Home Runs, Small Ball and Marketing

The recently completed World Series featured record setting pitching, reinforcing perhaps the old baseball adage that “good pitching beats good hitting.”  This controversy will carry into the hot stove league, spring training and next year as teams construct their offense and defensive positions.

Some teams choose to go after the “long ball,” i.e., try to score runs by hitting for the fences and scoring via home runs with whom ever is on base.  Other teams choose to scratch out hits via “small ball” i.e., walks, sacrifice bunts, stolen bases, short singles.

Combined with good pitching, both approaches win games.

Dick, Tom and I have been involved in analogous situations relating to companies bringing products to market.  Some companies put all their effort and energy in developing and delivering a home run, while others grow by scoring via small “hits,” singles and doubles so to speak.

This approach is not confined to either small or large companies.  I recall in horror watching over $140M go down the drain on a product in a billion dollar company, primarily due to misunderstanding the market, and at a different time seeing a small company rocket to success by making small changes to a core product.

For the Marketing Departments and the Product Management teams in these companies it is crucial to understandwhich game is being played to react accordingly.

For the Home Run Company – The critical role that Marketing plays here is helping to find reference accounts, documenting the success of the game changing product in beta or pre-release and them orchestrating the climatic product introduction. At the same time Product Management needs to provide accurate forecasts, as a delay in filling early orders and getting product in buyers hands can be the equivalent of the outfielder leaning over the fence and taking a home run away.

In short, capitalizing on early success and driving as hard and as fast as possible is the mantra that Marketing must follow. Implicit in this strategy is that the product is available and working, not smoke and mirrors.

For the Small Ball Company – The critical role is to produce a pattern of “rolling thunder,” i.e., continuous promotions that emphasize the uniqueness and differences of each new release.  This continuous emphasis on problem solving is aimed at capturing mind share and position with the buyer.

In short capturing mind share and thought leadership over a continuous period is the small ball strategy.  In a sense, this is the dominant pitcher who is shutting down the other team(s) by mixing up his pitches and keeping them off balance.

Trouble develops when Management and Marketing (Product Management) are on different pages.  If one group feels that they are shooting for a home run, and the other is playing small ball, the team loses.  It is critical that Product Management is honest with Corporate Management and explain that the new feature is just that, a feature, not a game changer.  Correspondingly, Corporate Management has to fund and staff Marketing if indeed the product is the proverbial home run.

Have you had experience in delivering home runs, or winning through small ball?  Are you aware of situations where not everyone was on the same page?  If so, I would enjoy hearing your story.

RHM  11/11/2010

PS.  Thank a Veteran today.

1 comment to Home Runs, Small Ball and Marketing

  • Jim Matorin

    Splenda. We were very conservative in our approach because we did not know if the restaurant industry needed another give away table top sweetner. we were ready for hitting a single, stealing a base,e tc. Hit a grand slam.

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