Plan to Scramble

Sadly, go-to-market strategy planning has fallen out of vogue in Silicon Valley, for all the rightly wrong reasons.

The untempered M.O. of startups today is growth hacking. This is a work- and risk-intensive system that is, according to Wikipedia, “A process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.”

The key word is “experimentation”. Experiments are conducted to discover the unknown. Hence, the goal of growth hacking is to discover the best way to grow your company when the path to growth is vague.

The problem is that the right paths are often known, or at least 90% of the bad paths can be eliminated before the first marketing dollar is spent. Traditional strategy development never picks the perfect plan on the first try, but it does typically find a low-risk path with very probable results.

Silicon Valley and the global tech community have waded into the deep end by applying growth hacking – a system that is necessary for new markets with unknown issues – to markets that they can quite easily map and thus define rational go-to-market strategies. Some start-ups waste a couple of years and hundreds of thousands of venture capital dollars in experiments for which, at a later date, someone in the company will say “Well, that was dumb!”

What every founder needs to do is first map their markets. Understand to the best degree possible the buyers, their motivations and how they prefer to learn about products such as yours. Once you do this, ask yourself “Do I know 60% or more of what I need to know in order to start selling?” If so, then growth hacking is a waste of human energy and VC cash. Colin Powell, the general who led the first war against Iraq and saved the Kuwaiti nation, said “Study until you know 60% of what you need to know, then go with your gut.”

Don’t believe your market is so new and disruptive that it is unknowable. Most likely if isn’t.

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