You have an aggressive annual objective. You need an innovative strategy to achieve it. But each week you take on developing your strategy represents 2% of your year, and sets you that much further behind your goal. You now have a steeper hill to climb, and in less time. How do you square the requirement to spend an appropriate amount of time researching and planning, with the need for speed?
The steps necessary in developing a digital strategy take time. You need to understand the audience, the competitive landscape, the unique selling proposition, the point of differentiation and the digital landscape. This is not a trivial exercise. Typically it takes multiple people with diverse skill sets manipulating a variety of platforms to even pull together the insights. You then need to assemble this into an actionable plan with individual tactics, showcasing how they all come together to achieve the goal. Taken together, this represents weeks of work, especially if you’re looking for a strategy that isn’t a carbon copy of what others are doing. And all this before you even begin implementing.
So what do you do if you have a client who is pressed for time and needs to show immediate results? The obvious answer is to say to them that they show have contacted you earlier, but the truth is that most clients will look for a new partner when they have a problem that they can’t solve with their current provider. This challenge represents your opportunity to win their business. But how do you do so without setting yourself up for failure? How do you win the business without quickly losing their trust?
You start by understanding that you are being hired for two primary reasons; your ideas and speed. These are typically the most difficult things for in-house teams to deliver, so the moment you are incapable of formulating great solutions and getting them implemented quickly, you instantly lose value.
Great ideas and well considered strategies need time to formulate. But there is a way to deliver them without weeks of executional inaction. This is the idea behind growth hacking.
Growth hacking is a concept that first really took off among the silicon valley technology start ups. It begins with utilizing a hypothesis or basic strategy. This strategy is based on a minimal amount of data, specifically just enough to prove that this is the right approach. Expectations are set that this is not a complete and differentiated strategy, but based on previous experience, is likely at least 70% of the way there. Note that this might not be enough to achieve the objective, but it will be enough to prevent you falling behind too much. This initial strategy draws upon your experience, which of course is part of the reason you’re being hired. Being able to get a framework in place, all while managing expectations will help address the need for speed.
But the key is to now run a parallel exercise to the executional work. Now you need to conduct the necessary research and insights and feed these over as they become available in order to influence the ongoing program. By doing so, you are also able to use performance data from the ongoing project to inform your eventual strategy. This approach gives you the ability to optimize incrementally and reduces the pressure on the unveiling of the full strategy. It allows you to win and onboard the client, helping them to keep within striking distance of their goal while staying true to your job as a strategist. And it allows you to remind them that next time, let’s get started on planning with enough time to do it right.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.