Your Funnel, 2 Quarters Out
Most companies are laser-focused on meeting the current quarter's target, with an all-hands-on-deck effort by sales, marketing and product to close the gap by quarter-end. There is usually also a funnel of opps and leads for next quarter. But what about 2 quarters out?
Short-term revenue is the lifeblood of the company - you don't survive very long if you don't make your number. So companies get good at meeting their target quarter-to-quarter. But one day the current quarter does not look good. The funnel is just not there. Maybe you've saturated the market, or there's been a disruption, or maybe you just didn't have enough funnel-generating activity 6 months ago. Now you're in trouble, and no amount of short-term execution can solve it. Don't fall into this trap!
Short vs. Medium vs. Long-term Strategy
It is absolutely correct to focus on making each quarter, and most companies that survive get very good at this. It's also important to have a long-term strategy with a 1-3 year horizon, and most companies have something like this too. But what about the medium term?
Planning 2-3 quarters out tends to be a no man's land. What are the focused initiatives, opportunities, and experiments, that will guarantee you hit your number?
United We Stand
To be sure, all teams contribute to the medium-term effort. Though sales is primarily focused on meeting the short-term target, some time is spent prospecting new opportunities and expanding strategic accounts. Product Management is talking with customers and prioritizing the roadmap. Marketing is generating leads that may not materialize for 2 or more quarters. CS is retaining and delighting customers (one of the biggest contributors to medium-term growth). Business development explores new partnerships and initiatives.
Because the medium term is fuzzy, each team is often left to do their own thing, and often in their "spare time", with whatever cycles that are not already dedicated to meeting the quarterly target. The medium term also ends up a dumping ground for things that aren't important enough to do now, and are perennially pushed to this no-man's land ("That partnership is really something we should do, but we don't have time now so let's say we do it in 6 months").
The result is that across all functions, the company accumulates a grab bag of miscellaneous initiatives that no one quite ever has time for. The issue is not a lack of contribution but a lack of dedicated focus, coordination and prioritization.
No doubt, a united company that is focused on a handful of key initiatives will have more success than each function working separately on their own initiatives in their spare time. Moreover, having a few targeted initiatives is better than having many initiatives executed poorly.
Who's Your Maestro?
One of the reasons companies get good at short-term quarterly execution is that they have a maestro - the VP Sales. The VP Sales is laser-focused on meeting the target and pulling support from across the company. Similarly, doesn't it make sense to have someone laser-focused on medium term growth 2 quarters out?
The HBR article Every Company Needs a Growth Manager offers that Silicon Valley companies increasingly appoint a "Growth Manager" who is responsible for coordinating the various functions in the medium term:
Growth Manager Is Not A Title
Most companies don't have a growth manager, and those that do often co-opt the term to mean something else ("growth hacker" is a tired term that has come to be synonymous with digital marketing, and "VP Growth" is often just another business or channel development person, or a title given for political reasons).
The important thing is not to invent a new job title, but to ensure a leader in the company has clear responsibility for nailing the medium-term.
Perhaps it is a VP Marketing, a small company CEO, VP Strategy, VP Bus Dev or a Single-Threaded Owner. Even a mid-level leader in the sales or marketing team can work. The important thing is not the title but that their role is recognized as entirely focused on coordinating and prioritizing a data-driven effort to absolute nail the medium term, 2 quarters out. And the role is measured accordingly, not on MQLs or ticking off roadmap items, but on overall success of the medium term.
Treat the Medium Term With The Same Diligence as Today's Quarter
Focus a smaller number of high-priority, cross-functional initiatives on the medium term. Appoint a dedicated person to lead and coordinate. Measure progress with the same diligence as you would the short term. In so doing, companies maximize their chances of consistent growth, and minimize getting caught off-guard 2 quarters out.
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