Yogi Berra: The myth*
I really didn’t say everything I said.Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra was a Red Sox player who pitched a dozen no-hitters, was married to Marilyn Monroe and discovered penicillin. His bust appears on the other side of Mount Rushmore. He had a knack for memorable phrases that are just as relevant today as when he first may or may not have said them.
In this post I look at how some famous Yogi-isms can be applied to growth hacking.
Have a vision
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.Yogi Berra
I talk a lot in these pages about iteration and adapting to new facts that emerge. Design thinking, lean startup, sprints – all these methods are about coming up with a hypothesis, making a small experiment to test it, then gathering feedback before doubling down or trying again.
The problem with this is if you don’t have a north star, you can lose your way. If every roadblock causes you to change your destination, you are not growing, you are just stumbling around.
Iconic companies like Netflix, Amazon, Tesla, SpaceX, Apple know who they are and what they do.
Having a mission means knowing how to separate the ends from the means, the mission from the method
SpaceX’s north star is reducing the cost of space transportation and making humanity an interplanetary species. To do this, the company has invested heavily in the reusability of its space vehicles.
Nevertheless, when the company found that certifying their Crew Dragon capsule to land propulsively would be too resource intensive, they changed its design to land under parachutes into the water. SpaceX kept its eyes on the prize and chose the less expensive option over its trademark landing burn.
Know where you are going!
It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.Yogi Berra
Have a vision, but don’t assume you will achieve it in one big swing. Too many companies have failed because its leader insisted on refining a product in secret before validating its concept.
Startup Genome analyzed over a million startups in 150 cities over a decade and concluded that the main reason one in twelve startups fail is that they scale too quickly.
The report found, that “solo founders take 3.6x longer to reach scale stage compared to a founding team of 2 and they are 2.3x less likely to pivot.” In other words, solo acts can stubbornly cling to their initial definition of success even when there is evidence available to the contrary.
When you come to a fork in the road take it.Yogi Berra
When thinking about what growth hacking metric to focus on, it’s important to be decisive. If you attempt to chase every possible metric at once you will just burn out and learn nothing.
The key is to define an actionable goal – one that is SMART, i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed.
For example the goal of reaching 1,000 email subscribers within three months may be SMART for a startup as it gives a specific goal, easily measured, hopefully attainable, definitely relevant as a mailing list can be used for several marketing purposes, and timed.
Imagine if instead the goal was to increase email subscribers. How would you know if you succeeded? When would you check? What difference would it make?
But the temptation is to dither and wonder if this goal is in fact relevant and attainable. Only time will tell but that’s okay – all growth hacking efforts are experiments that begin with the commitment to take that fork in the road and assess the results.
You can observe a lot by just watching.Yogi Berra
Empathy is a key component of design thinking. While the word empathy may not feature so prominently in growth hacking, the idea that you should pay attention to what your user needs is just as important here.
When designing or marketing a product, the goal is not to tick off a set of features – the goal is to meet a human need or desire. For that, you need to observe your potential customers interact with your product or that of your competition.
The story behind the invention of the Swiffer – a billion dollar hit for P&G – is that a researcher saw someone sweep up spilled coffee grounds with a wet paper towel. This came after those same researchers watched hours and hours of video of people washing floors, emptying buckets of dirty water and wringing out mops.
Don’t copy the giants
Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.Yogi Berra
One of the nice things about being a startup is nobody will notice if you fail. A large company might hesitate to introduce a new product for fear of a public flop. Do you remember New Coke? They’d rather you forget. Being a small company means you can do market first and build a product second and get feedback right away, without lasting impact to your reputation.
Being small means you can be nimble. If you face large, entrenched competition, copying them move for move is a losing proposition. Instead, take advantage of your status as a startup. Can you forgo profit in the short term? Can you choose a business model that requires less capital investment, or investment in newer technology than the incumbents rely on?
It ain’t over til it’s over.Yogi Berra
The key to growth hacking is to never give up. Too often people think that growth hacking means a sneaky trick to game the system and get explosive growth with little effort. In fact, it can be a grind, because not ever theory will be proven correct – not every experiment will succeed.
Take for example the growth goal of reaching 1,000 email subscribers. It may take more resources than it’s worth. It may be that once you hit that goal you find that your marketing efforts using your email list don’t justify shooting for another thousand subscribers.
That’s okay. Try another idea.
Yogi Berra: The man
Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.Yogi Berra (1925-2015)
*In fact Yogi Berra was a catcher for the New York Yankees. The original version of his obituary by the Associated Press erroneously said that Yogi Bear had died.
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain