Let me ask you a question:
What’s the ONE thing your business needs to take the next BIG step in its growth?
Is it more ideas? More knowledge? More information?
If you’re like most marketers, entrepreneurs, and business owners I know, you already have a whole pile of notes, ideas, and to-do lists still waiting to be implemented.
If anything, you might have TOO MANY ideas. Too many projects.
And the problem is that you need to get better at implementing those projects. Actually getting them DONE.
Am I right?
If your to-do list has 50 growth strategies on it, you certainly don’t need any more growth strategies. No, what you need instead is a method to…
- Decide which project to tackle first, and…
- Actually DO IT in an effective and efficient way
And that’s what this post is all about.
The framework you’re about to learn is the exact same process we use internally at DigitalMarketer to implement our business growth strategies.
It came out of the frustrations we had in our own recent growth…
As a company, DigitalMarketer went from being a small team of two to three people to being a team of over 50 people in a relatively short time.
But here’s the crazy part…
Even though our team ballooned in size by 25x, we didn’t actually get that much more work done!
See, you can’t just throw more money and people at a problem like this and hope that will fix the issue. Because it won’t.
Instead, you need to have a good system in place to make sure your ideas are being prioritized intelligently and implemented efficiently.
So, without further ado, here are the three steps to doing just that—a business growth plan for avoiding “shiny object syndrome” and actually implement a growth plan in your business…
Business Growth Plan Step 1: Align Your Team to a Single Goal
The first step is to align your team to a single goal and AVOID multiple simultaneous projects.
Instead of trying to achieve many different things at once, it’s much better to focus on one goal at a time. And don’t move on to the next goal until you’ve achieved the first one.
Goals should be sequential, never simultaneous.
Sequential goals ensure maximum efficiency because they allow you to put 100% of your focus on that one thing.
Simultaneous goals, on the other hand, are a recipe for chaos and inefficiency. And the more projects you have going at once, the less efficient you will be. Guaranteed.
This applies to your entire team, whether you’re a team of one or part of a much larger department.
One of the big mistakes that many companies make is giving a different goal or project to every employee.
For example: Bob’s project might be trying to grow the email list, while Lois is charged with increasing conversions, and Steve is in charge of trying to cut down on customer refunds.
The problem with a situation like this is that there are dependencies between these projects, and those dependencies can cause a lot of in-fighting between employees.
As a result, nobody is able to do a really great job of achieving their goal and you end up with another quarter of mediocre improvements and stagnant growth across the board.
But what if you could get your whole team—Bob, Lois, and Steve—all focused on the same goal at the same time? This way, there wouldn’t be any competing agendas. Chances are they would do a much better job than any one person could do on their own.
So, why don’t more companies work this way? The answer might surprise you.
The Secret Danger of Good Ideas
For many companies, the thing that’s stopping them from adopting a more efficient, sequential goal structure is too many good ideas.
It might sound strange, but it’s true…
Good ideas have killed far more companies than bad ideas.
It’s rare for a bad idea to bring down a company. Instead, failure is more often caused by trying to implement too many good ideas at once.
This makes sense if you think about it: we’re on the lookout for bad ideas. Anytime we try something that doesn’t work, what do we do? We stop doing it. We pivot. We try something else.
Bad ideas are usually caught and thrown out pretty quickly.
But good ideas?
Good ideas are dangerous.
Anytime we try a tactic that works well…
Anytime we come up with a new campaign that makes a lot of sense…
Anytime we see a competitor doing something that would work for us…
Anytime we come up with a marketing idea that “could be a game-changer”…
We pursue those good ideas.
Eventually, we start chasing too many things—and before you know it we’re knee-deep in “shiny object syndrome.”
This puts you in a tricky situation. Because you don’t want to ignore all those good ideas. But at the same time, you can’t afford to pursue them all at the same time.
So, what should you do?
How to Organize & Prioritize Your Good Ideas
I recommend using this four-step grid to help organize and prioritize your good ideas.
So first, draw out a grid like this on a whiteboard somewhere your whole team can see it:
Each column represents one of the four primary “Growth Levers.” These are the four ways you can grow a company. And the 4 Growth Levers are:
- Acquisition: Getting new leads
- Activation: Converting your existing leads into customers
- Monetization: Increasing the average order value of your existing customers
- Retention: Reducing refunds and churn rate
Then you’ll want to take each good idea and put it into the column where it fits best, like so:
Writing down all your ideas in a central location like this does two important things.
First, it organizes your ideas in a way that makes sense from a growth perspective AND makes it easy to focus and prioritize each idea. This will become crucial in just a moment.
Second, it gets those ideas out of your head and down on paper.
Many of us are walking around with too many ideas floating around in our heads. And trying to keep track of those ideas leads to cognitive overload.
Mentally, it feels like you have too many browser tabs open on your internet browser.
But when you write down your ideas, it’s like closing one of those tabs. It frees up some mental space because you know you don’t have to keep track of that idea in your head any longer.
Choose One Column to Focus On
OK, you now have your ideas all written down and organized according to the 4 Growth Levers.
The next thing you need to do is to choose a column to focus on for a period of time.
Because here’s the thing:
Impact doesn’t happen when you improve ten different parts of your business by 1% each. It happens when you make a giant improvement in ONE area.
So, for example, let’s say that for the next 12 weeks you decide to focus on Acquisition.
For now, you can ignore all your ideas that fall under Activation, Monetization, and Retention, and focus 100% on your Acquisition ideas:
The next thing you need to do is to prioritize those Activation ideas. And to do this, I highly recommend using the ICE Framework. ICE stands for…
So, what you want to do is this: for each idea, measure the Impact, Confidence, and Ease of each idea on a scale from 1-10.
- Impact: How big of an impact will this idea have on your business? A 1 means that this idea will have a minimal impact, while a 10 means that this idea is a real “needle-mover” with the potential to dramatically grow your business.
- Confidence: How confident can you be that this idea will work? If you’ve tried it before and it worked well, this might be a 9 or 10. If it’s a gamble, it might be a 1 or 2.
- Ease: How easy or difficult would it be to implement this idea? The easier the implementation, the higher the score.
You should make this a discussion with your whole team. Give everyone a vote and average the results for each idea.
Here’s an example of how we scored a few different ideas here at DigitalMarketer using the ICE Framework. The ideas were “testing new homepage opt-in copy” and “launching a podcast.”
Test New Homepage Opt-In Copy
We knew that our homepage was a significant source of opt-ins. So, we knew that if we could move the needle and increase that conversion rate, it would have a high impact on our lead flow. (Impact of 10.)
At the same time, we had never tested the copy that was on the homepage. So, we were reasonably confident that we could beat that copy that was currently there. (Confidence of 9.)
Finally, because this involved changing just a few lines of text, it was super quick & easy to implement. (Ease of 10.)
ICE score: 10 + 10 + 9 = 29 / 3 = 9.7
As the ICE score suggests, this idea was really a no-brainer for us. As a result, it shot up to #1 on our list of priorities.
And we would go on to update the homepage to…
Launch a Podcast
We knew that if we could launch a podcast and have it do really well, that could be a huge needle-mover for our business. It could help grow our brand and generate awareness by reaching a massive number of people who listen to podcasts. (Impact of 10.)
However, we had never launched a podcast before—so we had no experience in that arena. As a result, we were not highly confident that we would be able to produce a great podcast right out of the gate. (Confidence of 2.)
And because we had never done a podcast before, implementing this was not going to be easy. It was going to involve lots of research, investing in new equipment, setting up a studio, and lots of other setup. Definitely not an easy process. (Ease of 1.)
ICE score: 10 + 2 + 1 = 13 / 3 = 4.3
This was a classic “moonshot” idea for us. Pulling it off would be tough, but the potential payoff was huge.
Keep in mind that just because it had a low ICE score, that doesn’t mean we didn’t do it. It just meant that we didn’t do it first. Instead, it got pushed down on the priority list of Acquisition ideas.
As you may know, we DID end up launching a podcast—and the Perpetual Traffic Podcast was a smash-hit beyond anything we expected. It turned out to be well worth the risk.
The great thing about the ICE Framework is that it makes the process of project selection really transparent to the whole team, and nobody ever feels like their ideas are being ignored or disregarded.
Every idea gets scored by the team according to the ICE Framework, and everyone on the team gets a say in which projects get tackled first.
Business Growth Plan Step 2: Work in Focused Sprints (Not Exhausting Marathons)
People, teams, and companies perform best with short bursts of intense work followed by a rest.
We are NOT designed for long marathons.
(It’s interesting to note that according to legend, the first Greek runner who ever ran a marathon ended up falling down dead at the end of it.)
We tend to work much better when we can go all-out for a couple hours, then rest and recharge our batteries so that we’re fresh when we go at it again.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard for long periods of time.
What I’m saying is that your work should follow a cycle that allows you to put forth 100% effort and then recover from that effort so you can do it again.
Work really hard, rest.
Work really hard, rest.
…you get it. 🙂
Fortunately, this sprint-based style of project implementation works perfectly with sequential goals because it allows you to pursue one single goal for that short period of hard work…
Then you take a break before pursuing the next goal.
And when you add all those sprints together, you get what we call a “season.”
Business Growth Plan Step 3: Work in 12-Week “Seasons”
We experience life in seasons. We’re never in one consistent mode all the time.
This applies to many different timeframes. Obviously, it applies to the seasons of a year, as the weather changes from cold, snowy winter to hot, thriving summer and back again.
But it also applies on the level of a week, where we have five days of focused work followed by two days of rest and recovery.
Similarly, each day can be thought of as having its own “seasons” too; often the morning involves some ramp-up time, after which we increase to our most productive period in the late morning. From there it’s common to have a lull in the afternoon, after which we ramp up again to finish our work in time to head home at night.
So, that’s why I think it makes sense to approach growth projects using that same idea of seasons.
And when it comes to putting growth projects into action, these are the five “seasons” of implementation:
- Learn: This is where you learn the principles that will help guide the implementation of your upcoming project. This isn’t “just in case” learning, where you’re researching something you might, maybe implement someday. It’s “just in time” learning where you’re figuring out how to implement one big idea that you’re about to work on NOW.
- Implement: This is where the rubber meets the road. Stop attending webinars, watching videos, and reading blog posts. Now’s your chance to take ACTION. Whatever your project is, this is the time to put in the legwork to get it done.
- Celebrate: Once you’ve finished implementing your project, take a moment to sit back and celebrate all your hard work! I don’t recommend celebrating your results at this point—because after all, not every project is going to be a win. Instead, simply celebrate the fact that you got something done. That you learned something. That you took meaningful action to grow your business.
- Optimize: Often we will implement something, but that implementation will be shaky at best. We’ll build a bridge, but it will be a rickety bridge with lots of holes and problems. That’s why we need to take time to optimize—to improve what we’ve implemented, to fix the bugs, to iron out the kinks. This is an important step because it helps us to get the best results from whatever it is we just implemented and make sure we’re putting forth a polished and professional effort.
- Rest/Repeat: Now that your project has been implemented and optimized, I recommend you take a little time off to rest before going at it again. This is important to recharge your batteries so that when the next season starts, you’re ready to give it all you’ve got and really kick butt on your next project.
Here at DigitalMarketer, we follow this season in 12-week cycles. We find that 12-week cycles work really well for a couple reasons.
For one thing, 12 weeks is long enough to allow you to really dig in and implement some significant solutions.
Secondly, 12 weeks gives you four quarters each year. This lines up perfectly with the 4 Growth Levers, which means you can focus on each Growth Lever once a year.
Our 12-week season looks like this:
We take just one week to learn, followed by four weeks of implementation. After that we give ourselves a week to celebrate, then we spend the next four weeks optimizing our work. Finally, we take a short two-week break before starting all over again.
3 Business Growth Mindsets
Now that we’ve covered the three steps of implementing a growth project, I want to briefly hit on three critical mindsets to getting growth done.
Business Growth Mindset #1: Patiently Impatient Thinking
“Patiently impatient thinking” means that you work with a sense of urgency…
Really push yourself to get your work done as quickly and efficiently as possible…
…while also understanding that results always lag behind your efforts.
A good analogy here is to think of this in terms of exercise.
If you want to lose weight and get in shape, how would you achieve that goal?
For one thing, you would probably start working out, right?
And if you wanted to get in really great shape, you would work out intensely. With a sense of urgency.
But at the same time, you have to recognize the fact that you can’t transform your body overnight.
It takes time for the results to come.
And the same thing is true of growth strategies. You need a sense of urgency while putting in the work…
…while being patient for the results—knowing that they will take some time, but they will come eventually.
Business Growth Mindset #2: High-Impact Thinking
The second important growth mindset is to foster high-impact thinking.
And to illustrate what I mean by that, I want to warp back to high school physics class for a minute. Let’s talk about Newton’s Second Law of Motion, which states:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
What this equation basically says is that to generate a lot of force you either need a lot of mass…or a lot of acceleration.
Growth ideas are the same way.
An idea with high mass and low acceleration might be like a steamroller. A steamroller doesn’t move very fast…but it’s so big and massive that once it reaches its target, it generates a massive amount of force.
For us, launching the Perpetual Traffic Podcast was a steamroller idea. It took a lot of work to get it moving, but once it launched it made a big impact on our business.
An idea with low mass and high acceleration might be more like a bullet. Bullets aren’t very heavy. They weigh just a couple ounces. But they’re shot with so much velocity that they are able to generate a massive amount of force.
The great thing about bullets is that you can implement lots of quick and easy ideas in a short amount of time. You can fire them off one after another.
In the 12-week implementation season, we spend the Learn and Implement phases focusing on steamroller strategies that will really move the needle.
Then during the Optimization phase, we focus on lots of bullets that we can implement to improve that steamroller idea as quickly as we can.
Business Growth Mindset #3: Leadership Thinking
I hear from a lot of business owners who claim to be the “visionary” for their company. They think their job is to come up with ideas, and that it’s the rest of their team’s job to implement them.
Leaders don’t merely plan…leaders lead. They DO! Because good leaders understand that…
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”—U.S. General George S. Patton
You don’t need a perfect plan. You need a good plan that gets DONE. And as a leader, it’s your job to make sure that happens.
Here at DigitalMarketer, our leaders do the most work. They lead by example.
Don’t be one of those leaders who sits in your ivory tower and just dictates orders down the mountain. Instead, roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty doing the work yourself.
That’s why this growth implementation plan is so important.
And that’s how you lead a company.