When you're all up in the mix of execution, it's remarkably easy to avoid asking the most crucial questions: Are you building the right products? Targeting the right markets and customers? Focused on the right priorities? What about your story? Do the words you use to describe your product and company resonate with your potential users, buyers, investors, and employees in the clearest, most profound possible way?
If you're a founder or a leader in product, marketing, or sales and would like the clear-headed outside view on your most essential strategic questions, go ahead an book a free strategic diagnostic session with me.
Before your call, I'll prepare a whole bunch of insightful questions about your company, your products, your market, and your goals, and then deliver you the straight-up, unvarnished truth* as I see it–offered with no attachments to anything but your success.
Or, you know, just scroll down for some valuable content:
*The strategic insights you'll receive will be free range, organic, artisanal, and 100% (zero-bullsh** authentic).
And if you'd prefer, I'll also exclude the GMOs.
Product failures. Company shutdowns and fire sales. Reputations destroyed. Years of life wasted. Billions of dollars of valuation turned to dust. And that doesn't even begin to account for the opportunity costs involved.
Yes, these companies were radically different. Their leaders, cultures, and teams were not even remotely the same. Every one of them operated in dramatically different markets, using different technologies and processes to attract different types of customers.
And yet pursuing the wrong strategy is the unacknowledged villain in all of these stories. It is the "meta reason" behind nearly every other reason companies, products, and people fail.
By the time you look up and realize that you've been sailing without a compass or a map, a whole raft of competitors will have caught wind of the value to be had in what you're doing, and will be planning and launching their attacks.
You may see them coming, but without a well-designed strategy to hold on to what you've got, there will be little you can do to stop them from yanking the value you've created right out of your hands.
And that's assuming you actually managed to create something valuable enough to bother taking in the first place.
Far more often, teams that start building products and executing "plans" without a well-crafted strategy governing their priorities and guiding their direction end up building themselves straight into a wall, executing themselves right off a cliff, and landing themselves into the large and ever-growing ash heap of failure.
The prevalence of bad strategy is not really any one person's fault. The conventional wisdom of the post-AWS world seems to have convinced a whole population of very smart people to "just execute and iterate."
While some true successes have emerged this way, the much bigger, more expensive story is the massive junkyard of failed products, "acqui-hires," fire sales, vaporized investments, and wasted energy and time this mentality has left in its wake.
Unfortunately, achieving simplicity is dramatically harder than it sounds, and what passes for "strategy" these days is often the opposite of clear, insightful, and focused.
The legendary military strategist Carl Von Clausewitz said it quite well:
"The talent of the strategist is to identify the decisive point and to concentrate everything on it, removing forces from secondary fronts and ignoring lesser objectives."
Everywhere you look (tech startups, big tech companies, and throughout most of the business world), you see company founders and leadership teams whose "strategy" boils down to "do all the things" and "be everything for all people."
If you ask them what market they're going after, they'll say things like "we're focusing on getting more SaaS companies, small businesses, and advertising agencies on our platform."
When I ask who, exactly, their ideal customers are, they'll say something like "our target customers are knowledge workers who want to become better versions of themselves."
And when I ask how they intend to distribute their product and grow their users and cash, they'll say "we're aggressively pursuing viral acquisition, paid social, content marketing, and SEO."
Of course, "focusing on SaaS companies, small businesses, and ad agencies" is the opposite of focusing. "Knowledge workers who want to be better versions of themselves" is such a vague and broad category that it doesn't rise to the level of "target."
And for the record, just about every company expects to grow through viral acquisition, social media, content marketing, and SEO, and only a fraction of them leverage even a single one of these channels effectively.
Exponents exists to help the founders and leadership teams of organizations with legitimately transformative potential and civilization-wide ambitions mitigate their biggest strategic risks and develop the best possible product, marketing, and customer-acquisition strategies for their current products, markets, and stage of maturity.
For example, here's a sample of quick hits from a recent client project:
I founded Exponents because I realized that the tech ecosystem has a bunch of great copywriters, at least 100 great growth people, an overabundance of PR and content marketing firms, yet remarkably few great strategists, and ever fewer world-class storytellers
It has even fewer people with enough technical AND marketing sophistication to explain the implications of telecom APIs to Fortune 500 CEOs, enough breadth to understand the market landscape in at least a dozen industries, AND enough "roll-up-your-sleeves, DOer" gusto to move fluidly and comfortably between the big-picture story and strategy and the tactical details of execution.
But if you're on this site and reading this line right now, you just found that person.
Wanna make the most of such an opportune moment? Go ahead and click this big round button and book your free strategic diagnosis today:
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*There's a triple-entendre here. Did'ya catch it?