In American football a play is a close to the ground “plan of action” or “strategy” used to move the ball down the field. Ultimately the plays look to score points that hopefully contributes to winning a match, the season and therefore attract good players, sponsorship deals, fans spending money on merchandise and in the stadium.
There are many different plays that can be run during a game; the run block, pass block, running plays, off tackle plays all designed to ensure each player has a pre-agreed plan with the ability to flex, adjust and respond to the circumstances as they happen in the game. Final third. 1 point down with a minute to go. The opposition’s star quarter back is out injured. Their defense play fails. Each circumstance has a reaction, a way to turn everything into an opportunity to score points. To win.
Running an organisation is no different. Having a strategy, plan, roadmap or at least framework to work from is vitally important. But what if something changes? What if the product line didnt work? What if the customers you thought would buy it didn’t? What if more people use your product or service than you had planned? Are you ready to react?
Do you have your plays ready? Whats your equivalent of the run block?
Knee jerk reaction is a killer for business. Reacting to a bad week by increasing promotional activity can erode margins and even customer confidence. Pushing your low value products or services in favour over high value products to drive higher transactions to get volume can divert attention to your real winning strategies.
It is of course impossible if not very impractical to have all bases covered. You can’t predict every circumstance and have a ready made plan lined up to execute for them all. The cost of doing this is high. Nor is it particularly practical to have multiple financial forecast scenarios at a macro level to cater for differing business events.
What you can have though is a playbook that defines what you should do in certain regular and predictable circumstances. A set of plays that your team are behind and committed to executing should they need to.
I dont like American Football though!
Dont worry. No American Football needs to be played.
So you have a bunch of customers who exhibit the behaviours of people who are going to stop shopping with you. What’s your retention play?
Maybe its to send them a bunch of flowers and just say hey. Maybe its to email them saying you miss them. Maybe its a money off voucher for your latest range. Maybe you know a load about them and their propensity for certain categories or lines that you sell so you can be more targeted and individual with how you respond to the potential loss of each of those customers. You dont want to be deciding this after they have stopped shopping with you.
Yes I want one of those playbooks, where do I buy one?
The bad part is you have to think of all the scenarios, come up with all the plays to respond to those scenarios, to allocate accountabilities for the plays and to ensure they are executed at the exact time needed for maximum impact. There is no point for example, running the ‘final minute of the game’ play mid way through the first quarter. Likewise dont treat a customer who shops every day on your ecommerce platform in the same way someone who is likely to leave.
What’s needed to a) understand which scenarios to prioritise and b) which plays to play in each of those scenarios comes down to data.
Different scenarios impact the business in different ways and to different degrees. The answer will be in your transaction data, your customer data, your social media feeds, the data that comes from browsing activity on your website, the calls into your contact centre, the market data to tell you about market conditions, your competitor data to understand whether others are having the same challenge, your previous and current forecast data. And so on.
On top of that you need to have the capability and tools to get access to that data and generate the insight necessary to understand whats happened historically, how to segment your business and customers, which levers impact on your forecast accuracy, the success of previous above and below the line campaigns.
Advanced analytical and machine learning techniques are required to help capture the fact that a scenario is happening. This is harder than physically seeing the quarter back get injured!! You need your predictions of what is the best action to take with the customer who used to shop every category and now looks like they may be stopping. You need the response to be targeted and the experience to be personalised and your algorithms to improve and learn as new data flows in and data points are available.
You need this data in a timely fashion. You need it together. You need the right people and technology in place to continually test, learn, react, adjust to what you see. Your playbook cannot stay the same forever and your data will tell you when its time to switch things up.
Plays come from business strategies and you need your data to support your ambitions in running the business and making the right decisions when needed.
Final thought, roll your sleeves up.
Of course, sometimes you’ll be blind sided. Sometimes you do just need to get in a room and make a call.
However give yourself the best chance to have data that enables you to have a fact based, non-emotive discussion about options and make a rapid choice.
(Right we are 1 point ahead with 1 minute to go….time to run the ‘running out the clock’ play)