High-Quality Lead Generation (Pillar 2): Positioning

Positioning is the second pillar of High Quality Lead generation because it succinctly clarifies:

  • Exactly what a seller does
  • Why the seller is different from others
  • Why that difference should matter to the buyer

The goal is to communicate an unmatchable offer, and the positioning statement should do so in a way that is both clear and credible. The more specific the target segment is, the easier it will be to make an offer that is both compelling and credible for that segment.

As discussed in a previous section, there are three basic types of buyers, and these different types of buyers respond to three very different kinds of positioning statements.

B2C companies are generally much better at positioning than B2B companies because they understand and take full advantage of the different types of buyers.  B2B companies tend to ignore these differences and use general statements that have something for everyone, but not enough for anyone.

Visionary BuyerProduct Positioning

Visionary Buyers are interested in accomplishing something that has never been accomplished before, and as a result, ONLY interested in a product that will enable them to be among the first to do something.

Therefore, all positioning is focused on demonstrating how this product is far better and faster than any other product out there. Anything less is not compelling.

Pragmatist BuyerMarket Positioning

Pragmatists want to see data and evidence. Therefore, they want to see some market forming around any new product so that there can be sufficient data on the efficacy of that product.  What is important here is to show the growth and credibility of the market and that the seller is a leading force within that market. Anything less is not compelling.

Conservative BuyerCompany Positioning

Conservatives care about relationships, and relationships take a long time to develop. It is the company, not the product or even the market, that conservatives buy from. Conservatives will loyally accept an inferior value from a company they know and trust, rather than a superior value from one they don’t.

As the goal of all marketing is to drive a product to a leadership position within a defensible space, positioning has to first identify the intended buyer group, and then give that buyer group every reason to believe this is an unmatchable offer.

Positioning is a complex subject, and we cannot do it justice in this paper. However, there are many excellent books and articles written on this subject that we encourage B2B executives to study,as they will make a significant difference in the quality of leads their companies can expect to generate.

In order for positioning to be effective, sellers must continually think about what buyers want by developing quality content. Read about the third pillar of high quality lead generation (“content”) here.

High-Quality Lead Generation (Pillar 3): Content

Positioning is the claim a business makes, but in order for it to work, it has to be believable. Developing quality content is the most effective way to be seen as the authoritative resource on a specific subject in a specific space.

It is worth repeating that buyers don’t want products or services—they want solutions to their problems. Many sellers, on the other hand, make money by selling products and services and continue to think that is what buyers want.

Content is the link between what buyers want and what sellers want. Through content, sellers demonstrate both a deep understanding of the buyer’s challenges and their ability to solve those challenges. That is how sellers provide the confidence that buyers need to engage in a favorable purchase decision.

It is important here to define what we mean by content. For it to have any value to Buyers, the content has to have the following qualities:

  • Relevant – The focus of the content must be on buyers, not sellers. It has everything to do with the buyers’ world, problems, and challenges, as well as the world-view and culture of the buyer. As we have shown above, what is relevant for a visionary buyer is not so for a pragmatist, let alone the conservative buyer. And vice versa.
  • Useful – The content should help buyers solve their problems — at least partially, regardless of whether or not the sellers gets anything out of it. Buyers have many options, so the seller’s first hurdle is to prove to be a more valuable partner than its competitors. The best way to accomplish this is to prove it up front, before the selling even starts. Proof is again different for each type of buyer—for a visionary, it is a demo; for a pragmatist, it is a pilot; for a conservative, it is a reference from an already known entity.
  • Fresh – Buyers can conduct their own research and find what they are looking for. Therefore, simply copying or repeating what others say, though that may sound safe and expeditious, will backfire. For sellers to make their positioning statements believable, they must provide original content that is hard to find elsewhere. Ironically, while conservatives are the least likely to want new information, they are also the most skeptical and will only accept something from an already well-established seller.
  • Depth, not breadth – The mistake many sellers make is trying to “cover all their bases” and generate shallow content for a wide audience. In reality, they need to do the exact opposite. . Buyers want someone who knows everything there is to know about the problem they have. It is the depth of knowledge they care about. This is why segmentation is the first pillar. It would be financially unsustainable to have both breadth and depth. Since buyers want to work with top-tier vendors, sellers must demonstrate depth and must choose where they will show that depth. Depth is especially important to Pragmatists who demand quite a bit of evidence. Conservatives want to know that there is a lot of evidence, but they typically do not “pour” over a lot of content.

As one can imagine, content development is resource intensive. It requires creativity and subject matter expertise, as well as skilled researchers, writers, and designers, to consistently produce high quality content.  One way to measure the quality of a lead is to gauge the lead’s level of engagement and interest. The content that the lead views (in terms of page visits and downloads, for instance) can inform sellers of the lead’s degree of readiness to be further engaged by Sales.

Finally, the use of metrics in comparing results to desired outcomes is the fourth step in generating high quality leads. Read more about measuring results here.

Build or Buy for Lead Generation: Strategic Outsourcing

None of the fourteen (14) car manufacturers today make the brake systems deployed in their cars. As critical as brake systems are to the safety of cars, car manufacturers outsource this vital component to other companies. There are good reasons why companies practice outsourcing:

  • A brake system is sufficiently different from all other systems in a car so that the technologies employed are not transferable to other systems. Therefore, the R&D expenditure can only be amortized on brake systems.
  • Brake system makers, on the other hand, can spend the R&D to build products that will be purchased by more than one car manufacturer. In other words, they can leverage the R&D on brake technology better than a carmaker can.
  • Even brake systems are complex systems, and some parts are made by very specialized vendors that make nothing but those parts.

This focus on outsourcing enables these companies to bring to market superior products at a faster rate and much lower costs than car manufacturers ever could.

If car manufacturers can build strategic partnerships with brake system makers and trust that they will be provided with  high quality, 100% reliable brake systems, B2B companies can build strategic partnerships with High Quality Lead generation providers.

As with car brake systems, Sellers can never amortize the cost of generating High Quality Leads to the extent that companies that specialize in HQLs can. The lack of cost effectiveness will always put a ceiling on either the quality or the quantity of the leads they can produce internally.

A research study provides some insights as to outsourcing is helpful.

A 2016 Lead Generation study of 600 B2B businesses found that the top two strategies for generating quality and quantity leads is the generation and distribution of email and content marketing. Of those B2B companies surveyed, 59% named white papers and eBook downloads as the biggest producer of leads. Emails followed in second place with 22% crediting them as the best generator of quality leads.

Despite content marketing being named as the top lead generator, it was overwhelmingly identified as the hardest marketing strategy for companies to implement. This discrepancy occurs because businesses often attempt to deploy these resource-intensive marketing strategies in-house, rather than outsourcing.

Effective content marketing requires a deep, intensive dive into the industries of potential leads. In the presence of a saturated market, B2B buyers tend to only pay attention to Sellers who are aware of the challenges that plague their industries. Acquiring such a thorough understanding of the buyers’ industry requires a massive in-house expenditure from companies, and therefore your company should consider outsourcing. These efforts take away time and money from other avenues such as the innovation of new products and services. By outsourcing marketing practices and procedures, B2B sellers are able to produce effective marketing while saving resources toward developing new products to remain competitive. Through outsourced marketing, B2B sellers achieve maximum quality and quantity leads while preserving essential assets to invest and allocate in-house.

Read about the first and second components of the Build or Buy Decision in Lead Generation.

Build or Buy for Lead Generation: Resource Demands

In “The Build or Buy Decision of Lead Generation: Core versus Context”, we discussed how businesses should allocate resources to optimize revenue through differentiation. “Core” refers to the innovative processes that businesses undertake to create differentiation that wins customers. “Context” refers to all other company practices businesses implement. Many companies become bloated when trying to acquire new customers, and begin carrying as much context (if not more) as core. Before long, these companies find that no matter how many resources they add, they can’t seem to escape anemic growth. Perhaps this is because so many of these resources are context (weight) rather than the fuel necessary to maintain growth. Physics can teach us something here about resource demands.

What Physics Teaches us about Resource Demands

The benefits of outsourcing are best illustrated through the process of launching a rocket into space. When contemplating a rocket launch, the allocation of the crucial resource of fuel is the primary consideration. Approximately 94% of a spacecraft’s fuel is used to complete less than 25% of the entire journey. In comparison, only a mere 6% of the rocket’s fuel is needed to finish the remaining 75% of the distance to the destination.

The rocket requires an extreme amount of resource for minimal payout. This is due to the fact that a spacecraft must first overcome inertia in order to reach escape velocity. Only then can the rocket fly smoothly with minimal expenditure for maximum distance payoff.

If the rocket expended a little bit of fuel at a time, it would never achieve escape velocity. It must burn a huge amount of fuel in a very short time to break out of the earth’s gravitational pull. From there, a small amount of fuel will carry it the rest of the way.

Businesses face the same dilemma as the rocket: if they hire a few resources here and there and spread them out over a number of departments, they will never achieve high growth rate. Like the spaceship, companies will experience flat growth rate unless significant effort is expended to move them out of inertia. This requires concentrating resources on core—not context—activities.

Say a company had $1 million to spend on additional hiring in the next fiscal year, and on average this means ten (10) new headcount.

Would the company get the most bang for its buck by adding all ten to one department, such as product development, or by distributing the ten across all departments for equal headcount growth?

Most would agree that concentrating all new headcount on either core product development or service would bring the company more competitive advantage and win more customers.

Read about the third Build or Buy decision, “Strategic Outsourcing”.

Build or Buy for Lead Generation: Core vs. Context

Over the past decades, companies have systematically outsourced an increasing number business processes that they formerly performed in-house, including: payroll processing, IT support, training, and HR benefits management. Here, we will discussion the importance of understanding core vs. context in lead generation.

These companies had drawn the conclusion that just because they could do something does not mean they should. It is more efficient  to find other firms that could probably do it just as well—sometimes better, and sometimes at a lower cost.

But the most important reason for outsourcing is that engaging in activities that are not core to one’s business mission will likely chip away at the intense focus necessary to thrive and even survive in a highly competitive world.

To see why, we will explore a concept popularized by B2B marketing expert Geoffrey Moore.

Core vs. Context

The concept of core vs. context refers to how businesses should allocate resources to optimize revenue through differentiation. “Core” refers to the innovative processes that businesses undertake to create differentiation that wins customers. “Context” refers to all other company practices businesses implement. Core practices allow companies to remain competitive in the B2B industries. Markets reward core initiatives, but never context initiatives. The market only responds to context by punishing businesses if context is implemented badly.

Mission critical versus non-mission critical processes operate in tandem with core versus context issues. The difference between mission and non-mission critical is whether the process shortfall creates immediate detrimental risk to revenue. Mission critical and non-mission critical processes can refer to both concept and core.

There are four quadrants of practices for the processes of core vs. context:

  1. Develop: In this stage, companies innovate new products and services. Here, revenues are still too small to make this process mission critical, but development is key to creating core.
  2. Deploy: Companies in this core stage release their goods to the market. This is where products become mission critical as revenues rise.
  3. Manage: The management stage involves managing the mission critical nature of the product or service being sold through context processes.
  4. Offload: In the final quadrant, companies get rid of non-mission critical processes. The market will always neutralize core innovations as demand changes. Businesses must offload the maintenance of their existing products to others so they can  focus on remaining competitive through generating new ideas and developments. The primary way companies offload is through outsourcing. Outsourcing the marketing of existing products is the most efficient and effective utilization of company resources. Outsourcing marketing allows companies to use in-house resources for the research and development of new ideas while continuing to profit from products currently on the market through the capabilities of external marketing.

It is during quadrant 3 that companies become bloated and begin carrying as much context (if not more) as core. Before long, these companies find that though they have plenty of resources, growth is anemic while revenue and profitability targets are missed. They hire more people to add more resources, only to see that costs are growing faster than revenues or profits.

No matter how many resources they add, they can’t seem to escape anemic growth. Perhaps this is because so many of these resources are context (weight) rather than the fuel necessary to maintain growth. Physics can teach us something here.

Read about what physics tells us about resource demand in the build or buy decision of lead generation here.

High-Quality Lead Generation (Pillar 4): Metrics

Success is a result of clearly knowing what is required, preparing a plan for achieving it, executing the plan, measuring results, comparing results to desired outcomes, and then making necessary adjustments towards the desired outcomes. Do more of what’s working, eliminate what’s not, and keep improving until you find a better way. Data provides reliable metrics and insights on where to spend more resources and where to spend less. Measuring results is critical to consistently producing High Quality Leads. The important questions to answer are:

  • Which metrics do we want to track?
  • What do we do with the findings?

Amazon tracks over 700 different metrics. However, for most B2Bs, the key categories to track for lead generation are email campaigns, inbound (web), and social media properties. Below are the minimal metrics that should be tracked in order to bolster HQL generation.

Email Metrics

MetricsWhat it tells us
Open ratesOpen rate metrics don’t reveal whether or not someone has read the email, only that they have opened it.

High open rates typically mean that the subject line is interesting and/or the sender (person and/or company) is familiar.

Such metrics vary from industry to industry, and comparisons should be made within rather than across industry.

Click through ratesOne clear indicator that an email has been read is if a link in the body has been clicked.This is also a strong indicator of the recipient  moving from curiosity (opening the email) to interest (clicking to find out more).
Bounce ratesThere are two kinds of bounces: hard (the email cannot be delivered) and soft (the server will not deliver the email because the sender is unknown).

Bounce rate metrics typically measure the quality of the email list used. High bounce rates indicate that the list is “stale” and has outdated information.

Opt out ratesOpt out rate metrics measure the degree to which there is a strong fit between the target audience and the message.

High opt out rates  indicate that the recipients regard the email(s) as spam. Most likely, the list is untargeted—  making the message irrelevant for a substantial number of recipients. Or, the list is targeted but the message is weak and uninteresting to the recipients. Either scenario is likely to irritate recipients and make them opt out to avoid receiving unsolicited and unhelpful emails.

Too many opt outs are early warning signs that the company may be charged with spam complaints, which can cause the company’s email domain to be blacklisted.

 

Inbound (web) Metrics

Inbound leads are typically of better quality than outbound leads because the prospects have already demonstrated a desire to find out more—which means they likely have a pain they want to address sooner than later. Therefore, it is very important to understand the requirements for generating inbound leads at the lowest cost possible. The metrics below are equally important for both organic and paid search activities.

Unique VisitorsThese are the number of actual visitors coming for the first time in the period measured (today, this week, this month, etc.). Generally speaking, increasing the number of unique visitors is a result of a significant amount of relevant content that has been highly search engine optimized (SEO), probably with additional help from outbound or social media marketing.
Bounce rateThis refers to visitors that came and left from the same page because they entered without looking at other pages. This is an indication that visitors landed on the site by mistake, which suggests that  focus key words may be misleading.

It is also important to track which pages have the highest bounce rates.

Gateway pagesIt is important to take note of  the most visited entry pages on a site in order to optimize the content and ensure that visitors stay on the website. The pricing page is a typical gateway page. Companies that only provide pricing information on that page are not using the page to its greatest potential. Worse, they may not even have a “Contact sales for pricing” message. This will likely result in higher bounce rates from that page.
Avg. pages per visitWe want “sticky” sites where visitors spend some time looking at several website pages. The more pages visitors view, the more engaged they become— ensuring a high degree of both name recognition and understanding of what the seller does. This is what we call a Marketing Qualified Lead: one that shows a strong need for knowing more even though the lead’s budget and decision-making capacity are unknown.

If the number of unique visitors is high but the bounce rates are also high, then the remedy is to provide links on the gateway pages to increase the stickiness of the website.

Key wordsMany visitors enter generic key words in their searches. Sites that rely on generic key words are usually ranked too low to appear high in a web search.

For example, entering “stethoscope” returns 9.2 million results; entering Littmann stethoscope returns 475,000 results; and entering “Littmann pediatric cardiology stethoscope” returns 123,000 results. In each case, “Littmann” appears at or near the top since the company spends a great deal of money on being at the top for any search on stethoscopes. Product based key words should use both the category and the specific name of the product.

 

Prospecting Metrics

As a general rule, companies should make telephone calls to follow up on their marketing activities. Skilled phone prospectors, or Business Development Reps (BDRs), can generate High Quality Leads on a regular basis.

From a prospecting perspective, all leads begin as Untouched and either become a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) or are exited (unqualified).

Note: The Difference between a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and a High Quality Lead (HQL) is that a HQL is a SQL that has been accepted by Sales. In other words, when it meets the fifth criterion, it becomes a HQL.

The metrics for phone conversations differ greatly from industry to industry and from role to role. Some people use the telephone as an instrument for doing their work and typically pick up when it rings. Others see it as a nuisance and source of interruption, so they only take calls from customers or people they know.

For example, it is far easier to reach those in sales roles than it is to reach CIOs or technical people in general. Similarly, those in local government jobs are more likely to pick up than those in state or federal government offices. Generally speaking, older people tend to pick up the phone far more often than younger decision makers.

With that said, there are some important metrics to track when monitoring the effectiveness of a prospecting program in generating High Quality Leads.

Prospecting Metrics
Key Conversation RatioThis measures the relative ease or difficulty of reaching the target. The higher the ratio, the more accessible these decision makers are. This does not include conversations with receptionists or assistants unless assistants provide useful information.
SQL RatioFrom the BDR’s perspective, getting Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is the goal. To achieve this, the BDR asks a series of questions to gauge whether a potential lead meets a client’s specific criteria through SQL metrics.
Acceptance RatioAcceptance ratio metrics keep the prospecting team honest. Sales people look at the SQLs turned in and either accept or reject them. As a rule, the minimum acceptable acceptance ratio should be around 80%, so that no more than 20% of SQLs turned in are rejected.
Nurture ratioThis is the “Not interested now” or “Don’t have a budget now” metric. Such metrics can give a sense of the BDR’s skill and the quality of the call script, including the quality of the objection banks used to address some of the reasons given for not being interested. If the lead is in the right target and the right role, the only reason for not being interested is that the lead has already solved the problem in question.
Exit RatioThere are several reasons for exiting—all of which are determined after trying to reach someone. Metrics such as the exit ratio can help clarify these reasons:

  • Not a good fit—This means that the targeted company itself is not a good fit. It is either too small or too big or not even in the right sector. This is an indication that the list contains bad data.
  • Not the right person – The company can be the right target, but the individual contacted is not the right person for the purpose of the call. This is an indicator that the list is not well-targeted.
  • Bad data – This means that the phone number is wrong or disconnected. Therefore, the list is stale and has old information.
  • Can’t reach – There are limits to the number of times we want a BDR to call the same number before giving up and moving on. Unless the lead is on vacation, an extended period of unreachability indicates a lack of willingness to pick up the phone or return a call. In these cases, the BDR should move on.

Read about the first pillar of High Quality Lead Generation here.

Great Companies Can Be Found in All Industries

great companies

If I were to indulge myself in a Sunday brunch, sip on a cup of coffee, and think about the great companies in America today, they would come from the most exciting industries in the country – like the internet businesses and the space age industries. It’s hard for me to imagine successful businesses springing from lackluster industries. The research data, however, would show me to be dead wrong.

The companies that Jim Collins qualifies as “good to great” in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t come from run of the mill industries. Industries without flare or panache. That’s not what I had expected at all.

But before we look at businesses that made the transition from good to great, we need to understand the criteria Collins used. He is the first to admit that his criteria are arbitrary. His criteria are very strict. Businesses that he excluded today he might include a decade from now – simply because they would have been around long enough to have a 30-year history. His criteria were companies that:

  • Had 15 years of mediocre financial achievements followed by a turning point and then 15 years of extraordinary achievements. In fact, the businesses Collins selected had average cumulative stock returns 6.9 times the general market.
  • Outstripped their respective industries 3 to 1. If the entire industry went through a massive ramp up and the subject company rode the surf with its cohorts, it was not a “good to great” company.

In fact, there are many successful businesses in America that have far outstripped the market year after year for decades. Collins excluded these companies precisely because they had been great for a long time. He was only interested in “good to great” companies. The eleven “good to great” companies and their industries are listed below:

AbbottHealth care
Circuit CityConsumer electronics
Fannie MaeMortgages
GilletteConsumer packaged goods
Kimberly-ClarkPersonal paper products
KrogerGrocery
NucorSteel
Philip MorrisConsumer products
Pitney BowesBusiness services
WalgreensRetail
Wells FargoFinancial services

What is instructive here is that these “good to great” companies come from a wide range of industries. This means that any company can become a successful company. It’s a matter of the senior management or the board making that decision – and then following through.

Read about hiring the right people for your company.

Hiring the Right People for Your Team

hiring the right people

Hiring the right people is more important than having the right strategy.

When I took my first job in the corporate world, I was eager to learn the secrets of success of large corporations. I learned one ‘secret’ that stuck with me throughout my career and that I never questioned.

It said that every organization needed to begin by defining its purpose. Once it knew its purpose, it needed to design an organizational structure that would enable it to achieve its purpose. Once the organizational structure was in place, the enterprise would hire the right people to fill the chart. In no case was it acceptable to hire someone just because she was a prima donna if you didn’t know where she would fit into the organization.

Once the enterprise had designed its organizational structure, Human Resources would go to great lengths to draft job descriptions, develop selection criteria, and then filter candidates against those criteria.

I just finished reading the remarkable book, Good to Great by Jim Collins. Unlike other scholars, Jim did not start his study of corporations that had made the transition from being good companies to being great companies by forming an hypothesis. Instead, he let the research data speak for itself. He learned from the data even when it ran contrary to his preconceived notions. This is the source of counterintuitive wisdom.

One of his findings is startling. He found that great companies hire the right people first and then figure out where to slot them into the organization later. This is the very antithesis of the truths we hear from Human Resources! As a consequence, it is vital for companies to treat their organization charts as suggestions only. They should not be worshipped.

I’m sure everyone has HR horror stories to tell, so I hope you will indulge me if I tell you a couple of my own.

The first occurred while the ink was still wet on my Master’s degree in Computer Science from one of the world’s 25 leading universities. Eager to start my career, I applied for a position in the IT department at Air Canada. I made the mistake of applying through Human Resources. The HR officer told me that if I wanted to proceed with my application, I would need to take a test to assess my aptitude for programming. I quickly pointed that I had eight years successful experience in the discipline and an advanced degree as well, just to drive the point home. Nonplussed, she would not budge. It was a requirement and there was no way to escape it. It didn’t take me long to realize that a company that was this rigid would be no place for me to ply my craft, nor do they know what it takes to hire the right people.

The second story deals with staffing a project management position with the City of Vancouver when it was implementing its first library IT system. My hiring manager and I agreed on a starting salary. He told me he would advise HR or our agreement. I was to contact HR on Monday, make the necessary arrangements, and start the following Monday. I was stunned when HR refused to honour our agreement and offered me a couple thousand less – take it or leave it. I left it. The City hired another manager, the project failed, and the City lost $2 million and thousands of hours of management time. That is not to say that the project would not have failed had I been at the helm. One will never now. But at least I felt the need to ask the question.

My real point here is that we need to seriously question the guidelines HR offers in order to ensure that we are hiring the right people. HR practices often jeopardize the success of their host organizations. Whenever there is a conflict between HR and real-world experience or common sense, go with the latter.

Real-world data shows that great organizations hire the best talent they can find and restructure the organization to leverage their strengths. Good organizations hire to their charts.

Myths taught in Business Schools

business school

The management principles taught by even the top schools might be outdated. Much of the foundation for our modern business management comes from the Industrial revolution of the 19th century.

We’ve all heard about what we need to do to turn mediocre companies around and make them stellar. I’ve either worked for or had first-hand knowledge about companies that have done all these things. I’m sure you have, too. We’ll step through them one by one.

The problem is that objective research has shown that NONE of these initiatives is pivotal in driving a meteoric improvement in a company’s performance! Jim Collins and his team of researchers from Stanford undertook a meticulous study of companies that rose from mediocrity to stardom and published their results in their book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. This is what they learned.

Myth 1: Bring in a star CEO from the outside. This doesn’t work. In fact, the evidence shows that bringing in these star performers from the outside negatively impacts revenues and profits. The companies that managed turn arounds successfully have been promoted from within.

Myth 2: The right compensation program drives the right behaviors. The facts don’t bear this out. You need to offer the right pay to attract the right executives, but they will be star performers because they believe in what the company is doing and they have the freedom to be effective. Tweaking the compensation system does not tweak behavior.

Myth 3: Top companies have better strategies than the low performers. Again, not true. The run-of-the-mill companies had strategic plans and implementation plans that were just as well thought through as the top performers. There is an excellent book, Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done – that shows that enterprises fail because they fail to execute their plans, not because they fail to plan.

Myth 4: Top companies focus on what they need to do. Again, as counterintuitive as that seems, it’s not true. They focus on what not to do! Steve Jobs’ biography is particularly instructive on this point. When Jobs came back to take over the helm of Apple, he cut out hundreds of projects. He focused on building just a few products. He wanted products that were mind-bendingly great. To do that, he started by cutting out all but a handful of projects.

Myth 5: Technology investments will help turn a company around. Not true! Technology investments accelerate turnarounds but do not launch them.

Myth 6: Mergers and acquisitions will pick a company up by filling in missing parts of a product portfolio and trigger a rebirth. The merger of two mediocre companies does not make a great company. A company needs to be on a success trajectory first and then merge or acquire to accelerate that growth later.

Myth 7: Turnarounds require close attention to managing change, motivating staff, and ensuring alignment. The data does not support any of that. Companies that actually make the move from mediocrity to superior performance do it one day at a time. One tiny step at a time. They take the right steps and the alignment, staff motivation, and organizational change falls into place naturally. No need to make a big deal of it.

Myth 8: The launch from mediocrity to superiority is launched with a tag line, major announcement, and well-defined programs. Actually, it doesn’t work that way at all. What turn around companies really do is far more mundane. They make thousands of small adjustments. Take thousands of small steps. Move people around as the opportunities present themselves. Drop the deadwood when possible. Make one sale at a time. There is no major trigger event or major announcement.

Myth 9: Good-to-great companies are in great industries. Again, the evidence does not bear this out. These companies come from run-of-the-mill industries. Industries like the mortgage industry or the grocery industry. Moving an enterprise from adequate to exceptional can – and does – occur in all industries.

Here is the lesson we need to take away. Forget the hoopla. Instead, management needs to think through its business, develop its core values, and start making gradual progress. Middle management will eventually sense a change in the environment. Then the rank and file will sense the change. Then the market will sense the change. Then the investment community will sense the change. All the parties will see the results without big announcements. When the change is finally recognized, it will look like an overnight success. In fact, it will be anything but that.