Let’s play alphabet forecasting.

I’ve been using these letters a lot a lot lately in discussions with CEOs, CROs, CMOs, CCOs, and other folks whose job has A LOT to do with revenue. These 5 letters have been providing us a euphemistic shorthand for describing THE SHAPE of various forecasting curves.

Resource Center > Let’s play alphabet forecasting.

Resource Center > Let’s play alphabet forecasting.

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John Common

John is Intelligent Demand’s founder, chief strategist and CEO. His energy and enthusiasm for transforming companies with modern approaches to marketing, sales, and customer success is palpable.


I want you to stare at these 5 capital letters: I – L – W – U – V. 

No, I’m not building a cute acronym. I’ve been hearing and using these letters lately with CEOs, CROs, CMOs, CCOs, and others whose job has A LOT to do with revenue. These 5 letters are giving us a shorthand for describing THE SHAPE of various forecasting curves. And these days on Earth 2, we’re all staring at our crystal balls creating and then updating our forecasts* for the next 6 to 12 months.

(* Note: Forecast is a word that business people use when they don’t want to say “I’m guessing with a spreadsheet.”)

So as I sit here at my WFH desk after a full day of Zoom meetings, sipping a cocktail (I won’t tell you which one), I offer these forecast letters to you, in case they come in handy. I also offer drink recipes for each forecast below… because why not?

And most seriously: I offer myself and my team to chat through any scenarios that you and your team might be facing. We’re in the business of helping you protect and grow revenue — no matter what your forecast says.

I truly believe that we’re going to get through this, regardless of the shape of our various forecast curves. And I predict we will be changed by these unprecedented times. But I also predict we’ll be stronger on the other side because of what we have learned together and how we have treated each other.

Okay. Let’s play ALPHABET FORECASTING — from awful to awesome:

“I” — The nosedive

This is the worst forecast. It goes straight down. Unfortunately, some industries have been following this path (restaurants, hospitality, airlines, music/art venues). It’s ugly. But at least it’s fast and abundantly clear.

“L” — The new normal

This is the next worst forecast. It goes straight down and then lands you into a new, lower baseline. This one sucks too. It says “Welcome to your new, shitty normal.” This one might be more of a gut punch than The Nosedive because it forces you to solve for a future you never really wanted.

“W” — The double dip

This forecast is the one that jerks you around. It’s a fast drop, followed by temporary false hope, followed by a second drop, and then… finally… a turnaround. This one might be the most exhausting. I’d prefer that we avoid it.

“U” — The slow turn

This one takes you down to a trough of indeterminate duration, but then it’s followed by a genuine upturn. Think of this one as tough love. It’s difficult to swallow and it lasts longer than you want, but it gets you back to full strength. In today’s climate, this would look like a turn that happens during Q3 2020. (Maybe Q4?) 

“V” — The fast turn

This is what we all hope we’re in. It’s a fast drop followed by a fast return. It’s the very model of a fast bounceback. In today’s climate, this would look like a turn that happens during Q2 2020. At this point, I think we’d all take this and feel pretty amazing about it.

There are other scenarios, and other shapes of course. Just stare down at your keyboard for inspiration:

“~” “^” — The turbulents

I love the look of this. It basically says “expect the lightest of turbulence.” This might be in the cards for some industries. How great would that be?!

“/” — The rocket

I love the shape of this one. It says “Nothing but up, baby!” Some industries are actually experiencing this! (Use Zoom lately?) But for most of us, this forecast is a dream at the moment. The go-go days will return — but not for a bit, methinks.

But let’s get to the important part: drink recipes.

As a bonus, I’ve paired each forecast letter with a recommended drink recipe. Think of me as your forecasting bartender:

“I” = an airline-sized bottle of Jack Daniels — the flight attendant pours it into your laptop

“L” = a decent IPA (it’s bitter) — poured into one of those vacuum bottles you got from that MarTech conference

“W” = a glass of pinot noir duct taped to a yoyo — yes, it spills all over you

“U” = a really gorgeous dirty vodka martini with 4 olives — but it’s waaaaay across the bar

“V” = someone walks up to you, slaps you hard across the face — and then hands you a perfectly-made rye old fashioned

“~” = a scotch and soda — the soda is flat, but you’ve never tasted anything so good

“^” = an underwear model hands you a glass of champagne — then immediately takes it back and hands you a well rum and coke

“/” = You buy us all a drink — right now

Which FORECAST LETTER describes your current situation? 
What future do you currently see in your crystal spreadsheet?

PS 1: I’m aware that the right side of most of these letters will likely be shorter than the left side. In other words, the upturn — when it comes — might not be a return to Q4 2019 levels. 

PS 2: Thanks to my friends Matt LaMarche and Joe Kingsbury for helping me come up with these.

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