All too often organizations from startups to enterprise growth teams go into growth mode before they are ready. Launching into growth too soon can squander resources, your customer's good will, and obscure successfully preparing for growth. Here are 5 reasons you shouldn't be focused on growth.
Reason # 1: YOU DON’T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMER
The customer is at the core of any successful product. Understanding them deeply is crucial to preparing to grow.
Growth requires a strong foundation built by customer empathy. Empathy goes beyond simple demographics, broad trends, or "market research." Empathy means choosing to personally experience your customer's perspective.
The empathetic foundation allows you to see what people really do, not just what they say they'll do. The farther you are toward the disruptive side of the innovation spectrum, the less you can believe what customer's tell you. Surveys, focus groups, and traditional market research don't give you the depth of understanding necessary to grow.
Successful founders and intrapreneurs use the 70/30 Rule. 70% of your time should be spent in direct contact with your customer; 30% should be spent preparing to get out of the building.
Set your sights on learning the next thing you need to learn about your customer's behavior. Forgo the waste of guessing who your customers are with personas, SAM/TAM slides, and archetypes. Instead, get out of the building and gain empathy.
If you aren't already practicing the 70/30 Rule for customer empathy, you shouldn't attempt to grow.
Reason # 2: YOU THINK MARKETING WILL FIX YOUR CRAPPY PRODUCT
The startup graveyard is crowded with products full of features, technology, and well-executed ideas no one wanted.
The fundamental question for any innovation team is - do we solve a burning pain for our customers?
No matter how great you think your idea is, if there is no strong evidence of pain from your customer's perspective, you've already lost. It's been said before but still rings true: there is no faster way to kill a crappy product than with great marketing.
Solving a deep, visceral, evident pain for your customers is job number one for any startup. There is no lack of great analogies to understand the difference between products that solve problems and products that don't. Vitamins vs Painkillers, Spray bottles vs Fire Hoses, and band-aids vs amputations.
If you've fallen in love with your solution and not the problem, you shouldn't attempt to grow.
Reason # 3: YOUR “BRAND” IS JUST A LOGO AND SOME T-SHIRTS
Branding is still truly the "black box" of growth. Too often we think about our brand as an asset we own that will stand the test of time, circumstance, and ultimately contact with a customer. But brand is so much more than that.
A brand is the relationship between an organization and an audience.
It's not just what you say it is, and it's not just what they say it is. It's shared between the startup and the audience. The best brand development discovers the rally point – the place where your aspirations as a business and the aspirations of your customers – meet in the middle to form a powerful, meaningful relationship for both.
In this way, your brand is the interface between your customers and you. It's not the logos, color schemes, vision statements, or brand "persona" that can build the relationship for you. It's one-to-one, human-centered development.
If you haven't built a strong relationship with your audience, you shouldn't attempt to grow.
Reason # 4: YOU THINK A BOT IS THE SAME THING AS A HUMAN
The obsession with marketing automation has reached its peak. Droves of want-to-be growth hackers, founders, and marketing departments have placed all of their trust in the power of automation. Drip campaigns, opt-in-feeders, lead magnets, and on, and on, and on. But one principle flies in the face of this obsession:
You can't automate what you don't already know.
Automating your growth requires an already established, growing, and engaged audience to nurture. If you attempt to build an automation machine without first having learned how to reach your customers in analog, you're sunk.
The whole game of automation is this: Search, then Execute. Learn (search) first by doing the work face-to-face manually, then automate (execute) pieces that you've proven to work. You can't simply execute your way to growth because there are far too many unknowns to get in your way.
If you haven't manually learned how to reach and maintain your audience, you shouldn't attempt to grow.
Reason # 5: YOU THINK A GROWTH HACKER IS THE ANSWER
Founders beware, hiring a growth hacker will not solve your growth problems. It won't fix your product issues. It won't fix your sales issues. It won't fix your disfunctional team. It won't even fix your marketing.
Growth is full stack. Meaning, growth requires the entire team to be optimizing their work for growth. Losing strategies silo off the marketing department, set insanely high expectations, and demand the growth team to execute. Smart teams understand that growth is the responsibility of every member of the team from founder to developer to marketer.
There's a difference between marketing focus – marketing to your existing customers; and growth focus – attempting to grow with new customers. Adding new customers means complexity and demand for the entire organization.
If you haven't structured and prepared your entire team for growth, you shouldn't attempt to grow.