Decision MakingLeadership

How to Prevent Your Biggest Strategy Mistake

It seems like a pretty simple statement: Getting your strategy right is critical to getting the outcome that maximizes your marketing and business potential. Many companies, especially smaller and mid-size companies, tend to put lots of work into getting strategy right, and they often come up with all the right answers. Even so, they are missing the forest for the trees.

Getting the right strategy for your marketing and your business requires that you choose the right strategy framework for your particular situation. No-brainer? Turns out it’s not.

Here’s an example: A young software company wanted to find ways to generate substantial growth. The natural model would be to expand their offering to their market and, at the same time, expand their market. This expands the definition of their capabilities along two dimensions at the same time, significantly increasing the potential to dilute their focus and investment.

After seeking advice, they found out the approach was completely wrong. They could have developed a strong strategy addressing larger markets with more offerings, but execution would have failed. It would have been hard to tell why, since none of the assumptions would have been violated — just the desired outcomes would not have happened.

They ultimately went with a strategy based on the business book, Crossing the Chasm. Doing this required a different approach: narrowing focus on a smaller set of customers initially and then growing from there. This strategy worked, and they are now on a very rapid-growth trajectory.

Why did this choice make sense? The premise of the strategy matched their situation.

The book describes the point at which the strategy makes sense as the point at which, for tech companies, customers become less visionary and more pragmatic. This was their actual experience, but until they saw that described, they would not have seen it explicitly.

Similarly, every strategic framework I’ve worked with has a similar definition of the conditions under which the strategy should be applied. The challenge is it’s hard to find it — most strategy books and frameworks will describe in great detail how to execute the framework but spend little time describing those conditions. You really have to look and pay attention!

Whether you need to cross a chasm or find some blue ocean or move in any direction, make sure your approach suits your situation, your market, your business and your customers.

Or risk unexplained failure.

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