Getting In The Mud aka Carrying The Water 3.0

  • When companies scale, you start to notice a pattern Jeff Bezos calls managing by proxy. It’s what happens when companies rely more on measurement than rolling up their sleeves and really getting close to the customer.
  • Here’s an example. You have a problem you’re trying to solve. You could go straight to the source and talk your customer. But instead of engaging them and trying to understand where their pain is coming from (and how you may have a direct role in that pain), you instead manage by proxy. You pull up a Google spreadsheet, take a magnifying glass to the data, and try to find out what went wrong.
  • We need to resist managing and measuring by spreadsheets only. And the only way to fight this tendency is to get in the mud. Getting in the mud is making the the call, visiting the customer, and talking to the team member. It’s getting in the details. We need to get in the mud to stay close to our customers. That’s where the real truth is. Data is important, and we all wants lots of it, but a candid conversation with a customer is worth its weight in gold.

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Data can only get you so far. On this episode of Seeking Wisdom, Drift’s CEO David Cancel (aka DC) and VP of Marketing Dave Gerhardt (aka DG) are talking about the limitations of data, and why the most important thing you can do to scale your business is to get in the mud.

“I love data, but it’s like driving a car using only the rear view mirror. It tells you what happened, not what is going to happen.”

– David Cancel

No one wants to be making business decisions based solely on what they see in the rearview mirror. You have to find a balance between taking a data-driven approach and running around with no plan whatsoever.

So you get in the mud.

Getting in the mud means getting closer to your customers. It means getting your hands dirty and talking to them openly about their pain points. That’s where you’ll find all the answers you’re looking for.

“Success will only come to those willing to get their hands dirty.”

– Howard Schultz, Former CEO of Starbucks

This advice is especially important to remember (and act on) as companies scale. As teams get built out, you add more process and more measurement. The danger here is that people get comfortable managing by proxy and measuring activity through spreadsheets. They lose the pulse of the customer. They get out of the mud.

To steal a line from Steve Blank – who DC calls the godfather of customer development – the truth that you seek is never inside the building. It’s never in the spreadsheet. It’s never in the data.

Yes, you read that right. It’s always outside of the building. So the best thing you can do – whether you’re an early stage startup or an established company, whether you’re in product or marketing or sales – is to get as close as you can to the source of truth.

The customer.

So get up from your desk and in front of customers.

Get in the mud.

There’s a lot more insights from DC and DG in the pod. Listen to the full episode below?

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Special Announcements

  • Don’t forget – DG’s new podcast Marketing Swipe File. You’ll hear exclusive conversations with world-class CMOs, marketing leaders, and brand builders. Every great marketer has a swipe file. This podcast will be yours.
  • Without ops pros, there would be no hypergrowth companies. That’s why we’re launching a new podcast called Operations. Every other Friday, Sean Lane, Director of Operations at Drift, will take you under the hood of companies including Salesforce, Amazon, and Okta to find out what it truly takes to scale through hypergrowth.

Books Mentioned In This Episode