for over two decades now and I can't think of a single marketing plan that worked as planned.

In all honesty, I think a lot of this talk is just poppycock.

It's not totally bunk… I do believe thinking strategically is important. After all, you need to know where the general direction of the target is before you pull a trigger. However, I'd rather someone fire first and then aim rather than working for months to set up a shot that may or not hit the bullseye at all.

I often see businesses fail before they ever actually pull the trigger. They're so fearful of failure that they're paralyzed and never actually take the necessary risks to move forward. Look around you at the businesses that are successful. Are they successful because they planned flawlessly? Or are they successful because they were agile and able to adjust their strategy as the demands of their prospects, their clients and their industry required?

What are your views? Experience?


  1. 1

    I think you’re right for the most part. It seems to me that it depends on what you are doing and how confident you are that something is worth promoting. What I mean is that sometimes it is very necessary to get a formal plan in place that has direction and purpose. It helps the people carrying out the plan actually stay on course. However, within that plan there needs to be more execution than planning. Initial strategies can get turned upside down in a matter of days. That requires quick changes.

    To take your analogy a little deeper, imagine if you didn’t aim at all before you fired. You could hit the target, but you most likely would miss entirely, or hit a friend, or yourself. That is why I am thinking this is very dependent on how confident you are about the idea or business (how big the target is).

    So to bring it all together – in this competitive environment we’re all in, we need to aim very quickly AT the target and fire, then re-aim and fire again, then really re-aim and fire again. Or… just bring the shotgun.

  2. 2


    I’m with you on this one. Having come from a semi-large organization where speed was measured in months and half years and “strategy + getting it” right were 15 year institutions I saw the value of being agile as we began to apply a new methodology to the operation of our business. Now running marketing for a startup that was, when i started, smaller than the marketing team that worked for me your point is even more important. The collective experiences of the senior members of the team should be enough to point you in the right direction. Being agile and getting better constantly is about operational excellence…an incredibly important and often overlooked skill set for growing teams.

    – Jascha

  3. 3

    Totally agree, Brian! The irony is that I spend most of my free time reading and studying the results of others so that I do know which direction the target ‘should be’. I just worry that many companies never actually take the first step. They don’t immediately fail because of a misstep… but they ultimately fail as others pass them by.

  4. 4

    Yes I agree. I haven’t seen bad marketing first hand but I keep hearing stories of older companies really struggling with initial marketing efforts. They just don’t get it so all the planning in the world doesn’t help them learn the real lessons they need in order to re-aim and shoot again and they don’t reiterate fast enough to fix the problem.

    By the way, that is a great analogy. It works very well in this case. You are right about just knowing where the target is and I’m sure you have a very keen sense for that. Some people just don’t though. Who knows if planning helps, but man there are some people just shooting themselves in the foot with their marketing. (I had to say it, it just fit too well)

  5. 5

    Doug I could not agree with you more. At the core of who I am is: ENTREPRENEUR. And as far as entrepreneurs go I am all about visioning the future and taking whatever steps necessary to get there. I believe in strategies. I believe in planning. However, I must confess I never have developed a traditional “business plan.”

    A year ago I had a conversation with a gentleman. I don’t even remember his name. We met for the first time at a breakfast meeting we both attended in the Castleton, Indiana area. It was one of those “stand-out-in-the-parking-lot-for-over-an-hour-after-you-just-met-conversations” and somehow we got on to the topic of creating a business plan. I confessed to him that I had never created a traditional business plan. He asked me “Do you plan anytime soon to go get funding from a bank for your small business?” I replied, “Nope.” Then don’t worry about a business plan, he said. In essence, he told me “Fire and Aim.” He encouraged me to follow my entrepreneurial spirit and go out and succeed.

    And so Doug that is what I have been doing for the past 3 years since I launched Cross Creative in October of 2007. So Happy Birthday to my company and many more years of success to us both as we endeavor to serve with the passions that stir us up each new day! It is a great day to be an entrepreneur.

  6. 6

    Totally agree, Doug. Analysis paralysis is not just a symptom of large companies. Many small businesses owners are afraid of a wrong move too. Action, with metrics to evaluate success, is a good strategy. Fortune favors the bold.

  7. 7

    I also agree Doug, Flexibility is the name of the game today. Strategic thinking today must include the ability to quickly adapt to an ever changing marketplace.

  8. 8

    This is why the really successful entrepreneurs start businesses… then sell them to the strategists who talk too much “poppycock” to ever have started one on their own.

What do you think?

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