StrategyDriven’s Alternative Selection forum provides materials discussing the principles and practices enabling leaders to most effectively choose those options aligned with the organization’s values and goals while offering a maximum value return to the organization and its stakeholders.

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The Secret Button for Getting Your Ideas Approved

StrategyDriven Alternative Selection ArticleGetting your idea approved requires a clear recommendation that’s paired with a compelling reason for your stakeholder to approve your idea. If you can combine that idea with a powerful rationale, you’ll get to “yes” before you know it.

Make Your Audience Care

At the heart of getting your pitch approved is making your audience care about it. The best way to make them care is to explain how your idea advances their agenda. Show them how your recommendation drives a result they’re interested in. The way you make this linkage is through the creation of the Core Idea.

A Core Idea is sometimes referred to as an “elevator pitch.” The reason it’s called an “elevator pitch” is because you have approximately 30 seconds to deliver your message. That’s the amount of time you’d be on the elevator with the stakeholder going from one floor to another. Imagine you get on an elevator and a senior stakeholder boards your elevator on the next floor. They proceed to ask you what you’re working on. You can either ramble on about all the data you’re gathering and the analysis you’re doing or you can give them a brief yet powerful explanation of the idea you’re pursuing and why it’s exciting. Ideally the reason it’s exciting is related to a metric or objective that stakeholder cares about. The latter approach is obviously preferable. By the time you finish your elevator ride together, the stakeholder knows what you’re working on and they’re supportive of you pursuing the idea.

A Core Idea is composed of two elements. The first half entails you explaining the “what we should do” part of your recommendation. The second half is the “why we should do it” part of your pitch. The “what we should do” component is your hypothesis as to what your best answer is. The “why we should do it” component depends upon your stakeholder. I refer to this component as “the button” – that metric or objective that makes your stakeholder sit up and take notice. Let’s look at a hypothesis about expanding our business into Italy and Germany. Let’s turn that hypothesis into a Core Idea. Below I’ve listed a few stakeholders and corresponding Core Ideas to pitch to them regarding the European market entry:

  • VP of Sales: “We should enter the Italian and German markets because we can generate $XMM in sales.”
  • Chief Financial Officer: “We should enter the Italian and German markets because we can generate $XMM in incremental profits.”
  • Chief Marketing Officer: “We should enter the Italian and German markets because we can increase our European market share by X%.”
  • VP of Human Resources: “We should enter the Italian and German markets because we can get access to a large, diverse talent pool.”

Notice the hypothesis is the same every time. I’m making a pitch for entering the Italian and German markets no matter who my stakeholder is. But the button changes depending upon who I’m trying to influence. The VP of Sales will care about sales. The CFO will care about profits. The Chief Marketing Officer will care about market share. The VP of HR will care about talent. I’m not pitching a one size fits all Core Idea. I’m tailoring it based upon who I’m trying to influence.

The odds of me getting their support go up when I target my communications this way. Imagine if I pitched the same Core Idea of “We should enter the Italian and German markets because we can generate $19MM to $23MM in sales” to all those stakeholders. The VP of Sales would be excited because the idea drives sales. The CFO might be interested but would wonder how profitable those sales will be. The CMO would ask how much of a market share increase those sales translate to and wouldn’t approve the idea until she had that answer. The VP of HR might feel frustrated because I didn’t explain the idea’s talent implications. That Core Idea would get some support from this crowd but it wouldn’t be unanimous and I would have questions I’d still need to answer.

Building a Core Idea: Hypothesis + Button

A good Core Idea combines an easily understood hypothesis with a button relevant to the stakeholder. First, get clear on your hypothesis. When you write down this part of your Core Idea, be specific and tell your audience what you want them to do. Write the hypothesis portion of your Core Idea in simple yet precise language. Saying “We should pilot a test of the new marketing model on our IT system” is more likely to be understood by everyone in the room – more so than “leverage our IT system.” If stakeholders understand your recommendation, they’ll know what you’re asking them to approve.

The second component of the Core Idea is the button. The button is the one metric or objective that your stakeholder cares about more than any other. Sometimes the button is obvious – the VP of Sales would like to drive sales. For other stakeholders the button might not be self-evident. In those situations you have a few choices for how to figure out the stakeholder’s button. You can get a copy of their goals or strategic plan. The metric they emphasize the most in those documents is their button. You can ask a member of their team what the stakeholder cares most about. You can ask the stakeholder what their objective is. If you can’t access any of those sources, think through which metric matters the most to them and start with that.

Once you’ve settled on a metric to use for the button, quantify it if possible. You may only have a rough value estimate. In many cases you won’t have an estimate at all. For now include whatever you have as a placeholder that will be refined later. In the examples I provided earlier I wrote “$XMM” or “X%” to serve as a placeholder. That’s acceptable – and encouraged – at this stage. The placeholder will serve as a reminder in future steps that you’ll need to do the analysis to solve for “X.”

If you use this “X” approach, think through X’s unit of measure. This process is about making it easy for your stakeholder to say “yes” to your pitch. If they think in percentages and you give them “$X,” you’re asking them to do math. The same holds true if they think in dollars and you give them “X%.” These extra steps aren’t required if you do the math for them. Small points like this may not seem to matter but these are the details that differentiate a rough pitch from an elegant one. Elegance is about simplicity and smoothness. These small changes are ways you can smooth the rough spots in your pitch.

About the Author

Mike Figliuolo is the author of The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved. He’s also the co-author of Lead Inside the Box and the author of One Piece of Paper. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm. An Honor Graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.

Alternative Selection – More Efficient Processes Can Increase Costs

StrategyDriven Alternative Selection ArticleThere is a common misperception that being more efficient necessarily equates to being more cost effective. However, that relationship does not necessarily exist. While seemingly desirable to be more efficient, the benefits may not necessarily be cost reductions. In fact, depending on where the efficiencies are gained within a given process, higher costs may be incurred. Consequently, leaders must articulate their goals as a specific outcome to be achieved, cost reductions being one, and not simply as a desire to be more efficient.

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Additional Information

Additional information on determining the overall value, including cost reduction potential, of initiatives can be found in the following StrategyDriven articles:

About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

Choose the Best Equipment for Your Business with These Quick Tips

Choose the Best Equipment for Your Business with These Quick Tips
Photo courtesy of MathKnight

Every business needs some kind of equipment to run. For some it might be computers, for others, it could be heavy machinery. Whatever equipment your company needs, you need to take the time to select the right products. There are several factors you need to take into consideration when you’re deciding. The initial and running costs are important to think about, and so is the efficiency of your business. You don’t want your equipment to slow down productiveness or to produce less than desirable results. Before you make any decisions, take these essential factors into account.

Deciding Whether to Lease or Buy

When you have to buy expensive equipment, you should think about whether you want to rent or buy. Cost is obviously the primary factor in choosing which one is best for you. If you want to buy, you’ll have to have a large sum of money up front. If you decide to rent your equipment, you can make smaller payments. However, you may feel that this is money going to waste. In some cases, you might have the option to rent to buy, meaning you will eventually own the equipment. You need to think about other factors too, however. For example, leasing means you can keep up with developing technology more easily.

Consider Your Requirements

Before you settle on what you’re looking for, you have to have a think about your requirements. It’s best not to start by looking at what other companies use and recommend. That can come later, but for now, it could lead you in the wrong direction. Different businesses have varying needs, so you can’t just copy someone else. You need to think about what you need your equipment to do. Which are the most important factors? Is it how fast they can do the job for which they’re intended? Is it their lifespan and how easy they are to maintain and repair?

Choose the Best Equipment for Your Business with These Quick Tips
Photo courtesy of Mixabest

Think Beyond the Purchase Cost

If cost is important to you, don’t just consider the initial price of your equipment. There is rarely a piece of equipment that won’t also cost you money to run and maintain. It’s essential to look beyond the base price and work out a lifetime cost of using something. For example, fuel efficiency is critical for heavy plant operations. It wouldn’t be much use if you saved on machinery but then had to spend a lot of money on fuel. A cheaper option could require repairs more often too, which would raise the lifetime cost of the equipment.

Comparing Your Options

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start comparing what’s available. One of the best ways to make it easier is to look for comparison sites. You can also go to manufacturer and supplier websites, where they often have a product comparison function. Choose your most important factors to consider so you can weigh your options against each other.

Choosing the right equipment is essential for your business’s efficiency and bottom line. Make sure you put some time into your decisions.

How to Assess an Online Money-Making Idea

StrategyDriven Alternative Selection ArticleAccording to Google, in December of 2012, 1.44 million people searched on some variation of the phrase “make money online.” Maybe you even found this blog post by searching for that phrase yourself. If you’re reading this, you’re at least probably interested in it.

I’ve been in the business of internet revenue generation for years. I’ve done the research myself to see what type of answers Google gives you when you search on such a phrase. Often, the business models that come up with that search promise a lot of money right out of the gate – from a few hundred dollars a month to a whopping $50,000 – with the use of this or that platform.

I want to give you a little bit of expert information about the sort of platforms we’re talking about – and some stern advice. The way these platforms work is to provide a product or service that is marketable. Usually, there’s an existing parent company that offers to let you use their product and their platform. In return, you provide the marketing muscle to make the sales.

In the online business world, marketing is almost always about creating an email opt-in list. Email addresses are gold in the internet marketing business, and there are various ways you can go about collecting them, most of which rely on content. You might put out a newsletter with compelling subject matter or create a series of video blogs (vlogs). Content is the lure that hooks those email addresses right onto your list.

Once you have amassed a decent-sized opt-in list, the next step is to send out marketing emails directly about the product you’re selling. With any luck, a certain percentage of those people will bite. Sounds simple, right?

If you read the testimonials of other entrepreneurs who have used the platform you’re considering, they probably sound pretty spectacular. But before you make a commitment, I urge you to do just a little bit of due diligence. Look at the testimonials of other entrepreneurs who have gone down this path before you, and contact two or three of them. Ask them these three specific questions:

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About the Author

Ken CourtrightKen Courtright, speaker and author of multiple best-selling Internet marketing titles, is the founder of Today’s Growth Consultant (TGC) – a two-time Inc. 5000 designee – that launched TGC/Income Store partners with individuals, companies and private equity firms/fund managers procure, develop and manage revenue-generating websites at two times earnings. The company’s portfolio currently boasts over 400 websites that are seen approximately 100 million times each year. Ken may be reached online at