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Be a small part of something big.
Ambition is admirable but it can lead to disappointment.
We compare ourselves to the high achievers and wonder why we are stuck in the minor leagues.
The truth is that most people are average.
We only ever hear about the top 0.1% of companies, marketers, athletes and celebrities.
Based on probability alone, it’s hard to expect we’ll ever get that good.
What we do have control over is where we hitch a ride.
Do we go all-in on an industry like oil and gas that everyone expects to decline? (please don’t)
Or do we attach our story to the proven winners. Do we look forwards or backwards?
It’s ok to be a small part of something bigger.
Like a barnacle attached to a whale, there are now hundreds of businesses globally that hitch a ride alongside a bigger behemoth. And that strategic decision is their reason for success.
Microsoft, Xero, Atlassian, Github… there are a lot of whales.
You don’t have to be the top 0.1%. You can also be a barnacle. (inspiring imagery… I know)
Be the barnacle
On all of the sports team I follow the players are now significantly younger than me.
After a quick cry, it’s time to accept that I will never make it to the NBA.
We can still achieve great things, but it’s really hard forging a path from 0 to 100.
Instead of starting from scratch, think about the alternative options:
- in what world am I not starting at 0
- where do I have an unnatural advantage
- where am I already above average
- who is someone in my network who is closer to 100
- how can I ‘be the barnacle’ to their whale
It’s a big quote, but worth reading through to the end:
“To win, your company has to be the best at something. There’s just no way around it. Being “okay” is just not cutting it. The customer has too much choice. You need to be the best at creating winning customer value for a particular set of customers, or you are destined to be overtaken by a competitor who is.
Strategy is about choice: deciding where to play, and plotting a pathway to win in that game. You can’t win without being the best. You need to focus your resources on constantly improving your customer value and refining your customer targeting. Choose your customers, and build “the best” for them. The “best” doesn’t mean the highest quality. The reason for hiring you can vary a lot. It might be to save costs, so best is cheapest. It’s whatever that group of customers you sell to cares a lot about. It’s about being the best for a particular use case for a specific set of customers.
The ability to innovate on customer value at high speed must be a core capability of your company. It’s impossible to do so if your company is targeting all revenues indiscriminately. If you treat all revenues as equally desirable, you don’t have a strategy. This is what separates the winners from the losers.”
“Van Gogh averaged one painting every 4 days in addition to his 1100 drawings and sketches on the side. Talent is a gift, but the best pair it with consistent execution.”
-Bri Kimmel (source)
“You can have the greatest product in the world, but if people don’t understand your why or what your product is being hired to do, you aren’t going to go far. The number one skill every entrepreneur needs to learn is how to be a strong storyteller.”
-Harvey Finklestein (source)
Early employees with equity at startup successes like Google, Facebook and Apple are now multi-millionaires. They attached their barnacle to the right whale.
It’s not all about money. You might choose to attach your story to a cause or a community. (electric vehicles, nutrition, solar)
The questions we need to ask are:
- what trends are emerging
- what trends are sustainable
- how can I attach myself
When I asked myself these questions I realised I needed to work for a software company in the tech industry. It might be different for you.
This is Marketing.