Season 4, Episode 9: How to Become a Strategic Thinker and the Spanx Story
Play • 16 min

In this episode, we share two lines of questioning you can use to become a more strategic thinker. We use Spanx as the case study to illustrate both schools of thought.

PART I

Look for solutions, not problems.

When she wanted to find manufacturers to make her prototype of her shape wear, all she could find was men making hosiery.

She, her mother, and her friends personally testing the garments. This was innovative at the time, as the industry did not test products with people. Blakely's research revealed that the industry had previously been using the same size waistband for all hosiery products to cut costs, and a rubber cord was inserted into the waistband. For her product development, Blakely created different waistbands to suit different-sized consumers

Ruthlessly prioritize

  • She wasn’t going to go door to door like she did selling fax machines. She knew she needed to get into department stores.
  • Blakely had a meeting with Neiman Marcus Group, at which she changed into the product in the ladies restroom in the presence of the buyer to prove the benefits of her innovation.[9] Blakely's product was sold in seven Neiman Marcus stores as a result of the meeting;

Spending time in the stores where your product lives will not only let you pull sneaky marketing maneuvers, but it will also let you learn directly from customers about what’s missing in your market.

Do some research and find out what podcasts, television shows, publications, social media platforms, and events your target demographic is into. 

Sara’s top media priority was Oprah, so she sent the TV mogul a gift basket of Spanx to get her attention. Don’t be shy about sending samples of your product to your favorite podcasters, Instagram celebs, or journalists in the hopes that they want to review it.

In 2017, Sara invited her friends to take pictures of themselves skiing in Spanx. In your notebook, label a page “(Kinda) Crazy Marketing Tactics.” Come up with at least 10 out-of-the-box marketing ideas

Be Willing to Take Risks.

Sara decided to patent Spanx early.  

Use Packaging to Stand out

Spanx’s packaging shone in bright red—and the color alone subsequently became a form of advertising. 

For inspiration, go on a recon mission to the types of stores that might carry your product. Take a good long look around. What packaging trends do you see? More importantly, what do you not see at all? Write your observations down and look for a packaging niche you can fil

Listen to and Recruit Others' Perspective.

She met Laurie Ann Goldman at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Atlanta in 2001, while she was on maternity leave from her employer at the time, Coca-Cola. Goldman was specifically looking for a Spanx product, and the pair exchanged contact details—Goldman became the CEO of Spanx in 2002.

Goldman crafted a business model for the company based on lessons she learned during her 10-year stint at Coke: thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast. She advised her team at SPANX to focus on product quality over profit margins. 

Free Yourself from Execution.

Just 2 weeks ago, founder Sara Blakely sold a majority stake in Spanx to Blackstone, valued at $1.2 Bilion


PART 2

Question 1: Why should I care about this problem?

Market opportunity: The number of women was on the increase

Question 2: What does success look like?

Question 3: How might I solve this problem?

Question 4: How should I actually solve the problem?

Question 5: How can I take action?


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