Bechtel Consulting Group

Vol. 8, Issue 6
                                                                                                                                    Oct, 2018 

The Competitive Edge

Strategies for Success in Today's Markets 


I'm pleased to bring you the October, 2018 issue of "The Competitive Edge," 
a monthly newsletter geared to helping you boost your strategic, organizational and marketing performance. 

My aim is to stimulate your own thinking, perhaps causing you to see things in a different light. If you do find the content helpful, please feel free to  you think will also benefit. 

I always welcome a two-way dialog because I stand to learn as much as I share. So please feel free to share your reactions, ideas or suggestions. You can email me at or call 206-351-8604.
Newton's Laws of Marketing  
The Confluence of Two Disciplines
   And now, for something completely different...
   In his book, "The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences," author Matt Watkinson tackles the seemingly untenable question, "What can marketing learn from the laws of physics?"  
    At first glance, it seems a bit of an oxymoron. But maybe not so much.
    As Watkinson describes it, imagine a ball laying on a table that has several forces (vectors) acting on it, each in a different direction with a different strength. Newton's second law tells us that the behavior of the ball - its direction and speed - will be determined by the combined effect of these individual forces. This is known as the resultant vector.  
   Watkinson suggests that, viewed through a marketing lens, you might consider that ball to be a market you serve, or perhaps the individual consumer. Either way, the analogy holds. There are, in fact, always a variety of forces acting upon your markets and customers, not all of which are inside your control. And, as in Watkinson's example, the direction in which the "ball" moves is determined by the net effect of those forces.  
Question is, how do you get the ball to move in your direction?
   As I pondered this, I was reminded of a fascinating line of research I participated in during my days in a behavioral science doctoral program. The research employed multidimensional scaling to literally predict the outcome of political races. Here's how:  
   For our target race, we began with a list of variables including each candidate, the 6-8 key issues defining that race, and "me" to represent the voter. We then created a questionnaire consisting of all of the possible pairs that could be made from those variables. Respondents were given a benchmark ("Suppose that Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy are 10 political units apart..."), and then asked to estimate the distance between the variables in each pair based on that benchmark.  
   From this data, the computer created a multidimensional space containing all of the variables and showing their relative distance from one another. The shorter the distance, the greater the influence exerted between the two variables.  
   Here is where it got interesting. By repeating the exercise periodically, we could calculate the movement of variables within the space. Now, as it turns out, this multidimensional space obeyed all of the laws of physics! This meant that any variable moving in a certain direction at a certain pace would continue to do so until or unless acted upon by another force (Newton's first law). 
   The object of the campaign therefore was to maneuver their candidate toward "me" (the voter) by tailoring their message strategy on each issue based on the issue's proximity to "me," to the opponent and to the other variables. Our periodic re-surveying allowed them to measure their progress and adjust their strategy accordingly. 
   Come election day, their candidate won. Moreover, the winning margin matched the ratio of the distance between each candidate and "me." Our methodology had successfully predicted the outcome of the race based on the behavior of the concepts in our multidimensional space. 
   This was all about the notion of resultant vector. The movement of each candidate in the space was a direct outcome of the resultant vector produced by the combined effect of the individual variables. The campaign didn't have direct control over any variables other than its own candidate, but that's all it needed. It was able to vector off of different variables with its message strategy to "steer" its candidate in the right direction. 
   OK, a mouthful, I admit - probably explains a few things about me....  But pretty fascinating, nonetheless. And in fact, multivariate analysis is commonly used today in the world of marketing - particularly advertising. 
So, how does all of this apply in your world?
   For one thing, the same kinds of forces surround your customers' decision making process. The issues vary, of course, but they still constitute lines of force that add up to a resultant vector. Some are forces over which we have control - product features, timing, price, distribution, etc. Others lie outside our direct control - competitor behavior, economic conditions, market trends. But that doesn't mean you can't take the latter into account and exert influence to capitalize on, neutralize or otherwise contend with them. The object is to bring about the optimal alignment with customer requirements. 
   Easier said than done. Often, we can't pursue all available options at once without making compromises. In other words, the various forces in play are acting upon one another as much as they are on your target. Thus, by altering one force in a particular way, you may indirectly be altering one or more other forces, for better or worse.  
   The trick is how to take those "secondary" effects into account in formulating strategy, so as to bring about the best possible outcome and avoid getting broadsided. Unfortunately, that's not something most businesses do particularly well. We too often suffer from tunnel vision, fixing our gaze on the prize and the factor we're trying to influence without paying much attention to other secondary factors. 
   At any rate, what Watkinson is offering here is an intriguing analogy that looks at the same universe from a slightly different angle, one that just might turn on some lightbulbs.  
   Food for thought? 
Why Corporate Strategies Fail
Some Common Pitfalls 

   Research studies have repeatedly found that most corporate strategies fail. I've heard anywhere from 70% to even 90%. 
   Why is that?  Here are my thoughts on some of the more common mistakes.

Lots of fanfare.  Little follow-through.

   Strategic planning is too commonly regarded as an event. It's undertaken with much time & effort, and unveiled with much fanfare.
   And that, all too often, is as far as it gets. Soon after the announcement, it all fizzles out, and you're back where you were.
   Avoiding that outcome requires careful operational planning and follow-through. It also requires revisiting the strategic plan on a regular, periodic basis. Your plan is not an achievement. It is a course of action - a means to an end. As such, it requires regular monitoring and adjustment as circumstances change. 
Failure to take the corporate culture into account.

   Your strategy may be great on paper, but if it doesn't enjoy buy-in, it won't likely reach fruition. Any corporate culture becomes invested in the status quo, and change invariably meets resistance, particularly when it is imposed from the top down. Overcoming that requires identifying your key influencers, building the right team, devising an implementation strategy, crafting the right messages and staying the course. New strategies don't take root overnight. 
Relying too heavily on outside advice.

   Consultants and other outside resources can be a tremendous asset in the strategic planning process, but it's critical not to over-rely on them. Good consultants will be those who facilitate, rather than dictate - who help you come up with your own strategy, rather than doing it for you. They're great for helping you to find the best frameworks, methodologies and tools, but they should never be telling you directly what to do.
Mistaking growth for strategy

   Growth, in and of itself, is not a strategy. It is a goal. Growth is the endpoint, and strategies are the means to that end. Strategies are executable, growth is not. This may seem obvious, but I've seen many cases were a growth target is listed as if it were a strategy. When that happens, it can stymie action and progress because it leaves unanswered the question, "How?" A strategic plan (or any plan) is incomplete if it fails to spell out the means by which to achieve its objectives.  
Overcomplicating things.

   I call it "planning by the pound" - plans that are impressive in their thoroughness and detail, but then collapse under their own weight. Sometimes, it's because the degree of implied change meets stiff resistance. Sometimes, it just seems too daunting. Sometimes, it's too hard to grasp all that volume and complexity. But the end result is the same.
   It's been said many times: Better to tackle a few key objectives and succeed, than to try & tackle everything at once and get bogged down. This can be accomplishes by shortening the period covered by the plan (planning in stages), or by simplifying the strategic plan, itself, and relegating the more detailed planning to the department/operational level.
   Many business experts today advocate building a culture of "strategic thinking" - the application of the same kind of thinking used in the strategic planning process, but permeating the corporate culture on an ongoing basis. This, they argue, enables the organization to respond more quickly to changing circum¬≠stances, and is the best way to avoid becoming bogged down by the status quo. It also makes the actual strategic planning process simpler and smoother, since much of the groundwork has already been laid.

The Competitive Edge is a monthly newsletter published by the Bechtel Consulting Group for the interest and enlightenment of our clients, colleagues and friends.  You can reach us at 6505 NE 182nd St, Suite 101, Kenmore, WA 98028; by calling (206) 351-8604, or by emailing  For more information about the Bechtel Consulting Group, visit our website,


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In This Issue
What can Isaac Newton tell us about marketing strategy? More than you might think.    

Plus, here are 5 of the more common strategic planning pitfalls. 



If you find the content of our newsletter useful, please feel free to forward it to colleagues who might also benefit.


Did You Know....
   The Marketing Executive Roundtable is comprised of top tier marketing executives from leading organizations in greater Seattle. We meet monthly to exchange ideas and seek one another's counsel on the important issues facing marketing leaders today.  
   The MER has become an invaluable resource to keep marketing leaders abreast of best practices in today's turbulent waters.  
   If you or someone you know are a possible match and interested in learning more, please visit www.merseattle.orgWe would be happy to have you or them join us as our guest at an upcoming session.


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 Vince Lombardi
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Bechtel Consulting Group

6505 NE 182nd St

Suite 101

Kenmore, WA 98028

Phone:(206) 351-8604


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