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The Wrong Question

by Doug Davidoff | Dec 18, 2006 11:31:54 AM

I recently had a conversation about some marketing initiatives. As we were outlining our objectives, I was asked the question, “How much are you comfortable spending on this initiative?” While this is a very common question – it is the wrong one. This is the kind of question that leads to poor execution. It is also one of the reasons people who are not sales and marketing people look at marketing with disdain.

The right question is actually a series of four or five questions. As you are planning your 2007 marketing program, I encourage you to ask them.


  • Question 1: What do we want to accomplish? Or, what is the result we want?

  • Question 2: What will it take and/or what we will have to do to accomplish our intention?

  • Question 3: What resources (time, money and energy) will be required to complete the actions that you determined by answering question 2?

  • Question 4: Are we comfortable and/or capable of expending these resources (time, money and energy)?


If the answer to this question is ‘no’, then you must go through the following additional decision tree:

  • Sub-question: Are we comfortable accepting a result below our initial desires?

  • If the answer is yes, then repeat questions 1 – 4.

  • If the answer is no, then you must consider whether the effort should be taken at all.


While this approach requires both marketers and executives to think more, it is the only process that has any chance of working over the long term.

As I’ve discussed previously (here and here), one of the underlying requirements is to allocate your limited resources (time, money and energy) effectively against those activities that have the best chance of advancing the organization towards its critical objectives.

I’ve seen too many organizations work extraordinarily hard without achieving their desired fast-growth results. One of the major causes is that they under-invest in too many initiatives. Under-investing is the result of focusing on a desired budget instead of focusing on the desired result. Don’t make that mistake.