July 24, 2019
This post will take about 6 minutes to read.
A few years ago I became really interested in mountain bike racing. I’d dabbled in races here and there, but on race day I could never perform up to my capability. I read lots of opinions online and practiced hard at riding faster, but nothing seemed to move the needle consistently.
Finally, I decided to attend a training class by a top coach who was hosting a camp near my town. I learned an incredible amount throughout the camp, but the very first thing he taught us was paradigm-shifting for me, and it was probably the most simple lesson. Here it is:
“There are no advanced maneuvers in mountain biking, only combinations of basic skills that you’ve mastered.”
The more I thought about that reality, the more I became convinced that “success from the basics” applies to far more than just mountain biking. In fact, the lesson put words to one of our core values here at Yield and defined a core challenge we observe in almost every business we work with. Here’s how:
Even though we know through experience that “silver bullets” aren’t a reality 99% of the time, we humans have a natural tendency to seek them out, and many times for good reason. It can be a really good thing if we can produce a higher impact with less effort.
As we all know, though, success is almost always achieved through consistent effort and prioritization over time. Finances are a great example: if you can get rich quick, great, but the highest impact effort for almost everyone is actually the day-in, day-out work of sticking to a well-planned budget.
The dark side of this tendency is that we’re easily drawn to focus on new, exciting things that have potential impact at some future date, to the neglect of more basic things that are guaranteed to move us closer to our goals.So how does this dynamic play out in business for growth leaders?
If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly thinking about your business or company. In that thought process, we often fall captive to theoretical “if” scenarios, which almost always represent some level of silver bullet syndrome.
Many times, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we use those scenarios to compare ourselves to other businesses, real or imaginary, that seem to have some sort of secret sauce driving their success, whether that’s their team, technology, data, process or resources—fill in the blank. (This is still a mindset I have to battle every single day.)
The reality, though, is that the idea of another business having some secret bullet that is key to their success is a myth.
Across our team, we’ve been into the depths of all types of businesses, many times as owners and/or operators. We’ve seen incredible success happen. And we can say with confidence that great results come from a maniacal focus on the fundamentals.
Even though most people would agree with this premise, it’s still incredibly easy to believe the myth (even sub-consciously) for several reasons:
My mountain bike coach talked about this dynamic with pro mountain bikers. When the average rider sees high performance from the outside, it almost seems like the pros possess a mythical power, when in reality, the average guy is drastically underestimating how powerful the results are when you’ve mastered the basics and can execute them in harmony.
So, for leaders in growth, what are the fundamentals that need to be mastered?
There has been an ocean of ink spilled on the ingredients that combine to make businesses successful, so we’ve distilled our ‘academic’ learning, collective experience running and selling businesses as well as our insights from working with our clients into the basics that all digital leaders have to master in order to build what we call a “data-driven growth engine.”
We will cover each of these in more detail in future posts, but here a quick overview:
Master the math that drives the business at the most foundational level, then anchor all growth activity in it.
Master an understanding of how your customers actually buy (not your opinion) and layer those maps on the math.
Master a data layer that collects and unifies the key KPIs of the business and all customer journeys, then turn it into insights and automation.
Use your understanding of math, journeys and data to master a flexible suite of technology tools (that you actually need and use) that bring the customer experience to life.
Master the process and execution of test-driven optimization to drive growth at scale.
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Eric was formerly CMO of The Iron Yard, which at its peak was the largest coding school in the world. There he grew the business 10x in less than 2 years by building out a data-driven acquisition practice and full-funnel attribution models across a dozen software systems. He is also a consistent lecturer in MBA programs and sought-after speaker on growth topics.
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