Innovating against the odds

Innovating against the odds

Constraints drive ingenuity. I ran a $6bn business at Target and can vividly remember when our multimillion-dollar marketing budget was cut (trimmed really) and we thought it was the end of the world. How could we possibly drive this huge business with less? Then I started Fly Feet. And my perspective changed dramatically.  

I had the opportunity to sit on a panel last week with the brilliant marketers at General Mills to talk about just that. How do you do more with less? How do you innovate in a world moving at a break neck pace? How do you break through the clutter and be relevant? From big budgets to almost no budget here is how I think about these poignant questions.

FLIP THE FUNNEL

A classic marketing funnel starts with awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty and advocacy.  Capturing share that way is expensive. So we flipped the funnel. Instead of driving awareness to the masses, we chose to deliberately work on really strong relationships with small groups of people.

GET CLEAR ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE TRUE FOR CONVERSION

Flipping the funnel worked for us because we asked ourselves and our consumers, what needs to be true to try us? And the answer was not a cool photo on Instagram, or a radio ad. (Awareness.) It was that people needed to hear about the experience from their friends. If their friends said that it was worth a try, that's all it took. Clearly understanding what will drive your consumer to convert is critical to your marketing strategy. And it will make your marketing spend far more effective - allowing you to 'flip the funnel'.  

IDENTIFY WHO OWNS CULTIVATING YOUR CONSUMER RELATIONSHIPS

The cheapest way to drive top line is to get the people who already like you to love you. In a service driven business, who takes care of those important consumer relationships? That is a crucial question. For us, we decided on a very different coaching model than the rest of the industry. It was a big risk for us. Our coaches are salaried with benefits in an industry where most are part time contractors. We did this for many reasons, but the biggest of which is because we want our coaches deeply invested in the community and the flyers. If they're part time, that becomes more challenging.  In our model, the coaches aren't just invested, but are evangelists for our flyers. They know them all by name, they know where they are sore, their weaknesses, their goals, and what they're afraid of. Our flyers know that anything they need, they've got the coach's ear. That level of trust means our coaches make magic happen in the studio and they are the the conduit for consumer feedback to make sure we're serving them effectively.

PIVOT PIVOT PIVOOOOT

Have a check in mechanism to get feedback consistently both formally and informally. Survey Monkey is free. If you have a good relationship with your consumer, asking what they think is pretty straight forward. We have over 1,000 surveys from our flyers. That is such a gift! They're literally telling us how we can make them happy. The only way this works, though is if you DO SOMETHING WITH IT! Early on we heard that coming to class over lunch was too rushed for people. To solve that issue, we formed partnerships with healthy lunch options so that flyers can order before class and have their meal waiting for them when they're done. Boom. Problem solved. You have to be ready to constantly pivot. (Ok, who gets the Friends reference? Best episode!)

FIND PURPOSE

Brands that have meaning beyond the transactional role they play transcend trends and time. Redefine the business that you're in to something bigger. This means when trends change, you don't have to spend a bunch of money to reinvent your strategy. If Netflix were just about DVDs, they'd be dead (remember when they delivered the DVD to our mailboxes?), but they're about creating entertainment experiences, so they're not. For us, we don't like to think about ourselves as just a boutique fitness studio. Rather, we're a place for our flyers to break down barriers, to be vulnerable and chase down something better. To do something they didn’t think they could do. To prove to themselves that it’s mind over matter every time. That there is power in being vulnerable and tackling something that you’re not sure you can do. We know if they can do it in the studio, then they can do it in real life. That’s our purpose. At Fly Feet, we exist to inspire people to chase the best version of themselves.  

Having resource constraints doesn't mean your strategy has to suffer. Ernest Rutherford, the "father" of nuclear physics famously said "We've got no money, so we have to think". I'll leave you with one last piece of inspiration from the moderator for the day Chad Dick from eatbigfish, who shared this illustration that seeing the problem differently can drive meaningful results. Enjoy!

This article was first published on Kristin Shane's blog.

I spent most of my career running businesses for Target. A job I loved. But my dreams were bigger. And now I'm living them...