Moving fast in business is a competitive advantage. It’s also necessary for survival.
Most managers take too long to launch new products, create new marketing campaigns, and try new ideas to improve their businesses.
Here are three reasons why moving faster works:
Find out if you’re wrong quicker. I’ve sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products and services online. I’ve planned hundreds of product launches. What have I learned? You never know if a product or campaign is going to flop until you put it in front of real customers. You need to get real world data today. If you’re right, great, scale the product or campaign. If you’re wrong, great, move on to the next idea.
Save money. Businesses incur costs on a recurring basis such as employee salaries, software subscriptions, and inventory storage. If it takes you six months to test a new marketing strategy you could test in one month, you waste five months of expenses.
Grow your business faster. New growth initiatives are like venture capital investments. If you only invest in one project, you may have a ten percent (or lower) chance of success. With these odds, you might get lucky and do well. Or, more likely, you’ll hit one of the 90% of projects that don’t work. Move faster to get through the duds to discover the winners. If you try ten ideas, each with a 10% probability of success, in two months, you have a strong likelihood of getting a win. The slower you move, the less ideas you can try and the more dependent you are on getting lucky.
But here’s one big caveat to moving faster I had to figure out the hard way:
Don’t break what matters most. If you read about Amazon’s early history, its fast-growing operations were chaotic and on the brink of collapse. However, they made sure to take care of customers, offer a wide selection, and get packages on time. You can move fast and break a lot of things in business with minimal consequences; but, don’t break what matters most – your customer relationships. If we put out shoddy products or underdeliver on promises, some of the customer relationship damage is never reparable.
We have three reasons to move faster and one caveat, but how do we move faster?
Get clear on your goal. Know what you’re trying to accomplish. This sounds obvious, but the faster we move, the more important it is to know our goal. If we know what’s important, we also know what’s not important and can be sacrificed for speed. Right now at Amazing, we want to test a new marketing concept on Amazon. If it works, it opens up thousands of opportunities for our members. We want it to be a valid test, so we need to sell about 300 units at a profit and rank the product for a target keyword. This is our goal which brings us to the next step…
Define the minimum viable product (MVP). What is the absolute minimum standard necessary to achieve our goal? For us, it’s a product targeted to rank for a specific keyword. Great branding doesn’t matter, multiple products isn’t important, selling the business isn’t important – we only want to prove out the ability to profitably get sales using a specific marketing strategy. When developing a new product or testing a new marketing campaign, define what does matter to validate the concept and what doesn’t matter. Ignore the latter.
Clarify the critical path. I see the biggest opportunity for improvement in this step for most business leaders. We don’t have enough time to do everything we want. What are the three to five critical steps to test the MVP and see if we can achieve our goal? If we write down 10 to 20 steps, what can be eliminated to get real world data faster? Cut out 80% of everything we want to do for now. We can always improve the product or marketing assets more later. Now is not the time for perfection, good enough is our mantra until we know we’re on the right track.
The goal is to get the truth as fast as possible. Planning is great. Research is great. However, what matters most is real world testing. It’s almost impossible to predict how people will respond when we ask them to pull out their credit cards and buy.
The faster we can test new ideas without harming our customer relationships, the faster we’ll find winners. It’s also have a heck of a lot more fun.