When simplicity is not the answer

Yahoo missed the mobile boat, so that is why they aren’t with us today. Or so some believe. On the other hand, they also made quite a few lousy acquisitions and missed a few excellent ones. And today, we all know where their product strategies lead them. It is called history.

There is a belief that product strategies need to be simple. You must be able to formulate it in a sentence or two. But, more importantly, your grandmother must be able to understand it. Therefore we love two by two grids to simplify the world into four boxes. Easy to understand and intuitive.

For some, extreme levels of simplicity in formulating a market strategy may work, but you do stand a chance to become a cockroach, running from one opportunity to the next. Moreover, it results in neglecting those you initially cared about—ignoring the crucial nuances. 

Strategy is complex. You cannot degrade strategy to two dimensions. These simplified models draw the attention away from the detail required to help organizations survive and thrive. If you demand an explanation of why your simple strategy is not working, pay attention to the subtleties in the answers.

Bottom line: Most organizations execute strategies to excite customers incredibly poorly. And, eventually, they become another Yahoo.

A lesson in driving.

For me, nothing beats a long drive to open my mind. There is something to be said about the open road with good music. However, many undergo a personality change when getting behind a steering wheel. For most, driving is an ego trip.

For me, the scary part is seeing people passing in blind spots, not able to see the oncoming traffic. But, still, most accidents happen on the long and open roads when concentration is lost. But, the fact is, everybody thinks they are the best driver when getting into a car. 

Running a business is frequently the same. For example, taking risks not knowing your customers is never a good idea. And exploring new markets when everything seems to be going your way may impose unknown risks. 

However, Sunday driving is also a thing. It is all about going slowly, leisurely or overcautious nowhere. But then again, it is all about making the journey worthwhile. Self-driving cars are just doing that, driving, not thinking.

Bottom line: You are not as good at driving as you think you are. The speed at which you believe you are moving is not an indication of the state at which you will arrive at your goal. Sometimes it pays to be mindful.

The 2×2 grid trap

Business executives, especially those with MBA badges, love 2 x 2 grids. These grids come in many forms and shapes. For example, Porter developed a grid to determine an organization’s overarching strategy by plotting competitive scope against competitive advantage. Others use the outsourcing matrices to decide between strategic and operational importance. An all-time favorite is the BCG matrix to add market context to a product line.

Yes, nearly all of them have four quadrants. However, life is seldom limited to four squares. It just doesn’t work like that. Adults will tell you that there is more. Therefore, it may be better to think longer-term because you will need resilience. 

The 2×2 Ansoff matrix is an excellent example of a tool to start a product and market positioning conversation. For example, are you innovating an existing or new product for existing or new customers? It is as simple as that, but it is not easy. A better idea is to start with the minimum. Then, focus on that market corner that will spread the word about your product.

Also, with only four quadrants, it becomes tempting to cut corners. If you need more followers, go and buy them.

Bottom line: Now that you are operating in a world where you need to influence minds, go beyond the two axes. Think about the smallest group you can change and the simplest viable product you can offer. Then the magic will follow.

Domination seldom works.

The biggest mistake I made in my early entrepreneurial life was not to focus more on my customers’ needs. Instead, for me, it was all about my product and, ultimately, my ego.

I frequently see the same kind of foolishness when talking to young (and sometimes seasoned) entrepreneurs. They’ve read The Lean Startup, and they know the definition of a minimum viable product by heart. However, when you ask which fraction of their universe they are targeting, they will quickly point to everyone and anyone.

And then they are surprised that their message does not resonate with anybody.

“Your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about themselves, their dreams, their goals. Now, they will care much more if you help them reach their goals, and to do that, you must understand their goals, as well as their needs and deepest desires.” – Steve Jobs

Bottom line: Go and find the smallest part of the universe in which you are playing and delight the hell out of them. Beware, it takes guts to focus.

Distractions are our biggest addiction.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.” – Steve Jobs

Focusing is not an option; it’s compulsory. Yet, focusing on success is much more rewarding than focusing on the potential for failure.

The biggest kick comes from always dancing at the edge of spam. Because we believe it is all about the numbers. The challenge, more noise is not better noise. It stays a distraction.

Bottom line: Focus feeds the creative process. 

A roadmap is one thing, the destination another.

Roadmap marketing may be for you when you are new in the game with a product or service under development. It is the process where you introduce your product vision to your ideal customers and get their early inputs. And, hopefully, on board a few. But beware, be open-minded because you may have the wrong map.

When you are on your way and shipped a few products to satisfied clients, they will start spreading the word. They may become seemingly, generous with their praise. And, the desire to be associated with those that can put you on the world stage may grow. However, chasing the influencers (and their social likes) may steer you in the wrong way.

Delivering on your promise is worth much more than the attention you get on the way. So focus on the smallest viable market, and forget about the masses for a moment.

Bottom line: Know where you want to go, but more importantly, use the right crowd and tools to get there.