Which strategy does your company embrace?
For three and a half quarters of Super Bowl play, the Atlanta Falcons were unstoppable. Ahead 28–3, their lead seemed insurmountable, even by the experienced Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. At this point, the younger and faster Falcons needed only to maintain their lead for the remainder of the game. And that’s when it happened. The Falcons began to focus on preservation—while the Patriots tightened their focus on perseverance. And as history showed us all, perseverance won.
Preservation vs. Perseverance
There’s a lot that B2B marketers can learn from the contrast between these two strategies: preservation vs. perseverance.
Preservation, by definition, is “the state of being kept alive, or in existence.” Thus, a Preservation strategy is one where a business’s primary goal is to preserve their status quo. This may occur when a company has achieved a comfortable position in the marketplace. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a leading position. Many privately owned companies are quite content to carve out a small market share with a modest but predictable annual growth rate. The challenge with a strategy focused on maintaining status quo stems from the simple fact that status quo is not easy to maintain. Markets change. Customers’ needs change. New technologies change. Regulations change. And the competition changes.
If your primary goal is market preservation, there is the tendency to stop focusing on where the market is going—because you’re spending most of your attention on keeping your market share safe from harm or injury. If we use a driving analogy: you spend too much energy looking in your rearview mirror at the cars who are trying to pass you, and you no longer focus on the upcoming curves in the road ahead. You become highly reactionary, changing your marketing strategies and messaging as a means to respond to competitive moves (real or perceived).
The result of scrambling to preserve your market status could prove fatal to your goals (as it was for the Atlanta Falcons).
In contrast, let’s look at the definition of perseverance: “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” Businesses who keep their focus on perseverance are able to overcome what can look like insurmountable challenges. They keep their eyes on the road ahead—constantly taking the pulse of their customers to see how customer needs and behaviors are changing. They may make slight adjustments – but they don’t become reactionary—they stay their course, eyes focused ahead.
Love them or hate them, the Patriots gave us a vital lesson in the superiority of the Perseverance strategy.
As marketers, we play a key role in helping our businesses maintain our Perseverance strategy and avoid the temptation to shift to a Preservation strategy. We do this by committing to a specific market strategy and sales messaging—and by being consistent and persistent in messaging and branding. We watch the competition, of course, but we don’t react or respond to every new move they make. We don’t let our competitors take our focus away from where we want/need to be. Instead, we stay focused on where the market is going and how customer behavior is changing. Any changes or shifts we make in our strategies are thoughtful, well-planned, and designed to anticipate changing customer needs or behaviors—not a sudden reaction to them.
So whether you were rooting for the Falcons or the Patriots, let this game become a reminder to ask yourself whether your business is truly deploying a Preservation strategy or a Perseverance strategy.