This post previously appeared in EIX.
In the early stages of a startup your hypotheses well-nigh all the parts of your business model are your profound beliefs. Think of profound beliefs as “strong opinions loosely held.”
You can’t be an constructive founder or in the C-suite of a startup if you don’t hold any.
Here’s how I learned why they were hair-trigger to successful consumer development.
I was an aggressive, young and a very tactical VP of marketing at Ardent, a supercomputer visitor – who really hadn’t a track well-nigh the relationship between profound beliefs, consumer discovery and strategy.
One day the CEO tabbed me into his office and asked, “Steve I’ve been thinking well-nigh this as our strategy going forward. What do you think?” And he proceeded to lay out a fairly ramified and innovative sales and marketing strategy for our next 18 months. “Yeah, that sounds great,” I said. He nodded and then offered up, “Well what do you think of this other strategy?” I listened intently as he spun an equally ramified volitional strategy. “Can you pull both of these off?” he asked looking right at me. By the uncorrupt squint on his squatter I should have known that I was stuff set up. I replied naively, “Sure, I’ll get right on it.”
Decades later I still remember what happened next. All of a sudden the air temperature in the room dropped by well-nigh 40 degrees. Out of nowhere the CEO started screaming at me, “You stupid x?!x. These strategies are mutually exclusive. Executing both of them would put us out of business. You don’t have a track well-nigh what the purpose of marketing is considering all you are doing is giving engineering a list of full-length requests and executing a series of tasks like they’re like a big To Do list. Without understanding why you’re doing them, you’re dangerous as the VP of Marketing, in fact you’re just a glorified throne of marketing communications. You have no profound beliefs.”
I left in a daze, wrestling and confused. There was no doubt my superabound was a jerk, but I didn’t understand the point. I was a unconfined marketer. I was getting feedback from customers, and I’d pass on every list of what customers wanted to engineering and tell them that’s the features our customers needed. I could implement any marketing plan handed to me regardless of how complex. In fact I was implementing three variegated ones. Oh…hmm… perhaps I was missing something.
I was executing a lot of marketing “things” but why was I doing them? The CEO was right. I had approached my activities as simply a task-list to get through. With my tail between my legs I was left to ponder: What was the function of marketing in a startup? And increasingly importantly, what was a profound weighing and why was it important?
Hypotheses well-nigh Your Merchantry Model = Your Profound Beliefs Loosely Held
Your hypotheses well-nigh all the parts of your merchantry model are your profound beliefs. Think of them as strong opinions loosely held. You can’t be an constructive founder or in the C-suite if you don’t have any.
The whole role of consumer discovery and validation outside your towers is to inform your profound beliefs. By inform I midpoint use the vestige you gather outside the towers to either validate your beliefs/hypotheses, invalidate or modify them. Specifically, what beliefs and hypotheses? Start with those virtually product/market fit – who are your customers and what features do they want? Who are the payers? Then march through the rest of the merchantry model. What price will they pay? What role do regulators pay? Etc. The weightier validation you can get is an order. (BTW, if you’re creating a new market, it’s plane OK to ignore consumer feedback but you have to be worldly-wise to yacky why.)
The reality of a startup is that that on day one most of your beliefs/hypotheses are likely wrong. However, you will be informed by those experiments outside the building, and data from potential customers, partners, regulators, et al will modify your vision over time.
It’s helpful to diagram the consequences between hypotheses/ beliefs and consumer discovery. (See the diagram)
If you have no beliefs and haven’t gotten out of the building to gather evidence, then your role inside a new venture is neutral. You act as a tactical implementer as you add no insight/or value to product development.
If you’ve gotten out of the towers to gather vestige but have no profound beliefs to guide your inquiries, then your role inside a new venture is negative. You’ll collect a laundry-list of consumer full-length requests and unhook them to product development, without any insight. This is substantially a withholding of service wade on engineering’s time. (I was mostly operating in this box when I got chewed out by our CEO.)
The biggest stilt on a startup is those who have strong beliefs but haven’t gotten out of the building to gather evidence. Meetings wilt opinion contests and those with the loudest voices (or worse “I’m the CEO and my opinion matters increasingly than your facts”) dominate planning and strategy. (They may be right, but Twitter/X is an example where Elon is in the box on the marrow right of the diagram. )
The winning combination is strong beliefs that are validated or modified by vestige gathered outside the building. These are “strong opinions loosely held.”
Strategy is Not a To Do List, It Drives a To Do List
It took me awhile, but I began to realize that the strategic part of my job was to recognize that (in today’s jargon) we were still searching for a scalable and repeatable merchantry model. Therefore my job was to:
- Articulate the founding team’s strong beliefs and hypotheses well-nigh our merchantry model
- Do an internal check-in to see if a) the founders were aligned and b) if I well-set with them
- Get out of the towers and test our strong beliefs and hypotheses well-nigh who were potential customers, what problems they had and what their needs were
- Test product development’s/engineering’s beliefs well-nigh consumer needs with consumer feedback
- When we found product/market fit, marketing’s job was to put together a strategy/plan for marketing and sales. That should be easy. If we did unbearable discovery customers would have told us what features were important to them, how we compare to competitors, how we should set prices, and how to weightier sell to them
Once I understood the strategy, the tactical marketing To Do list (website, branding, pr, tradeshows, white papers, data sheets) became clear. It unliable me to prioritize what I did, when I did it and instantly understand what would be mutually exclusive.
- Profound beliefs are your hypotheses well-nigh all the parts of your merchantry model
- No profound beliefs but lots of consumer discovery ends up as a full-length list hodgepodge which is detrimental to product development
- Profound beliefs but no consumer discovery ends up as opinion contests and those with the loudest voices dominate
- The winning combination is strong beliefs that are validated or modified by vestige gathered outside the buildingThese are “strong opinions loosely held.”