Commentary

Jeff Bezos' Secret Message For Marketers

Marketers channeling their inner Maverick (Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun”) often find themselves thinking “I feel the need, the need for speed” — but are plagued by internal speed bumps and stop signs.

Little do they know that buried in Jeff Bezos’ annual Amazon shareholder letter is an approach for helping them accelerate marketing efforts and navigate past internal road blocks.  

Working with high-tech clients, I learned the necessity for quick execution. Pipelines must be filled, leads progressed and converted, and quotas achieved.

IBM had two “mantras” when it came to accelerating marketing execution. The first was the rule of “70%,” and the second was “Fail fast.”

On the first rule: Once you had roughly 70% of what you needed (information, insight, etc.) to execute, you then got into the market, letting the results refine your program and thus quickly course-correcting. The rule was built on the idea of the yield curve, with the greatest gains in progress made during the first 70% of effort, refining the remaining 30% being too costly and time-consuming.

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“Failing fast” was built on the idea of quickly testing theories. If IBM wanted to experiment with something new or different, it would construct tests to quickly measure results to either scale or kill the program.

These two guide points have influenced my thinking over many years.

So it was interesting to see Jeff Bezos picking up on these same principles in his annual shareholder letter. Except he added his own twist.

In his letter, he warns of Amazon’s becoming a Day 2 company. He defines Day 1 companies as obsessed with customers, skeptical of proxies, eager to adopt new external trends — and, perhaps most importantly, with the ability to make high-velocity decisions. For him, Day 2 companies are static, quickly becoming irrelevant and eventually out of business.

The key to staying in Day 1 is the ability to move quickly, experiment patiently, accept failures, and “double down when you see customer delight.”

Bezos believes that there is no “one-size-fits-all” to decision making, but rather “two-way doors” where decision can be reversed. Those decisions, in his words, use a “lightweight” process, starting with what he calls “disagree and commit.”

Given the growing number of stakeholders in the decision-making process, could this be the secret marketers have been searching for to eliminate speed bumps?  

As Bezos describes it, “If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, ‘Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?’ By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.”

Given the success of Amazon, this is a piece of advice we should all heed. For marketers, the key to making this approach work is “conviction.” It means doing your homework, having the facts to support your point of view, and the courage to take a risk.

Going fast brings with it the risk of failure, but as Bezos notes, “being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”

And Mr. Bezos knows a thing or two about flying fast. On the day he released his annual shareholder letter, Amazon stock closed over $900, up 50% over the year. Need any more proof that this "maverick" got it right?

4 comments about "Jeff Bezos' Secret Message For Marketers ".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, May 18, 2017 at 1:28 p.m.

    Thank you, spot on!

  2. Scott Gillum from Carbon Design replied, May 22, 2017 at 12:22 p.m.

    Thanks Leonard. Hope his approach works for you. 

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 18, 2017 at 7:04 p.m.

    Note; Mavericks, the horses, live in packs, not independently.

  4. Scott Gillum from Carbon Design replied, May 22, 2017 at 12:24 p.m.

    Thanks Paula. They may live in "packs" but they don't follow them :) 

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