Building a Foundation for Growth: Earning your Right to Grow

Recently, Pepijn Schoen and I gave a presentation at a Meetup in London about building a foundation for growth. It was about the magic stuff that arms you with the insight and knowledge from which to refine and structure a business to establish an integrated product growth strategy.

It was based on Lean and agile methodologies surrounding experimentation, measurement and learning; inspired by the idea of earning the right to growth that comes from understanding your market, your product, and your customer — key whether your startup is primarily a digital one or not.

You read and hear stories from around the world about awesome things people have done to achieve product/market fit and scale their business into an exponential hockey stick. Of course these are great success stories, however they often don’t detail how many things they learnt and tried prior to hitting on that secret sauce for their particular market.

As these later stage hacks are well known (some famous examples here) we focused on the stages prior, and why it’s crucial to be ready to capitalise on every uptick your startup may generate and get it right in advance, as you’ll never get time back. The story of Stripe at their MVP stage is a good example to illustrate:

Source: https://medium.com/@nikgraf/y-combinators-startup-school-europe-a6f3a2dd88b3

We spoke about breaking the experimentation down during the period before you build anything and highlighted that doing this creates positive habits and frameworks to continue it into that uncomfortable time of low or no growth and (hopefully) beyond, irrespective of what release stage you’re at.

Whatever the stage you should be looking to prove or disprove assumptions about the cornerstones of your business, revise and if necessary pivot. The earlier this is started, the better. A great tool for getting this all out in the open to begin with is the Business Model Canvas:

Source: http://firstround.com/article/To-Go-Lean-Master-the-Business-Model-Canvas

Once you’ve nailed this, using an experimentation methodology and tracking the results is essential. Pick your riskiest assumption and go from there.

Adapt Lean methodology to drive validation from an early stage

Record and analyse using a standard format, for example:

Throughout the stages diligence and statistical confidence are important: if you can’t prove something beyond reasonable doubt, do not build it. If your gut tells you that “this one more thing” will make the difference; however you don’t have data to support that feeling, don’t build it until you can.

Know your success metrics and stick to them judiciously. This will help you identify your individual growth levers.

So, how do I do all this? There are a myriad of ways to do this, including: surveys, custdev interviews, landing pages, analytics, A/B testing, labs and so many more. There are a huge array of low-cost tools to help, and nope, I’m not going to tell you what to use: go out, discover and choose yourself. If you have a specific question about tools tweet me.

This methodical approach has the added benefit of helping to avoid premature scaling, which is as much of a challenge as a flatline or the dreaded trough of sorrow.

Source: https://andrewchen.co/2012/09/10/after-the-techcrunch-bump-life-in-the-trough-of-sorrow/

As mentioned in a previous article, this approach will decrease the uncertainty relating to your idea and business, which is a very, very good thing to help reduce wasted effort, time and money. You’ll also know a heap more about your customers and market as well as where your (now awesome) product should fit.

Whatever stage you’re at it’s never too early or late to start:

You might be thinking “this seems like a lot of work.” You’d be right. However the cost of inaction is the significant chance you’ll build the wrong thing, for the wrong audience at the wrong time. If in doubt: ask Growth, Product and Data focused people how enjoyable it is to create active users for a misaligned product.

Now, go build your foundation!

Adam

If you liked this article please recommend and share it…thanks!

Some other stuff I’ve written recently:

Should you Start Being a Skill Hacker Today?

Startups — Ready, Steady, Accelerate

To Gain or To Give: What Motivates Your Users Action?

72hrs in the Life of Content on Twitter (& other Social Media)

This article was originally published here.

It’s also on GrowthHackers.

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