Canada lost one of its most populist and colourful political characters last week when former Alberta premier and Calgary mayor Ralph Klein died. There are a number of marketing lessons, both salutary and otherwise, to be drawn from the exploits of this seemingly simple man whose shoot-from-the-lip approach and unrivalled common touch made him an object of both admiration and scorn.
However, today I’m going to riff on just one of his more quotable quotes because it applies so very well to the doomed approach too many technology companies take with their belief that market traction and sustainable revenue growth can be achieved through a series of low-cost incremental steps.
“You can’t cross a canyon in two leaps,” Klein said as premier in defence of the sweeping cuts to public services he introduced in the mid-1990s to slash Alberta’s massive budget deficit. And technology companies can’t cross the chasm between product development and customer acquisition in anything less than a single bound.
I’ve written about this before, using the metaphor of achieving escape velocity to explain the huge effort it takes to get a product into market, attract the attention of your target customer, and actually start to gain revenue traction. Products are developed down here on earth, I argued, while customers are up there in orbit. Your marketing efforts must escape the gravitational pull of product development and get your product up there where the customers are. While firing the rocket thrusters is no guarantee of success, failing to do so is certain guarantee of failure. The best part is, once you have attracted the attention of your customers and started to gain revenue traction, sustaining it is as efficient as sustaining an earth orbit, costing a fraction of the effort it takes to get there in the first place.
And so it is with Klein’s pithy aphorism about canyons. It takes a leap of faith, a no-holds-barred launch off the canyon rim if you are to stand any chance of actually making it across to the other side where your customers are waiting. The only question you need to answer is: Are you going to be motorbike stuntman Robbie Knievel successfully jumping the Grand Canyon (Okay, he took a nasty tumble once he left the landing ramp, but that’s a metaphor for another day.) or are you going to be Homer Simpson, falling ignominiously into Springfield Gorge. Please tell me you didn’t just say, “D’oh!”
Image: OxfordWords blog