Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: Whats in a (Strategy) Name


May 11, 2017

What's in a (Strategy) Name?

Marty Ganzglass is on the Board of a small NGO that was facing a very common problem in the non-profit world: how to continue providing services with reduced funding.

This NGO does critical work. Its main mission is conflict resolution. They bring people from abroad who have a common element (like farmers or orange growers) but are different ethnically and have traditionally been at each other's throats.

The NGO arranges for courses (in this example, irrigation or better techniques for growing oranges) and also includes an element in conflict resolution. In addition, the organization holds lectures and shows films related to the conflicts between different ethnic groups to raise funds to help offset the costs of the programs.


Bringing people from abroad and running technical and conflict resolution programs had become beyond their capacity, given the money they had.

Which Way to Go?

At the Board’s insistence, the Ex-Director came up with a plan to put the organization into "hibernation" so that the burn rate of their limited funds would let the NGO exist for several more years (until a major contribution was anticipated.) That meant they were going to hold off on the conflict resolution programs, including the possible shutdown of their usual fund raising activities of lectures and movies.

Others, including Marty, saw the folly of that strategy: the danger being that “out of sight is out of mind.” Aware of the importance of the fund raising activities, Marty countered the Board’s metaphorical solution with a different metaphor.

“I suggested we would be better off if the goal was ‘belt tightening’ instead of ‘hibernation.’ Working their own metaphor, I pointed out that ‘hibernation’ means no one sees the bear for several months. Since we intend to have a public presence by a speakers and movie program, let's talk about it as ‘belt-tightening.’”

"That helped to get the discussion rolling and the issue resolved and achieved my goal of keeping our name out there.”

What’s Your Strategy Metaphor?

Whether you are a one person practice or part of a larger company, an interesting exercise is to pick a metaphor that best describes your business strategy, because the metaphor you choose likely drives the activities, values, and approach you take with clients, how you position your products, how you compete, where you invest, and how you measure success. For example,

  • The Bumble Bee Strategy: Doing what others never expect you to do, which, among other things, has implications for risk taking and the type of people you hire (Bumble bees are not aerodynamically designed to fly, yet they do)

  • The Supermarket Strategy: Something for everyone, which means the ability to manage multiple products, tight inventory controls, etc.

  • The Laser Strategy: Focusing on one market, which means needing a thorough knowledge of that market, a pipeline of products to service that market, etc.

Try This

What is even more interesting is to assemble your team and ask two questions:

  • What metaphor do they think describes our current company strategy?

  • Is that the right metaphor to compete successfully in the future?

Hibernation or Belt-tightening? The answer makes a world of difference.

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay! — with Metaphors

P.S. Marty Ganzglass is a former Peace Corps member, lawyer, and now an accomplished writer of historical fiction with a focus on the Revolutionary War. Check out his highly readable books here.

Related Posts/Newsletters

Timely Metaphor: Warren Buffet
At his annual shareholders meeting, Warren Buffet, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway, presented data to show that health costs, not taxes, pose the greatest risk to our economic growth and leadership in the world. He drove home his point by saying, “Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness.” This is a metaphor he has used many times in the past to describe the “insidious and parasitic costs of our health care system.” The New York Times.

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"The best arguments
dazzle with metaphor"

Gerry Spence,
Media Commentator & Lawyer

The Original “Metaphorically Selling” that spawned a movement, now with 25 New Stories.  Available in print, ebook & (new) audiobook formats.
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7 Signs You Need A Metaphor (Visual Language)

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  2. Your listener is stuck on an objection
  3. Your listener is confused
  4. Your listener sees no difference between you and your competition
  5. You want to drive home a point vividly and memorably
  6. You have to wiggle out of a difficult situation
  7. You want to wow or motivate a larger audience

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 "The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2017. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2017, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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