Using Lateral Thinking in Your Marketing to Ignite Growth

By Tom ShapiroSeptember 25, 2018

If you were asked to define your next move to ignite growth for your brand, would you decide that stopping all communication to your target audience would be a good idea? No? OK, how about deploying basketball-playing sumo wrestlers?

It might seem crazy, yet these are both real-world tactics that have led to massive business growth for their respective organizations.

Often, trying to tinker around the edges with minor, superficial adjustments to your marketing only leads to frustration. Instead, what’s actually more powerful is counterintuitive, lateral thinking. By decisively taking the road less traveled (or never traveled…) with your marketing, you can not only accelerate new customer growth, but also achieve greater profitability and ROI (Return on Investment).

Here are two ways that you can use lateral thinking to reinvent your marketing and unlock new revenue growth for your business.

  1. Rethink Your Audience

Tableau Software makes data and spreadsheets understandable to non-developers through its data analytics and visualization software. In the early days, when Co-Founder Christian Chabot drove around trying to get IT departments interested in the software, he was met with dead-end after dead-end. In those days, the IT department was the gatekeeper for technology purchases by large organizations. It seemed like every door he approached would immediately shut in front of him.

With his sales efforts going nowhere, Chabot rethought his audience and decided to stop talking with IT departments altogether. No more outreach. No more marketing. No more sales calls.

Instead, Chabot started going directly to the ultimate users, business users, bypassing the gatekeepers and potentially enraging the very IT departments to whom he had been marketing up until that time.

The gamble, though, paid off. Business users loved the ability to translate complex data into easily understood visualizations. The result? Tableau has grown by more than 1,900% over the past six years, with more than 50,000 customers in its portfolio.

When thinking about your own audience, ask yourself if you’re talking with the right prospects. Are there different verticals, companies, departments, roles, or job titles that you should be targeting? Which audience segment is most profitable or has the greatest potential, and would it make sense to narrow your focus to only such segment? Are there complementary markets that you should target to expand your audience? Rethink your audience, and you may unleash a flood of new prospects.

  1. Rethink Your Marketing Mix

Instead of rethinking your audience, it’s sometimes more effective to overhaul your marketing mix. If your marketing results have hit a plateau and you’re essentially treading water, small incremental changes to the mix will likely not lead to a major turnaround.

Instead, think big. Think bold. Think laterally!

When Jon Spoelstra took the position of President of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets), the team seemed to struggle perennially. Fans were apathetic. Ticket sales and sponsorships were in the toilet.

So, Spoelstra rethought the marketing the team was doing. First, instead of encouraging fans to come to games to see the Nets, he started marketing the other team’s superstars, something unheard of at the time. On top of this, he transformed the basketball games into family events, with entertainment the name of the game. Whenever the players would take a break, his entertainment engine would kick into gear, filling up all available time.

For example, during the second half of games, he would have basketball-playing sumo wrestlers running up and down the court in their mawashi (loincloths), bringing smiles to the kids in the stands. According to Spoelstra, the sumo wrestlers were more popular than even the players.

The end result? In the three years after Spoelstra arrived, overall revenue rose by almost 500%.

When thinking about your own marketing mix, brainstorm completely new, outrageous ideas. What are the top performers in your current marketing mix? How can you double down on them? What are the bottom 20% in your mix? How quickly can you eliminate them? Rethink your marketing mix, and you may uncover new, more effective ways to connect with your audience and unleash revenue growth.

Want to hear more from Tom? Be sure to Register for Connect to Convert in Boston (Oct. 3-5th), where Tom will be sharing more insights on using Lateral Thinking to Drive Conversions throughout the Funnel, don’t miss it!

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