Top 10 books that changed the way I do business

A client (David Edwards from UL) asked me yesterday for some advice on what books he should read to develop his product marketing knowledge.  This prompted me to reflect on which books have had the greatest influence on me.  All these books have had a material effect on my approach to creating growth strategies that everyone is convinced will work.

Product marketing is about more than marketing, it is about attracting more customers.  Over the years I have found very few marketing text books that were really helpful and stimulating.  But many books that have influenced the way I think about marketing and attracting customers.

None of these books give a simple answer straight out of the box.  They are all thought-provoking and will help you to move your thinking forward.  If you want easy answers then look elsewhere, if you like a challenging thought-provoking read, then take a look.

My top 10

The science and laws of marketing

How brands grow

Start with Byron Sharp.  He has taken the pioneering work of the late Andrew Ehrenberg and made it accessible to everyone.  This is about why it is more important of get more customers, not just focus on customer loyalty.  It is about why light buyers matter so much.  It is why the 80:20 rule is wrong.  It is based on years of research into how people actually behave and not anecdotes and armchair thinking about marketing theory and customer loyalty.



Byron shows us why evidence matters and how to bring science into marketing.  Byron shows you that there are 10 laws of marketing and why you cannot ignore them.
Watch his TEDX Talk here

The Text-Book

marketing byron

This is the only marketing textbook I would recommend.  It takes the laws of marketing as explained in How Brands Grow and tells you how to apply them to the business decisions you need to make to develop a marketing plan that will actually work.

It is written by whole team at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute of Marketing Science and has some good case studies.  It is aimed at university students studying marketing and strategy.

This academic work is known and been adapopted by global brand leaders like P&G, Mars, Unilever, Colgate and Google for some time.  It has only become accessible to everyone else in the past 5 years.

Leadership and innovation

Find your light bulb

Mike Harris shares his experience of creating totally new and game changing brands by taking a radical approach to providing service to customers in conservative industries.

Find Your Lightbulb draws from Mike’s experience of creating game changers in banking (First Direct and Egg) in telecoms with Mercury and in internet security with Garlik.

This book is about leadership and driving extraordinary ideas through your organisation and creating somethign that will attract more customers.


Behaviour and psychology

Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast Thinking Slow

Daniel Kahneman reveals why and how people’s decisions and behaviours are not entirely conscious or rational.  He discovered that we have two systems in our brain,  System 2 is the one we all know about, it is conscious, rational, slow and cautious.  System 1 is actually the driver of many decisions, it is unconscious, instinctive, fast and very importantly, we could not function without it.

This book helps you understand why people buy, why emotion matters, what triggers a purchase and you will think differently about how to attract customers when you have read it.

Advertising and marketing communications strategy

IPA Peter Field Les Binet, The long and short of it

This report analyses the results of 998 marketing campaigns.  These campaigns were all submitted to the IPA Annual Effectiveness Awards.  They were all assessed on the basis of the results and the effectiveness rather than subjective critieria like creativity or design

This report updates an important study called Marketing in the Era of Accountability. It tells you what worked and what did not work so well.



This highlights and confirms the importance of increasing market penetration (i.e. strategy speak for “getting more customers” ) and the role of share of voice in building market share.  They also discuss and demonstrate why generating emotional response to campaigns is important to get value for money from your marketing

Looking to the future

Black Swan Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Improbable events

Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows us that looking to the future is a bit of a mugs game.  The most likely thing to happen in the future is an improbable vent that you cannot predict.  So stop worrying about it.

His writing is dense and a bit inaccessible, he is a mathematician and ex stock trader with a big brain.  But what he writes about is important and has implications for strategy and practical decisions.  I wrote about what we should do about this in 2008 in this post.



My conclusion is we should spend less time worrying about the future.  We should spend more time strengthening our ability to withstand unexpected shocks.  Read here

Social Media

Penny Power, Know me, like me, follow me

There is increasing evidence that digital marketing and social media are attracting a disproportionate share of advertising revenue as these new media have become more fashionable “must haves” in your marketing plan.

Penny Power takes a different approach and shows us what social media is really for and how to use it to build a following and create a network that will help you and your business and even how the network will help each other.

Penny’s approach echoes the whole Attractive Thinking ethos.  It is about attracting people not broacasting to them and capturing them.


This book is a classic, it may be 7 years old, but it is not out of date.  It reveals some fundamental truths about who we are, how we interact and what that means for your business, brand and marketing plan.


Good strategy, Bad strategy, Richard Rumelt,

Richard Rumelt has studied many strategies and the book has loads of examples.  This makes this very practical and well grounded.  Richard invites us to look inside the business for what we can do and what we are good at.

Rumelt dispels popular misconceptions about strategy – such as confusing it with ambitions, visions or financial goals – by very practically showing that a good strategy focuses on the challenges a business faces, and providing an insightful new approach for overcoming them.


Remember a strategy is merely a set of actions designed to achieve a particular goal. This book will bring you back to what really matters, so you create a plan that will work

Getting recognition and being recommended

Key Person of Influence, Daniel Priestley

This book together with the KPI programme showed me a whole buch of stuff that is known by entrepreneurs and not so well understood or taught in large corporate environments.

Daniel Priestley highlights five steps that are essential if you and/or your business are to gain recognition and be recommended.  Daniel has talked with thousands of entrepreneurs and gained insight into the problems they have to overcome.  The KPI method is an effective way to overcome them.

If you want to develop your career and be secure in your ability to attract customers or employers, then read this.

He has followed this up with another book called Oversubscribed how to get people queuing up to do business with you.

Avoid being misled by common sense

Common sense, Duncan Watts,  Everything is common sense until you know the answer

In the 2001 election, William Hague created the Common Sense campaign for the Tories.  It did not work.

“Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Why did Facebook succeed when other social networking sites failed? Did the surge in Iraq really lead to less violence? And does higher pay incentivize people to work harder? If you think the answers to these questions are a matter of common sense, think again.


Common sense is one of the most dangerous ideas that pervades general thinking and our decision-making.  Yet science nearly always demonstrates that many ideas that were common sense were plain wrong.  (e.g. sun goes round the earth).  Duncan Watts will help you fine tune your antennae to detect common sense ideas that are misleading or just plain wrong.

And another 5 books

Inevitably I found it difficult to nail this list down to 10.  But the list above is my top 10. Here are my next 5.

  1. Viral marketing, The science of sharing.  Shows what goes viral and why
  2. Switch, How to change things when change is hard:  Argues that we need only understand how our minds function to unlock shortcuts to switches in behaviour.
  3. Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age:  Does what it says on the tin
  4. Marketing Manifesto:  The booklet from the Marketing Society on what marketing leaders must focus on to increase their effectiveness and impact  download here.  I helped the team to create this book.
  5. The One Thing You Need to Know: This helps you discover the question you need to answer, get the right answer and then get everyone else to agree with you.  You will be better at pitching within a corporate environment.

Where do I get great advice about branding?

There is much talk about branding. To me, some commentators seem to make it more complex than it needs to be or the discussion seems divorced from the realities of why customers actually buy things.

This post is to share my thoughts on creating great brands

Great brands offer products and services that customers want to buy, because great brands solve real problems that customers have. My approach to brand strategy is based on helping marketers first create things that customers want to buy and then market them to customers in a way that makes it easy for them to buy from you.

The more relevant and attractive your brand is to customers, the easier it will be to market it and attract more customers.


There are a number of seminal works that guide this approach and prove it is the most effective way to build a business and a brand.

Mike Harris – Iconic Brands (my business mentor) shows us how high performing businesses always have value propositions that are strong and sufficiently differentiated, communicated with sufficient power, completely and consistently delivered AND basic economics that work. The brand management task is to create that value proposition and build a plan the business is convinced will work.

Byron Sharp – How Brands Grow shows us that the biggest and most successful brands only get growth when they increase market penetration. Growth cannot arise by selling more stuff to the same number of customers (empirical fact). To grow you have to get more customers. This is because customers have repertoires of choices. The brand manager’s job is to put the brand in repertoire. Brand loyalty can be a misleading concept.

Peter Field and Les Benet in Marketing in the Era of Accountability and The Long and Short of It prove that building your reputation in the long term is more profitable than getting sales through short term promotion.

The Marketing Society UK – I worked with the society to create The Marketing Manifesto. This work demonstrates that delivering this is not just about creating the customer proposition and the marketing plan. It is about engaging the internal business in your mission and winning support for the plan from within the business. Without this the plan will fail. Successful marketing teams always focus on three different areas.

  1. Create and pursue a purpose – successful businesses have a purpose that goes beyond making more money. This purpose must include creating profitable sustainable growth. The brand is there to helps the organisation deliver this purpose.
  2. Championing customers – this means get your insight, shape the customer experience based on insight and find creative ways to engage customers and go beyond what they expect
  3. Mobilise the organisation – this means collaborate and communicate with colleagues, bring the voice of the customer into the boardroom and most importantly quantify and measure.

The 5 step EGL framework

A brand manager’s task is to build products and services customers want to buy and create a plan that the organisation is convinced will work (i.e. deliver profitable growth). There is a lot of theory talked about this but we bring it back to 5 questions.

PINPOINT – Who are your customers and what problem do they have that you can solve?
POSITION – How does your brand solve it better than others?
PERFECT – What is your story? How do you design a product to deliver this?
PROMOTE – How will customers find out about your brand and how do you make sure it is the right place so they can buy it when they need it?
PITCH – How do you convince customers, the board and the business this works for them?

EGL workshops introduce these ideas through case studies and then go on to provide a practical framework to apply them to your business. The workshop is a combination of lecture content, a 5 step framework and workshop session where teams create a plan for their team and their brands. This is grounded in evidence and what works as well ideas and imagination.

Marketing leaders face similar leadership challenges to other leaders


This article has advice for new CTO’s that could easily be translated and applied to new marketing directors and CMO’s

  • Respect the current team
  • Don’t go and buy fancy new agencies
  • Keep the baby dump the bathwater
  • Don’t be with your agencies be with your business
  • Hire for attitude and intelligence, then skill
  • Be a technical marketing and insight mecca
  • Be the marketer who talks to others in the business

Interesting that the challenges facing new leaders are similar between functions

Read the article here

Why social media can be a distraction

Effective Growth StrategyCranfield School of Management are repeating a study that they conducted 1 year ago amongst marketing directors.  This study explores the operational and strategic priorities for marketing directors.

You can contribute to the study if you are responsible for strategic decisions click here

The previous Cranfield study from 2012 revealed that marketers priorities were around media and especially around the new fashion for social media.  The writers think this is worrying and I agree.  Will it be different in 2013?  I suspect not.

Read the results click here

The reason for my post is to reflect on why marketers seem over preoccupied with media strategy in studies like this rather than the real growth drivers of product strategy, distribution strategy and innovation.


For as long as I have been in marketing, marketers have complained about their lack of influence at the top table.  It is clear that finance, sales and operations have the power when it comes to major strategic decisions.  The observations made by Cranfield in this study describe this problem.  Yet then when asked about their priorities, marketers still focus is on a narrow part of growth strategy.

I have consistently noticed that the most effective growth leaders prioritise product strategy, distribution strategy and innovation ahead of media.  They see media as a part of the marketing mix and often a secondary part.

As an example of this, I have recently been involved with a group at the Marketing Society who are working on a marketing manifesto that exhorts marketers to focus on business fundamentals.  We also have been looking at the ways marketers build their credibility within the business so they can be more effective. The experienced marketers on this working party know that media is important but not the fundamental driver of success.

Most of the people I meet in business seem to understand this and understand what are the real growth drivers.  But then this study arises and I wonder why we get these results?  It remains a bit of mystery to me as to why we still see results such as are seen in this Cranfield study.

Tip of the week

I am a big user of social media.  It has a role to play and you ignore it at your peril.  It is true that for some new and smaller businesses they built their customers with social media, so it is a priority for them.  But many businesses built their business in other channels and social media cannot deliver the reach and penetration that they need to get growth.

We all know that we don’t buy stuff because we find it in social media we buy stuff because it helps us solve a problem we have got and it is available to us and we can find it when we need it.  This is why product strategy and distribution strategy are the growth drivers

Be clear on your business fundamentals.  Make your priorities on the real growth drivers.  they usually lie in product strategy, distribution strategy and innovation. Experiment with social media, but do not be distracted.

Why are your colleagues not convinced about your plan for growth?

Whilst your brands and products have been growing steadily you know this is not good enough to accomplish the business long term goals. So you are looking for new ideas to step up and accelerate your growth. As a result, you have spotted an opportunity for your brand or business to get more growth.

It becomes obvious to you that the business should pursue this opportunity. If you don’t, you know the business could get left behind. So you come up with a plan to capitalise on it.
You do your research and planning and may even hire some great agencies or others to help you. Together you come up with growth initiatives that will work. You have done your homework; you have great numbers to support the plan. But when you pitch it to the business, some colleagues are not convinced. They seem a little sceptical. Some seem enthusiastic but don’t really get behind it.

Then even after you have convinced the board, you find you struggle to get the product development or the operations or the sales teams fired up to deliver it.  Why does this happen, Continue reading

What can we learn from Marketing Society Award winners?

I initially hesitated to use this title, since I am acutely aware of the conventional wisdom that winning an award can presage a period of poor results.  "Pride comes before a fall" and all that. 
However, this year all the Marketing Society Award winners seem to have followed one of the golden rules for success.  In order to be successful they did not just unearth a powerful new insight from customers and come up with a new idea, but they also had to engage with the rest of the business. 
They all work XF (cross functionally) and maybe even set up XF teams.
Here are a selection of the award winners.
Sainsburys – feed the family for a fiver
The O2  – venue launch
Hovis  – re invigoration
UPS – The UPS widget
Cadbury – Bring back Wispa
McDonalds – Feel proud to work at McDonalds
More Than – Personal Customer Manager
See all the winners click here
All of these initiatives require project team leaders who inspire and mobilise their peers in other functions (such as commercial, operations, merchandisers, product development, finance, and HR) to get behind the ideas and make them work. 
How can marketers do this?  In searching for wisdom on this I had a look at Tom Peters material.  He has made it his mission to promote the idea of cross functional co-operation and understand how to make it work.  He has published this paper. 
"XF-50" 50 ways to enhance cross functional effectiveness and deliver speed, service excellence and value added customer solutions. 
Click here to download the paper from Tom Peters
Now 50 is a lot of tips to take in and deal with, so we pulled off our own favourites and reworked them into a top 10.  Here they are: 

Top tips for marketers on customer led project teams 

How to harness powerful customer insights and create a plan for growth
These are not necessarily the whole answer but they do offer a refreshing challenge to the ways many of us have worked in the past.  
  1. Jaw Jaw Jaw – Talk XF co-operation value added at every opportunity.  Become a relentless bore.  Be happy to be in meetings, meetings are real work that get things done.
  2. Explain to everyone that WE make it work or not.  Its not THEM.  The outside world is not the problem.  The enemy is us.
  3. Put everything on the internal web.  This helps - a lot. ("Everything" = Big word).  Provide open access to the data, information, ideas, all available to all, transparency, beyond a level that is sensible.
  4. All functions are created equal.  All functions contribute equally.  All=All
  5. Use the words, "partner", "team" and "us" until we want to barf.  (Words matter a lot)
  6. Never blame other parts of the organisation for screw ups.  Blaming is an automatic firing offense.
  7. Get  'em out with the customer.  Rarely does the accountant or bench scientist call on the customer.  Reverse that.  Give everyone more or less regular customer facing experiences. One learns quickly that the customer is not interested in our in-house turf battles.
  8. Choose team members based on their co-operation proclivity.  Find people who want to work XF, promote them into your team.
  9. Create an XF honest broker or ombudsman.  The ombudsman examines XF friction events and acts as conflict resolution counsellor (perhaps create a formal conflict resolution agreement).
  10. Lock in XF co-operation.  This should be an explicit part of the vision statement.
Our approach "The Growth Game" is built on the premise that XF co-operation is critical to success.  We believe this is one of the chief reasons why our clients succeed and get great results.  See more details  click here

Are you bogged down by too much email and too many meetings?

This post is triggered by seeing this headline in the excellent Utalkmarketing daily bulletin

Brand managers are frustrated by admin

Being weighed down with administrative duties is the chief obstacle facing today's brand managers, according to a new survey from Sun Brand Technologies. The survey revealed that 92 per cent of brand managers spend between one and three hours a day on these inward-focused activities including reporting, chasing colleagues for information and dealing with missed deadlines. Half of all respondents felt that the higher up the management ladder they progressed, the more time they spent on administration, leaving fewer hours for research and new product development (NPD). 
This is a common issue that we hear about.  How often do you hear the statement "I have had so many phone calls, emails, admin work or meetings today that I have not had time to get any work done".  But is this right?  Is it such a bad thing to be talking with and communicating with colleagues..  Our marketing team effectiveness work suggests that spending time on this is a good thing for brand managers who aspire to be successful and effective.
The mission of a marketing team must be to champion the customer throughout the business.  Clearly this does require time spent on generating insight, creating new product ideas and great marketing campaigns.  However our own work on effective marketing teams and how to increase the customer orientation of the business suggests that time spent on internal communication and getting the organisation aligned with your aims is extremely valuable.
Arguably, this is the role of the marketing team in a larger organisation.  The marketing job is not just to come up with great insights, fantastic campaigns and wonderful new products.  Marketing needs to harness a wide range of skills ideas and resources to get the business focus on delivering products and services that customers want to buy.
The most successful customer orientated businesses have marketing teams that are well regarded by the rest of the business.  We discovered through our own research and reviewing studies by leading academics that these marketing teams were characterised and distinguished by three things:

  • Spending time communicating with all functions in the business
  • Talking in a language that the business understands (not marketing speak)
  • Using robust tools for measurement and tracking what is going on
Less effective marketing teams in businesses that were less customer orientated spend less time on these things.
So maybe spending one to three hours a day on these inward-focused activities including reporting, chasing colleagues for information and dealing with missed deadlines is not such a bad thing after all!
Is this still relevant in a downturn?  There is plenty of evidence from previous recessions that businesses who stay customer orientated are more likely to survive and will eme rgr in a stronger and healthier condition.

If you want to read more about how marketing teams can help businesses stay customer orientated.  Please read our marketing influence report which you can download here.

What do philosophers and marketers have in common

We worry about things that seems not important to everyone else and can use language that is obscure and difficult to follow.

 I was reminded of this when I attended a philosophy lecture
discussing how the philosopher Richard Rorty struggled to reconcile the
fact that he was passionate about social justice and at the same time
want to be selfish and spend time on transient personal pleasures such
as the cultivation of rare orchids. It seemed that the philosopher’s
intelligence led them to worry about things that seem quite
straightforward to the rest of us.


Most of us have accepted that a part of our life may be devoted to
causes whilst other parts of our lives are around personal stuff and
other parts of our lives are economic. We know we have these different
needs. We do not struggle with needing to explain a dilemma as Richard
Rorty did.
As I left I found myself thinking that as marketers we can be seen
to worry about things that the rest of the business are not so
concerned about (e.g. brand essence, brand wheels, abstract ideas).
This makes us seem a bit detached from the day to day realities.
The second tendency marketers share with philosophers is to use
language that seems somewhat obscure to the rest of the business?
happened to me in this lecture where I felt like an outsider observing
a rather strange parallel universe in which the language of discussion
was unnecessarily complex and obscure.
Our own research has shown that marketing teams who do not
communicate internally and have less frequent interactions with the
rest of the business and are less well regarded. 
Whereas, the best market driven businesses have marketers who are
well regarded and have invested time in interacting with the whole
business so that their ideas are practical and useful and they
communicate effectively so people understand the benefits.
There are two behaviours of these philosophers that we have
observed in marketers and if you fall into this then you run a big risk
of seeming detached from reality and reducing your impact on the
Firstly, like the philosophers, marketers can spend time exploring
things that seem unconnected with the reality of getting more
profitable growth.
  I have sat through U&A presentations that
provide interesting descriptions of consumer behaviour but offer little
insight as to how the business could do things differently to satisfy
customers.  Then on other occasions there are lengthy meetings to
develop and discuss things like “brand essence” or the “brand
pyramid”.  These discussions can seem to have little to do with the day
to day business of getting more growth and hitting targets.   These
discussions have little practical bearing on the decisions about
products, services, prices, distribution and marketing communications
that will drive growth.
Secondly, like the philosophers, marketers can use words and
language that seems disconnected
from the reality of getting more
profitable growth. The use of this language can obscure the real value
that marketer’s programmes and ideas might have. So whilst the business
discusses customers, consumers, sales, products, services, reputation,
distribution, logistics, prices, profit margins, promotions. Marketers
talk about branding, brand image, strategy, awareness, design and
identity. Many of these things may well be important but the links to
profitable business growth and real practical decisions are less than
clear to your colleagues in other functions.
So I left this lecture reflecting on how marketers can avoid
behaviours that will restrict their influence and may mean the business
is less market and customer driven.  Try this instead.

1.  Use shorter words.
2.  Use the language of the business, not the language of the text book or the advertising agency.
Make sure that the ideas and concepts you discuss will help you make
practical decisions.  We call these concepts “really useful concepts”.

Why you should worry less about the future?

I was listening to this fascinating discussion on Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 on Monday

We are hard-wired not to truly estimate risk, too vulnerable to the
impulse to simplify, narrate and categorize – and we don’t even realise
it. What we should understand, argues the academic and city trader NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB,
is that our world is dominated by ‘black swans’, highly improbable
events that have a massive impact and are nearly impossible to predict.
Black swans, he says, mean we should ignore ‘experts’, stop reading
newspapers and learn to take advantage of uncertainty. Nassim Nicholas
Taleb will be delivering lectures on
The Black Swan at the University of Oxford on Wednesday 5 March and at the London School of Economics on Thursday 6 March. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is published by Penguin.

Here is the podcast link  Nassim is in the last 15 minutes

I got 5 points from the discussion

  • What actually happens is often not possible to predict
  • Measuring (empirical?) what is happening is more useful
  • Projecting current trends is more reliable than expert predictions
  • Our assessment of the risks we take will be wrong.
  • Newspapers, colleagues and experts often try to convince us we can predict and manage risk.

It got me thinking, so what does this mean for businesses in pursuit of more growth? 

You should spend less time worrying less about the future.  So reduce the time you spend

  • Worrying about things you cannot control
  • Forecasting future events (since we will be wrong)
  • Predicting competitor reaction
  • Reacting to the latest hot topic in the marketing press

You should spend more time strengthening your ability to withstand unexpected shocks. To do this, measure what is actually happening to the business and assume it will continue until you create change by doing these things

  • Discover your customers frustrations and unmet needs
  • Know and measure what is important to customers
  • Discover how to make this more available to customers
  • Take action based on these insights and measure the results

You can do a simple audit to see where the balance of your time is spent.  Is it more on worrying about the future or could you do more to strengthen your competitive ability.

Corporate teams can easily get sucked into worrying about the future, whereas entrepreneurs tend to focus on things they can do now.

In the meantime.  I am off to the LSE on Thursday to gain some more insight into how we can strengthen our approach to helping you translate insights about customers into practical steps that will create more growth.

If you would like a free telephone audit to discover if you are worrying about the future too much or are doing enough to get on with the present, then email us or phone us on 020 8334 7202 to arrange it.

P. S.  This is exactly what Power Categories and Power Attributes and Power Channels will help
you achieve this action orientation and address the business fundamentals.  The approach is about
translating insights about customers into practical steps that will
strengthen your competitive position in the market.

Is your growth constrained by a lack of resources or a lack of action?

Last post we discussed marketing influence across the whole business.  But
according to some commentators, there might be a recession soon.  Does this mean
marketers influence will decline even further.  You may have less money to spend
and fewer resources.  It will put pressure on costs as growth gets more

So should you react in a different way as a
  This week we show how "internal entrepreneurs" get growth. 
This is the same whether the market is growing rapidly or stagnant.

first thing is to focus on action; doing things rather than analysis, research
and meetings.  I was reminded of this when reading Tom Peters blog
and saw this quote.

Any project worth doing is worth doing because in
some small or large way it challenges "the way we do things around here."
Moreover, it is a given that bosses are primarily hired to be cops who make sure
that we do things "the way we do things around here."

This dilemma
is often resolved by a select band of individuals who drive for practical steps
that will create growth.  These team members refuse to accept the processes,
always find ways around the restrictions and "kick down doors" to make things

This select band are the internal
  They will work with limited resources.  Internal
entrepreneurs push their ideas with conviction and energy.  They also recognize
that they must win people over and cannot achieve their goals by just pushing
their ideas.  However they are willing to push back and are not put off by
objections and obstacles.  We have noticed they can exist at many levels of the
organization.  This is not just a feature of senior management.  What are their

We recently worked with someone in a 7m business who used
this "internal entrepreneur" approach and it has worked, two years later this is
now a 12m business.  They also operated with some of the constraints of a larger
business since the business is owned by a multi billion global business.  But
they did not have access to additional finance from this larger business.  The
resources available to them were only those generated by the revenues of this 7m

Here are our practical tips based on the
behaviours we have observed in this case and others.

  • Identify the five top drivers of growth on the business and ensuring the
    whole team understands them.   
  • Translate the 5 drivers into practical actions and review them every month
  • Refuse to accept that it is OK to miss objectives due to a need to adhere to
    process.  When obstacles arise, the question is how do you get around this? 
    What else could we do?
  • Develop a great enthusiasm for celebrating successes.  Make the office area
    full of boards with updates on progress, pictures of successes, statements of
    intent and performance vs. targets.
  • Evaluate all activities using three simple questions, what works, what does
    not work, what could we do better?  (Always start with the positive
  • Always talk about the customer and understand the customer needs.  Underpin
    decisions by robust insight.  All ideas were tested with customers.  This can
    involve very low cost market research tools that the team created and managed
  • Be clear about the working environment you want and the type of people this
    required.  Ensure all new recruits are interviewed and tested against this

So if you are the boss, make sure you have some internal entrepreneurs in
the team. If you are the team, try being an internal

If you want your team to understand how to do
look at  our programmes on  increasing
marketing influence
  (you can also read our papers on

Differentiate supports internal entrepreneurs with The Growth Game
which is an approach that works to translate insights into practical steps for
growth that have the support of the business team.   Our best clients are often
"internal entrepreneurs; they know a lot of this stuff intuitively and use our
approach to not only develop their ideas but to sell them to the business

If any of you have experiences that relate to
please let us know, either by private email or post comments under this article