As some of you may know (because you’re probably subscribers!), OpenView got into the newsletter business a couple of years ago.
At the time, we were looking at our content marketing strategy and pouring over the many goals we had for content creation, lead generation, and developing true thought leadership in an industry (venture capital) that wasn’t known to partake in most of those practices.
No, creating a newsletter wasn’t a new idea. It wasn’t earth shattering. But it was an idea. And it was one that we thought would differentiate us a bit, expand our network, and offer a medium to more actively engage and provide value to our current portfolio and potential future investments. Ultimately, we thought it was an idea that could make a big impact on our brand recognition in the expansion stage technology market and give us another method for communicating with and providing value to our “customers” and prospects.
So, we experimented a bit. We tried some different formats, talked to our buyer personas to see what they’d want to read, and sent out sample newsletters to see if they resonated with our audience. Early on, people loved it and asked for more. So we started including more content, decided to send it twice a week, and expanded our mailing list to our entire network.
In six months, we acquired 3,500 subscribers. Last month, we cleared the 10,000-subscriber plateau. Not bad for a VC, right?
Why should you care about the story of our newsletter?
Well, to be honest, you shouldn’t. But the above example is a nice lead-in to something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:
How can early stage companies take new ideas, experiment and execute them, and ultimately turn them into something that can have a massive long-term impact?
Most people are comfortable executing against predictable value. And while that can make an impact, predictability doesn’t allow you to stretch your goals. To create truly massive impact, you need to try new ideas on an ongoing basis and discover what might help advance your company to the next level.
Let’s say that you have a specific department goal (i.e. increase revenue) that you need to meet. But the things you’re doing right now (the things you can identify as predictable) aren’t going to get you to that goal. What do you do? Well, you can keep doing the things you’ve always done and hope something changes. Or you can brainstorm a couple of great new ideas that will close that gap (adding new lead generators, entering a new market, or deploying a new content format that will resonate with your customers, for example).
The problem for most companies, however, is how to exceed goals by using new ideas to create repeatable impact and predictable value. It can be a tricky process. Thankfully, I’ve drawn up a pretty simple model I think might help.
See the illustration below:
Now, hold the jokes. I realize I’m not Vincent Van Gogh. But I think that funnel pretty simply lays out how companies can turn new ideas into predictable value and long-term impact. And if you can’t read my handwriting, don’t strain yourself. My plan is to highlight each step in that impact funnel over the next couple of weeks.
Here are the steps, from top to bottom, that I’ll discuss:
- Idea Generation: It could be as simple as creating a newsletter to improve lead generation.
- Experimentation: Test the idea to see if it will even work in your market.
- Ad Hoc Execution: If the idea is validated by experimentation, what are the best ways to execute it?
- Development of Early Methodology: Once you find the best execution method, expand that into a repeatable methodology.
- Reaching a Vital Rhythm: The idea, execution, and methodology have all been proven, now it’s all about setting a rhythmic process that will make the idea a predictable value.
After an idea survives that funnel, it often becomes a repeatable and predictable process that can be used to execute your goals and create massive impact (for us, 10,000+ newsletter subscribers is massive impact). From there, the key is to continue dropping ideas into the funnel to see if they can further advance those goals.
Make sense? Again, this isn’t a department or organization specific process. I think it can be used for virtually any goal. We used it for the development of our newsletter, and most of the best new ideas and innovation follow a similar timeline. Ultimately, that impact funnel should answer a fundamental problem: if the things you’re doing right now (your predictable values) aren’t going to help you reach your goals, what can you do to change that?
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