The Folly of an A+ Paper

Damen Jackson > Blog > Packaging Trends > The Folly of an A+ Paper

In today’s ultra-competitive and somewhat more cautious economic environment, it is natural to want to get everything perfect before you pull the trigger. There are risks that go with moving forward when you do not have all your ducks in a row.

Will you meet your revenue forecast? Did you spend enough or too little to stimulate demand and insure distribution? Will your new product cannibalize sales of your core items? Can you count on repeat purchases after the initial trial period is over? How did competition respond to your initiative? As expected, or did you unintentionally turn a skirmish into a full-blown war. Is the product quality as consistent as you need to succeed? Is the cost of goods in line with the assumptions you used to build your go-to-market model?

So many questions. Lots of unknowns. Lot of moving parts. Kind of makes you want to hit the pause button before you launch to try to nail things down. Wait for that A+ paper from your Product, Finance and Sales teams.

That is a natural reaction as there is also personal risk to getting it wrong. Your reputation, your career prospects, how your boss perceives you, your market perception.

And then there is the new hire who comes in with a blue chip background, with a history of wins and a long list of innovations. New blood, new energy, new ideas. All good! In fact, the “Golden Girl” brings a really good idea to the executive team that gets strong support. And the new program is a hit in the market. The CEO even makes a point of recognizing and applauding the success.

Hold on here! You have all the elements of fostering a culture where an A+ paper is the gold standard, and the expectation. “I will look bad if I do not turn in that A+ paper.” “I saw the accolades that the new hire got, and I now need to match that bar.”

Step back and ask your executive team if you can truly afford the time it takes to produce those A+ papers. Market opportunities are often fleeting, and the window closes quickly. Or competition has also been working on something new that takes the wind out of your sails.

We are not at all saying: ready, fire, aim! That would be silly, and risky.

What we are suggesting is that a B+ paper might be good enough. If you have the buy-in from all the functional teams, the numbers and projections seem achievable, the Sales team (in particular) is bullish, and everyone agrees that this new initiative should be the top priority, then don’t wait. Ask the right questions to make sure that you and your entire team are buttoned up. Then get going, use your judgement and collective wisdom, and move forward.

You can (and should) adjust on the fly. Going with a B+ paper likely means that there will be a couple of tweaks that are necessary. And that’s OK. Operations often benefits from several weeks of running a new product to get the kinks worked out. Try out different marketing and promotion programs to optimize your return on investment. Maybe even ask your customers if the new product is meeting their expectations. Refine as necessary.

But do keep moving and inspecting how things are going. If after a couple of months, the data shows sales are not where you need them to be, or if the numbers are slowing, that’s when it is time to bring the team together. Ask if there are more obvious corrective measures that can be implemented. Importantly, ask the person or team that submitted the B+ paper if they would continue to invest in the new product. If the answer is “I’m not sure I would if it were my money,” make the hard decision to cut your losses. Save your resources to live and fight another day. Find the next B+ paper that may have even more potential to make a difference in your results.

And celebrate those good ideas, good products, good programs. Make sure everyone knows an A+ paper is NOT required, is NOT the standard. Recognize good decisions, good teams, tough calls. Leave the pursuit of always submitting an A+ paper to the academics.

At Damen Jackson, we thrive on helping clients get the biggest bang for their new product buck while staying keenly focused on being smart and nimble. We are here to be your partner, your conscience, your devil’s advocate. And we will always bring the conversation back to strategy. Who is your primary target audience? How does this product meet their needs? How do we maximize the market opportunity?

We were recently named #14 among the top 100 marketing and design agencies by Agency Spotter Top Agencies.

Importantly, we are pragmatic, focused, and energetic. We get assignments done well, and quickly.

Take the first step to a more successful business today.

1.    Hit “LET’S TALK” to schedule a free 30-minute discussion. No pressure – we promise.
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