Dear CMO:

You spend weeks of hard work developing a PPC campaign to drive more traffic to your site, but the landing page only gets a full fifteen minutes of thought. Clicks are way up, but conversion is flat. Visit to store is fine; store to close? All you hear is crickets.

It takes twelve months to design your new product that is technically superior in every possible way to your competitor’s version, but little thought is given to the part that touches the human being. Under the hood, you’re unbeatable. But your end users think you’re uncomfortable. Makes you wonder why “they just don’t get it,” doesn’t it?

Your engineers have created a format that revolutionizes the industry and you want to promote it to the skies. You put your marketing behind what’s most visible to you — the format itself — but not how the customer sees it, uses it, or what they find most important.

You develop a serious competitive advantage in a profitable and hard to reach niche market. But finding your website is like solving the mysteries of the Da Vinci Code. And your contact information is even tougher to find.

You nail the presentation to the client and don’t ask for the sale.

You wrap up a successful client engagement and don’t get a referral, a testimonial or a case study.

* * *
Key takeaways:

. There is always the opportunity to ask ourselves one more “then what?” question. Can we instill the discipline in ourselves and our teams that drives execution down one… more… step… deeper into the customers’ hands and hearts? What happens after they buy it at Best Buy? What happens after they unwrap it? After they use it the first, second, hundredth time? What happens after a month, a year, when they’re ready to throw it away because they’ve worn the paint off of it from over-use?

. All the planning in the world won’t help if you don’t convert customers. The game, to put it metaphorically, is won in the Red Zone, not between the 20’s. And we most often fail in the last inch between us and the customer.

* * *

None of these should ever happen, should they? But they do, all the time. I’m sure if you’ve had similar roles in similar companies, many of these vignettes resonate with you, too. I’m sure if Heraclitus (or Seneca) were practicing management consulting today, he’d have an opinion on how to bake this into our everyday thinking. So in the spirit of creating a “Thinking Tool” we can all use in a repeatable fashion, let’s instill this one firmly in our minds:

“Then What?”

“Then What?” should remind us that we need to get past the fun stuff that we all like so much and remember that there are completely ignorant but well-intentioned consumers out there who we are expecting to love what we provide, and if we don’t look at the world from their perspective we will likely not connect with them at all.

Which means they won’t buy our stuff.

Then what? You know what.

Back to the drawing board, that’s what.