Choosing the right strategy is everything in a business. 

And, while there are proven patterns of success, you need wisdom to know which strategy to apply at which times. 

For example, I love growing food. Fruits and vegetables from your own garden are very different from store bought produce. 

Most of my gardening experience was in Utah, along the Wasatch front and the Puget Sound area of Seattle, WA. 

When we lived in Montana, we planted over 50 tomato plants because we wanted to make mountains of tomato soup, tomato paste, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and all things tomato. 

On July 4, 2003, a freak winter storm hit and froze every one of those tomato plants. 

We discovered that you had to get the tomatoes pretty big inside a greenhouse before you stick them in the ground… and then be ready to cover them when freak winter storms hit. 

The proven principles of soil, nutrients, water, sunlight, etc… all are very useful when growing gardens in Montana… you just have to get the timing right and add a layer of protection that was not needed in WA and UT. 

There are three major criteria we use to figure out how to wisely use proven strategies of growth. 

Today, we’ll talk about one of them…

Criteria #1: Zeitgeist. 

If your German is a little rusty, this word means: “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.”

Zeitgeist is the environment in which you are growing your company. 

A few years ago, during a private dinner, I asked Brendon Burchard and Dean Graziosi what the number one thing is they look at when creating growth. Both have built multiple companies that have exceeded $100 million. 

Both answered without hesitation, “Look at your copy – your messaging.” 

I then asked, “Since my roots are in copywriting, I would have guessed you’d say that. Now tell me… what is the number one thing you consider when defining the direction of your copy?” 

Again, without hesitation, they said,

“Zeitgeist. What is the environment you’re in? What is the general mood of the people? Where are they at right now?” 

As of this writing, society is generally feeling negative, angry, uneasy and afraid. 

The strategy to motivate a person who is in fear is very different than persuading a person in hope. 

Your market has a zeitgeist, as do your employees. 

If you employ the wrong strategies, your environment just might deliver you a snowstorm in July. 

There are four major elements in society that define the overall zeitgeist. 

These are: 

  • Politics
  • Economy 
  • Technology
  • Health 

In making major strategic decisions, we use the PETH Score. 

Each PETH element is ranked 1-10 in two categories: 

  • Emotional State: Negative (1) or Positive (10)
  • Attention Level: Unaware (1) or Aware (10) 

For example, if your target audience tends to be conservative Republicans, the political zeitgeist Emotional State of the day was around a 9 or 10… and the Attention Level was equally high at a 10 (Trump was … is… in the news everyday). 

Messaging to this group could be hopeful, forward thinking, bold, and expansive. 

By contrast, those who despised Trump would have the opposite Emotional State scores, but still very high Attention Level scores. 

Messaging to this audience needed to be laced with underdog tones, redemption, anger, righteous indignation, victim mentality, etc… 

Marketing, messaging and strategic planning should always first assess the overall zeitgeist in these four categories. 

Then each category is assessed collectively to get an overall picture of where your target audience is at. 

Retired to a Mountain Estate

Around June of 2018, we were contacted by a large investment firm. The founder was on track to transition out of day-to-day operations and wanted to substantially increase the size of the company as a last hurrah. 

In 2018, the stock market was at an all time high. Inflation and interest rates were down. For most people, the economy Emotional State and Attention Level scores were high. 

As we went through the discovery process, we discovered that their Technology scores were both at the bottom. Being an old-school financial management firm, they saw technology as a necessary evil and were totally unaware of the tools available to them. 

This was very helpful to know because they needed to make use of a number of different technologies to create the growth they wanted. Obviously, bounding into the board room and gleefully geeking out about all the SaaS systems we planned on implementing was not the right strategy. 

Have you read The Hobbit? Do you remember the scene where Gandalf is slowly introducing all the dwarfs to the skin-changer, Beorn? 

One-by-one, slowly and delicately. 

Yeah, that was the strategy we used. 

And it worked. 

In the end, they adopted all the tools they needed and we were able to create the growth the founder wanted. He’s now happily living on a beautiful estate high in the rocky mountains. 

3 Tips to Using the PETH Score

A few helpful tips when calculating PETH scores: 

  1. Calculate scores in each country that you operate. Individual nations will score differently. 
  2. Calculate scores for your target audience specifically. You can do this with surveys, conversations, and customer service feedback. 
  3. Calculate scores for your employees. You need to know where they are at so that you can know how far and fast to push the machine. 

Zeitgeist determines how and when you use the strategic tools at your disposal because it informs you on the operating and implementation environment. 

All strategies are fundamentally about human persuasion – getting the right people to take the right action to get the desired outcome.