Law #13: The Law of Sacrifice
17 Jun 2004
(This entry is part of a series I am writing on
Immutable Laws of Marketing.)
The Law of Sacrifice says that "you have to give up something in order to get
The cool thing about this law is that it's not automatically
attractive. It makes you think.
The Law of Focus isn't like that. When people hear about the Law of
Focus, the first reaction is to say, "Yes, yes, focus is good." People
seem to forget that the word "focus" implies a decision about what you are
not going to do. With the word "sacrifice", that
particular implication is much clearer.
But in some sense, these two laws are the same idea with different
expressions. There is power in focus, but to get there, we have to make
tough decisions about what things we will not do.
Aiming once again at Scotts
I'll give Sun a break today and go back to picking on Borland. Here is
a perfect example of a company that can't focus because they're not willing to
sacrifice. Their product line is all over the map.
The problem with not having a focus is that your customers can only describe
you in terms of your past. Borland's "Excellence Endures" tagline even
reinforces this. It's a fine tagline, but it doesn't say much to me about
the future. It is a celebration of their 20 years of history.
Borland is a fine company with some great products. But they should be
telling us more about their future than their past. In the next five
years, what one thing will Borland do better than anybody
(To be fair, however, we
should admit that Borland's marketing may not matter much. Microsoft needs
Borland (and Apple, and Sun) to exist in order to give the illusion that their
products have competition. In this case, Excellence will continue to
Endure, but Mediocrity would suffice, since Microsoft will always stop a little
bit short of killing them off.)
The Law of Sacrifice is all about saying "no" to opportunities. This
skill is incredibly difficult to learn. I suspect that the only way to
learn to say "no" is to experience the pain of saying "yes" too often.
That's how I learned it. SourceGear used to be all over the map.
We smiled and described that condition with a positive spin, telling ourselves
that we were "opportunistic". But life inside the company got pretty
confusing. We had several product efforts going on, all unrelated.
We had a consulting division doing engagements which were not related to any of
our products. When someone asked us "What does SourceGear do?" it
would take ten minutes to explain. By the time we were done, the elevator
had gone back and forth to the lobby three times.
Our revenue was high, but we had no focus. We were in a strategy which
was positive in the short-term and negative in the
long-term. So we sacrificed. We started saying "no".
At first, it was really hard. People called us for a consulting gig and
we turned it down. Even as I write this, it sounds crazy. I said
"no" to money! What was I thinking?
It took a while, but things got better. A lot better. Today,
SourceGear is a focused company, but to get to this point, we had to stop saying
"yes" to every opportunity we saw.