Caution – Curves Ahead    

Curve aheadI met a woman at social event last weekend and turns out she’s the president of a well-known company  here in Southern California. During our conversation, she said that right now, the company  — and she specifically called out her Marketing Department – is probably not doing all that it could to stay ahead of the curve. We talked about all the different things that “staying ahead of the curve” might mean to an organization, from keeping the company positioned as a leader to keeping one’s eyes open for change before it happens and before it’s too late to implement innovations. In short, we agreed that getting ahead of the curve provided three primary benefits: it would take advantage of opportunities that otherwise might be missed; it would, as much as possible, stop calamities from happening; and it would allow the company to be better prepared for the future.  I can’t imagine that any decision maker or Marketing Department, especially in this new world of business, wants to be seen as a victim of events, caught unaware and therefore scrambling from one initiative to another. Right?

Unfortunately, too many companies wait too long to begin the process of change and do so only when the writing is on the wall. Alternatively, the really successful companies, the one who people see as operating from a position of strength, change before they must. There is no denying that high performing companies sense the need for market changes early, and act accordingly.

So then, what are some things that a Marketing Department could do to stay ahead of the curve and in doing so give the organization a leg up from others.

Quitting Not Allowed

I’ve seen this on more than one occasion, and the successful companies know this to be the case, which is not to quit when everybody else does. That’s how you go from successful to crazy successful, and that’s how you dominate your industry no matter what it is. You develop or take on a great product that’s different, or you take an idea further. Dominate by putting out one idea after another after another… Dominate by not quitting. Dominate by trying, failing, trying again. Take your good ideas and make them better, take them further, show everybody how it’s done… get ahead the curve and stay well out ahead of the curve.

Don’t follow Others

In business, you always want to be ahead.  Ahead of the competition…ahead of the trends…ahead of creative ideas. That said, staying ahead of the competition doesn’t always mean you need to worry about what they’re doing. Instead it’s better to do things to move your own business ahead rather than engaging your competitors in any sort of fight.  It’s critical to know your competition, but don’t follow their every move or duplicate everything they try. Trust your instincts. Be original. Be different. Be creative. Do your own research, try new strategies and new product or service offerings that you believe in. While studying competitors can be shortcut to learning what works, it can also be a waste of time. At the same time, what’s working for you today will probably be imitated by your competitors tomorrow so  it’s critical that you continue to innovate, invent, think differently, and stay ahead of the curve, including your own.

Let’s be Partners

Consider forming a strategic partnership with a noncompetitive business to grow market share and visibility. Brands are judged by the partners they keep so innovative partnerships can make brands seem cooler, more modern, more distinctive, more interesting, and more noteworthy. Innovative partnerships serve several strategic purposes such as enhancing the images of each, combining resources (financial and marketing) which result in synergistically higher levels of brand awareness for both. Not only will you have access to a completely new “Rolodex” of buyers, but you can share things like marketing, advertising, product development, sales, and branding.

Look Outward

Stay ahead of the curve by seeing what companies outside your industry are doing; understand how that idea or model might apply in your industry and be the first to apply it. Look internationally as well. How many times have you read about an interesting product that was launched in another country?  Lots of times, right? In short, be curious and ask yourself why certain companies are now doing what they’re doing. Maybe they’re seeing something that you can use for your own business. And let’s not forget about just keeping your ears and eyes open as you go about your daily business. Don’t wear blinders as you live your life.

Flex with the Times

Flexible strategies based on customer need are more successful than sticking to a plan and holding course the whole way. Adapting plans to suit the market is an essential part of getting you closer to what really resonates with the consumer. That doesn’t mean that you’re so open-minded that your brains fall out, but rather that you at least consider what the market wants and how that could be something the organization should put resources against.  If people want what you make in a different color, quantity or package, or provide your service in a different time frame or product bundle, the response can’t be “Oh, no. We just don’t do it that way.” Or, don’t be surprised when a competitor says “Sure. We can do that!”  Also, stretch your mind to learn new skills and explore new approaches. Look for learning in post-project reviews, customer meetings, research and yes, even in mistakes. Think quickly and react decisively is critical to success of business, and its hallmark for staying ahead of the curve.

The course of business is rarely, rarely ever like a desert highway where things don’t change or if they do, you can see if from a mile away. Instead, the path of business in today’s new normal will continue to be more curvy than a mountain road. Instead of driving the curves, look to take a more aerial view. It’s amazing what you’ll be able to see down the road.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

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