B2B Marketers: It’s Time to Apply the Stockdale Paradox

by Jennifer Beever

Stockdale Paradox and MarketingB2B Marketers need to confront and act on today’s brutal reality, but they must never lose faith in the end result.

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

–Admiral Jim Stockton, about his 8-year imprisonment in the Vietnam  War

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote about how great companies confronted the brutal truth, yet never lost faith in their vision of success. Called the Stockdale Paradox after Admiral Jim Stockton’s ability to survive eight brutal years in a Vietnamese prison camp, the concept is that you have to face reality head-on.

What does this mean for marketing? Marketers need to do everything they can to understand their options and to take actions based on that knowledge.

Understand your customers. If you think you know your customers, you better really understand their needs and wants. Assuming you know or thinking you know isn’t good enough. Survey, interview, study your customers to gain more intelligence about them.

Test new tactics. If you think you know what marketing tactics work, verify it. Don’t just fall back on marketing the same way – times have changed and marketing is constantly evolving. Try something new in the coming year, such as social media or video marketing, on a limited basis. Measure each activity so you know your return on investment (ROI).

Track your results. Running marketing on intuition is not good enough. Back up your feelings with cold hard facts. Now more than ever you need to justify every dollar you spend on your marketing. Invest in systems and dashboards that help you do this.

Above all, don’t give up the faith. If you ruthlessly look for opportunity, carefully test new ideas, and measure results, you can prevail. How will you apply the Stockdale Paradox?



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