Lately, I’ve been a missionary for ‘Lean Strategy’. It’s a tough job. Especially with those who are sponsored by good old ‘time and materials’ models, strategic thinking and consultancy. So just for today, I’d be happy to put aside the debate about Lean Strategy. Instead I’ll share one of the tools I use in our sprints to identify the challenge and then double check our plan (see I took the word strategy out) – Alignment.
At Growthanomics we implement sprints in the marketing and sales world. We work in 3 week sprints with tech companies, identifying the root cause for their growth challenges and offering a full solution. We mainly focus on sales, marketing and customer retention. In late October 2016, a customer we ran a sprint with thought the main challenge they were experiencing was about their messaging. In other words, they felt the language their brand uses could lead to more sales – faster. Here’s how the exercise of alignment helped us focus on their real growth pain. Today, 3 months later, while there MRR nearly tripled we can totally say the proof is in the pudding.
So we ran a messaging sprint for this very impressive B2B Saas start up. Bootstrapped. Their MRR would drop your jaw. To warm up, I asked the founders what their company would look like in a years’ time. We talked about the team, the vibe, the office, and the new balcony for fun hangouts. Then we put a number on yearly revenue and monthly recurring revenue. Alignment #1. Especially important for un funded ventures.
At that point MRR wasn’t growing as fast as they had hoped. They were even facing a drop in revenue. I asked what they needed to do to boost sales, out of their existing pipeline. There was a cloud of misalignment. Misalignment between their words, belief system, actions and thoughts. And misalignment among themselves.
What they said: it’s simple. Our process works. It just takes time. Oh, and we need to get more people on the phone closing deals.
What they thought: getting more people on the phone is complicated. “Maybe in February 2017”. We don’t have the capacity to bring them on board. We need to have a language and message first, scripts, and a sales automation platform and CRM and… oh, and training. We don’t have the time for all that. (I’ll let you in on what you’ll read later – It’s February 1st and the revenue team has added 3 people.)
What they believed: In between the lines it felt as if one of the founders believed that other sales people wouldn’t get it right. Maybe even, at least for a while, he wanted to be the only rainmaker on the team. That btw, took a while to crack. But once I saw a back and forth discussion between more sales people and it’s not the right time it felt like there was some kind of misalignment to take care of. Alignment #2
What they knew: it’s a numbers game. There’s a good product market fit. We need more leads and a larger sales force. However, lots of knowledge was missing. Where exactly does our customers excitement turn to ‘waiting and seeing’ vs. closing a deal. So we got data to better understand their sales, marketing and experience funnels. Though when they brought data to the table, the picture was even more crystal clear than before. The connection between their sales efforts, and what was not working as planned. Alignment #3.
Their actions: One of the founders who was in charge of sales was on the phone closing deals, but also involved in product, features and other time consuming tasks his partner could handle. And, he truly believed that in order to sell he needed to explain way too many details about the product, how it works, the company etc. (Disclaimer – he is one of the founding fathers, and like all of us entrepreneurs we are in love with our babies. Meaning we can talk about their little features forever. Oops – our businesses).
Fast forward to the end of January 2017. Within less than 3 months this amazing team now has 2 more sales people on board. And an amazing in house content marketing expert. They tripled their MRR and will probably exceed their target for 2017.
What made this happen?
One of the main boosters was definitely using our tools to reach alignment. On the business, personal and team level. It helped us crack the real growth challenge and found its root causes on all of the three pillars. Even though they were well hidden at first. Then, we aligned the common denominators on the sales and marketing funnels based on quantitative and qualitative data. Alignment turned the discussion into a straight forward, process and touched stones that otherwise would have been left un turned.
How did we get there?
We mapped out the existing status, the business potential, their funnels and also their operations mode. We used data, qualitative insights and benchmarks.We found the real growth pains and challenges. We uncovered the unspoken growth pains in the most empowering process. Then, we focused on building the right message and plan.
Was there an in-depth process?
Yes. Lean does not mean shallow. No stone was left unturned. From funnel analysis, customer journeys and customer lifetime mapping, number crunching and ecosystem mapping.
How long did it take? 3 weeks.
Most importantly, the company’s team kept working on their daily tasks and routine.
Is there a plan? Yes
The outcome of every sprint is a detailed action plan on both the marketing, sales, product and automation fronts. Once the overall concept is approved we bring in a step-by-step plan. Depending on the challenge – a plan that lasts up to 18 months.
Did we execute?
Yes. Once the language for the brand was approved we mapped the journey and created all the content for the site, the onboarding process, all the way to automating their emails with triggers and content, optimizing their web site and engaging triggers in the product itself.
Are there results? YES
Remember MRR? It’s now nearly tripled.
Still don’t think this is strategy? Let’s call it alignment then.