Post Hoc, Ergo, Propter Hoc – Making better business development choices from live, rather than historical data

Apart from Latin scholars and “West Wing” anoraks, I probably need to explain the meaning of the title which is “After it, therefore because of it”. It represents the common fallacy that because something happened in the past that something else happened because of it or will happen again if you repeat your behaviour.

As business and economic development professionals, we LOVE data, stacks of it! If the report you write can fit in the overhead locker of an EasyJet, then you haven’t provided enough.

I am currently working with clients to assist them in business development strategy to write plans and make projections for funders which should cover the next 3,5 or 10 years based on data of deals and events which happened 3 to 5 years in the past. I am all for having a vision of what the world will look like, but what value does that provide your stakeholders who are working to make a difference today.

I have started to encourage the following, based on some experience I gathered in the software industry and how they build the product, optimise and drive efficiencies:

  1. Plan no further than two quarters out (Sprint campaigns): The most well-presented paperweight in your office is the annual sales and marketing plan, something happens in Q1 which sets you back, and it is never looked at again. Take some time to tool up what you are selling over the next six months, what resources it needs and what success looks like.
  2. Base your decisions on what is happening right now: Businesses have traditional peaks and valleys over the year; however if your target is business growth that is relatively irrelevant. Look for critical sources of live information using technology, open data platforms and understand what the market has a hunger or for and what the significant next trend will be – that is where your marketing attention and sales energy should go, excellent account management and service delivery will look after the past.
  3. Review, refresh and execute: During, and at the end of your sales sprint, review your progress and assess what worked and what didn’t use data based on open rates, views, click-throughs, registrations to determine the success of activities as well as sales and try to make independent decisions. Execute small changes, prepare the next sprint and go again.

I am not trying to put forward anything revolutionary. However, I see many clients who are behind target at the end of Q1 due to market conditions, do not exercise agility and spend the rest of the year torturing salespeople to pull it back, killing morale and leading inevitably to further failures.