Key questions to ask as you grow
The start of any brand initiative is accompanied by an array of emotions: excitement, nervousness, uncertainty, and optimism. While the opportunity to leverage a brand to create meaningful change in the world is exciting, you also have the responsibility to demonstrate that this initiative will create long-term value for the business.
A compelling business case captures both the quantifiable and non-quantifiable characteristics of a proposed project, securing C-Level approval. It should be a standard component of any major brand decision.
Every business has different needs, circumstances, data points, and metrics—all of which are relevant for evaluating the brand’s health and success. There is no off-the-shelf solution for producing a business case. Instead, it’s critical that you ask yourself some key questions to build the most robust case possible, and to provide the team with a roadmap that identifies key milestones along the way.
How do you define success?
Do you expect to sell more of your current products to current customers? If so, who are you trying to take share from?
Are you trying to attract new users to your brand? Why will this new brand compel them?
Are you trying to reduce customer churn/attrition?
Are you striving to charge more for your existing products or services?
Are you expanding into new markets or categories?
Are you bundling products together (cross-selling) and creating more of a solutions offering?
All of these can drive topline growth, and you need to be clear on what your strategic objectives are to best model and measure this going forward.
One of the more typical outcomes we look at is the NPV (Net Present Value) of an initiative. However, there is a high level of uncertainty associated with each individual business lever (revenue, individual product/services costs, selling and administrative expenses, etc.).
It’s often more pragmatic to focus on expected ranges of values and/or a break-even analysis. Scenario modeling through a Monte Carlo simulation or other tools can be incredibly useful for understanding the range of worst, best, and most likely outcomes.
A break-even analysis leverages NPV as a framework for understanding what revenue growth you need to achieve in order to be NPV-neutral. It factors in the brand investment, as well as the other costs. These types of analyses can give you a sense of what you “need to believe to believe” in order for your project to be successful.
What are your sources of information and potential limitations?
It’s important to ask this question at the onset of a project to ensure you have the appropriate plan to help build your model and inform your assumptions along the journey.
Will you be conducting primary research for this project, and if so, what are the potential metrics you can measure? For example:
Can you use a quant survey to gauge the uplift in purchase intent associated with the brand initiative?
If not, what sort of case studies can you leverage to give you a sense of what we can expect?
Can you connect research data to CRM data to demonstrate the link between brand perceptions and behaviors?
Will you conduct an internal survey to help us measure employee engagement pre/post your initiative?
What types of desktop research will be most useful in guiding your assumptions and building your model?
How do you plan on estimating the brand investment required?
Do you have the necessary partners (agency and internal) on the project to ensure you are aligned on this estimate?
Asking these questions early on gives us you the opportunity to ensure you are maximizing opportunities during all phases of the project while doing due diligence throughout.
If you are building a financial model, it’s also important to understand the level of granularity you will have access to so you can manage stakeholder expectations. It’s important to be transparent about what’s ideal vs. existing constraints, so you can properly understand the limitations (if any) of your approach.
What are your major assumptions going in?
Often, only a few variables—or just one—will determine whether your initiative succeeds or fails. Make sure you take the time to analyze these assumptions when you put your model together, and focus your strategy on ensuring that these elements get proper attention once your initiative begins.
If your model is sensitive to advertising spend or brand investment, ensure your estimates are in line with what other brands have spent in the past. What are some ways you can be more efficient with your investment? How can you ensure the whole company buys into and is engaged by the new brand?
Challenging assumptions and thinking about creative ways to optimize them will help give your ideas a better chance at being accepted.
How do you measure success going forward?
A business case should not end with a financial model or presentation. You need to ensure you are tracking your metrics going forward to evaluate how successful the initiative is, and you need a proper plan in place to do this:
Do you have the necessary tools and teams in place to track and measure the metrics we defined early on (on both the demand and cost side)? If not, where are the gaps?
What’s the timeframe for success and for more direct monitoring?
Who needs to be kept informed on how well we are tracking?
Not only does a thoughtful plan ensure you can evaluate the success of your current initiative, but it can help build a case for future initiatives, as stakeholders will see the necessary frameworks are in place to evaluate success on an ongoing basis.
A strong business case can provide comfort to all key stakeholders regarding the risks and benefits of a particular initiative. It demonstrates that the team is being thorough and thoughtful about the commitment necessary to achieve the desired outcome. Through building a business case, you’ll often uncover risks or other issues that were not initially apparent at the onset of a project, which can help guide your overall strategy and implementation. The best business cases are not just models, but tools to guide this strategy and ensure the project’s ongoing success.
Written by Adam Daniele,Associate Director, Strategy & Analytics Interbrand