Back in the day, when I wrote a book on what I called the efficient digital strategy, I did so because I was tired of working with clients (at the agency where I was back then), who had essentially no plan for what to achieve with the investments in digital they made nor any idea about how to operationalize, follow-up and optimize if they indeed had a plan.
I thought it to be a total waste. Hence I wrote a book about how to take your digital efforts from the first thought and strategy towards execution and ensuring you actually got something meaningful out of your efforts.
Fast forward to today, where I have the pleasure everyday of working with startups and meeting a lot of founders looking to get funding to see their ambition through to success. And I still often feel, I am exactly in the same position as back then, years ago, when I was trying to help clients understand the value and the inner workings of forming an efficient strategy and make it operational.
Don’t get me wrong here: There are indeed many founders who have bold plans and strategies for what they want to do and how they want to both prosper and change the planet for the better in the process. But who also, despite having the quint essential 2×2 competitor matrix, build their plans as if they plan to exist in a vacuum and not in a complex market, where there are a lot of other players and alternatives at play.
I think this is a significant mistake. Because I think it is not as much about the qualities of your product as it is your ability to navigate the market and carve out a viable, defensible position for yourself, that will ultimately help decide, whether your successful or not. The question thus is not what you’re planning to do, but what you are going to do given the market, you’re entering into.
I guess in some ways it can be seen as some kind of multi-dimensional chess. You could also just call it ‘reality’. Because that is how reality works and has always worked; while you’re in your basement or garage building product, you’re in total control, but once you venture out into the sunlight with your creation, you control very little if anything at all.
Your strategy and your approach to strategy needs to reflect that reality. Yes, you can have a skeleton plan fit for a pitch deck to woo investors, but you will need more than that. You will need to have the mindset, the skills and the experience to navigate the maze out there and basically out maneuver the competition and the alternatives assuming that the only real prize in what you’re doing is being the one who ends up winning all. Or – to be back at the chess metaphor – put all the others in a cheque mate position.
For the above reasons I am always super excited when I meet founders, who at their own accord, i.e. without me probing about it, can articulate not only their vision and GTM strategy here and now but also what the more long term strategic play looks like, and how they intend to get there by the sum of the key strategic decisions they are making for their product, team, GTM strategy etc here and know.
That to me shows that they have an extra level of abstraction. That they are somehow able to move more or less effortlessly from the daily grind into the strategic overview and that they are able to navigate complex scenarios with multiple factors in flux and come out successful.
And that to me is an intriguing, valuable trait to possess.