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Why testing and learning quickly is vital for companies in times of crisis

I’ve been working as a Content Marketer at Growth Tribe for four months and I must say since the beginning my mindset in digital marketing has completely changed. I’m still in the process of integrating it entirely, but getting there and it is very stimulating!

In this piece I’d like to talk about something I recently learned thanks to a comprehensive 12-week course I received from our skilled trainers: the “Test & Learn” approach as part of a growth strategy. In other words, the approach to generating continuous business growth!

Of course, we know that the pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on businesses around the world. However, opportunities can always rise amid times of crisis and uncertainty. Several sources (McKinsey, HBR, etc.) even rightly cite the need to take risks, invest and experiment.

Indeed, companies must take advantage of these times to bounce back quickly, even more with a “Test & Learn” approach. Not only do they need it to survive, but also to come out stronger from the crisis.

But how can you get your teams to learn faster so they adapt and keep your organisation growing – even in the most challenging times?

First of all, your company needs to test and learn quickly more than to pivot – here’s why.

The importance of rapid experimentation for any business

According to McKinsey, the weakest point of companies is their slow and costly testing techniques.

Yet, it is essential to implement a method of experimentation and rapid learning in order to resist the frantic currents of change.

In times of crisis, not only does your company need to renew itself as quickly as possible and on a large scale, but it must also invest in a number of resources to create added value.

This is the case of Uber: the pandemic forced the company’s transition to add home grocery delivery via its “Uber Eats” platform which will have allowed small, essential merchants to maintain their activity.

That’s why, in times of significant change, you need to renew yourself regularly and effectively to make the right decisions.

Jeff Bezos said:

“Amazon’s success is very much dependent on how quickly and how many experiments per year, per month, per week and per day.”

He also said it’s okay to be wrong:

“In terms of growth marketing, it’s critical to have a quick decision process. Being wrong is entirely part of rapid experimentation, on the other hand, being too slow may kill your business.”

It doesn’t matter how many rapid experiments you conduct: the more you test, the better you learn and improve your product or your solution.

What matters is whether your concept or idea is viable, hence the importance to reinvent your processes – for instance, via rapid digitisation – to enable an optimal customer experience, maximise the capacity of your teams and available skills.

You could, for example, choose to expand your product or service offering, enhance your portfolio or strengthen your data security.

An approach to extend to all your departments

Often, when companies talk about experimentation, they think of products or technology.

The recent co-branding partnership between Shopify and TikTok illustrates this point well.

The two tech companies tested a number of initiatives before launching the “TikTok channel” integrated with Shopify to allow merchants to promote their products on the social network.

The key to optimal results is to extend the “Test & Learn” approach beyond the product and apply it to your other departments: marketing, growth or even HR.

It is therefore essential to train your executives, marketers, product managers or anyone in contact with your customers in the rapid experimentation process.

Remember that most of these tests will be inconclusive, especially in a startup.

So you’ll have to test, test, and test a LOT before you get satisfactory results.

Be patient.

Generally, during the first 10 tests, you will learn… to master experimentation.

But as time goes on, your efforts will pay off and you’ll start to add value to your business.

According to McKinsey, this year, the issues for most companies are dealing with challenges in terms of procurement, security of their data – especially for Zoom, which has been quick to manage its volume of usage but has encountered security breaches that require immediate attention – or automation of technology to facilitate remote work as the exponential use of Slack has shown.

Pivoting in times of crisis to renew your business

Naturally, the coronavirus crisis has forced hundreds of thousands of startups, companies and associations to review their strategy, whether in France or elsewhere. To renew themselves, they had to act much faster than they would ever imagine.

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies such as Netflix or BrewDog reinvented their business model in the short term to compensate for the shortcomings caused by COVID. The British beer champion has transformed its distillery to make antibacterial gel while the streaming pioneer has created its easy-to-use Netflix Party platform to allow confined people to watch programs remotely and in real time.

Of course, before entering the race to pivoting, certain criteria must be analysed and agreed. Experimenting at scale is a very good way to test the waters and consider an angle of attack to pivot your business.

Business model change, urgent digital adoption, rewriting your short and long term strategies… the list is long.

Whatever happens, your ability to adapt is crucial to your company’s survival, your agility and your propensity to create value – criteria as part of the “growth hacking” strategy.

Here’s a checklist for you to follow when implementing such a strategy:

Set clear objectives and invite your teams to brainstorm

This is a prerequisite. After asking yourself what you want to achieve by setting clear objectives, plan a brainstorming to encourage your teams to exchange as many ideas as possible.

Prioritise the ideas

Once the ideation is complete, select the ideas by importance accordingly to your objectives and communicate them during a so-called “growth sprint”. A meeting dedicated to the implementation of your growth hacking strategy, or before a potential pivot.

Test

Set your experiments into practice using the least amount of resources and time possible and collect enough data to be able to analyse it and come to a conclusion.

Ask yourself: “Is my idea viable?

Analyse

The results of your testing will help you determine whether or not to implement your idea.

Remember that an inconclusive experiment is always positive and that all the data collected is important and can always be activated later.

Once the idea has been vetted, you can decide whether or not to go ahead with it. Otherwise, go back to the beginning (step number 1) for new experiments. After all, that’s what a growth hacking strategy is all about.

Many successful companies have been created through notable crises, whether financial, social or health-related. Launched in 2001, iPod is the product that justified Apple’s comeback just after the Internet bubble burst. In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Dropbox, which had already launched its cloud storage platform, quickly bounced back with a viral referral program.

Ultimately, what these companies have in common with yours is solving a problem, whatever it may be – from simply wanting to help, to providing a big solution, to modernising – especially when times are tough.

That’s what innovation and pivot are all about.

* * *

Thank you for reading all the way here!

Have you had to pivot this last year?

Do you practice a “Test & Learn” approach in your business?

How many times have you tested new methods before succeeding?

Comment below.

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