When in Doubt, Pilot

Ever heard this?
Let’s go 180 degrees in a different direction, at full speed, with everyone on board, and expect our current business to do great while we turn everything in a new direction. Yippee.
Sound like a good idea to you?
I worked with a client over the last few weeks that had done just that. And the results in sales morale, customer adoption, market response and current sales just (to be frank) really sucked.
Which makes me want to say… Whenever you want to do a break-through notion for your company, think it through and s-l-o-o-o-w down to check your assumptions and be thorough. In the scientific approach, there is a process to develop new ideas. It involves: observe, hypothesize, predict and test. When planning for B2B growth, this translates into the following actions:
Study the Market.
This means to learn. Begin by learning the current size of and your relative share in all potential markets where you want to compete and win. Understand what’s going on, and how the movers and players respond to new stuff.
Define the Outcomes specifically.
Start defining alternatives on which segments, markets, customers (based on your observations) you think you can win. This is your hypothesis. Say a $ is not sufficient. It’s gaining X% share, or winning Y number of times in a competitive situation, or gaining Z accounts.
Do the Go-to-market Planning.
Consider what exactly needs to happen to make your hypothesis a reality. An answer or prediction that you can gain share in the short term by concentrating the touches of your sales force could be one option. You also predict that you can gain share in the long term by developing better offerings. (And, don’t drink the kool-aid here, because a valid measure of a better offering is that the targeted segment/ market / customer can produce better results with it so their business is noticably improved.) In the prediction phase, look at all the 9 major forces of a GTM strategy (including product factors, marketing factors and sales factors).
Try it, and see if your hypothesis holds true. In the example, I’ve been building, the test of the soundness of the strategy is that your business is gaining share in the targeted customer set / segment / market. Look at the hard facts of true gains. You can use early predictive metrics like trial download or pilot deployments to understand what is working or not. If you have ANY doubt on a “risk it all move”, then pilot first, and pay attention to what is working. Pilots are not a cop-out. Pilots are a way of making things work on a scale that will enable success so that when the fuller plan goes into effect, you don’t risk morale or results along the way. If you want to penetrate the whole US, why not try a regional market and understand what it will take, say, to win the New York market.
And then I would add optimize to the mix. Look at what you’ve done to tune and optimize the mix of spend to return and see if you can cut any unnecessary steps or investments out of the mix. Stay tuned to what’s changing so you can keep innovating.
Every growth strategy can be improved by using this systematic approach. Try it on your current strategy and see if it helps you move from here to there even better than the full 180 degree turn does.

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  1. Ahhh…therein lies the rub. It’s infinitely “sexier” for decision-makers (especially CIO’s who need the “big splash” to extend their shelf life) to want to do the turn-on-a-dime pivot than follow a sound strategic approach.
    Since I’m an IT strategist, you can imagine, I encounter my fair share of this. What usually works (and by works, I mean, lands us the client AND gets their team on board) is the ready-fire-aim approach. It’s got the zing of action and the reserved intelligence of efficacious strategy.

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