We have some big things happening at Paubox that I can’t wait to announce soon, and that’s caused me to be in reflection mode lately. This is especially true as we’ve gained momentum in raising our seed round and are planning our strategy to scale.
So I took a look at some of the great growth marketers I admire (a handy list here), and thought about what skills they had in common and would want to develop more in myself in order to grow Paubox.
A lot has been written about technical skills, mindsets (like being curious), and job skills (like SEO).
But two skills that I think are undervalued and not talked about a lot are:
- Pattern Recognition
The importance of pattern recognition
I had a great professor during my MBA, David McClain, who quoted someone as saying, “99% of life is pattern recognition.”
I’d quote the actual person, but I can’t claim to be the best student (or at least note taker). I’m not even sure that’s the actual percentage either, but it was definitely over 90%.
But the point of the quote is the same regardless.
If you can recognize patterns from your experience or learnings, then you are able to better adapt to situations where the pattern repeats itself.
Just think about all the job descriptions out there seeking someone who has past experience in the same industry with a track record of success. The conventional idea being that if a candidate was successful the first time, they will be able to do it again.
This is also a big reason why “How to” blog posts and case studies are so popular, as people are looking for things to try and replicate.
Yet, even with all those epic blog posts and case studies, there’s still a large gap between recognizing a pattern and being able to do something with it, which brings us to…
The importance of application
If someone gave you the parts for a new sound system for your car, would you be able to install it? What if they gave you instructions?
Most likely, some people will have the skills needed and be fine, others would need the instructions and be ok, and some would be lost even with a how-to video.
That’s kind of like being able to recognize a pattern and actually being able to do something with it. This is especially true if you’re trying to pull learnings across different industries and business models.
One example that is consistently used in growth marketing is the idea of referral programs and how that can be replicated across different products. Paypal gave $5 to users if they referred someone to sign up a new account, Dropbox gave away storage space, and Uber uses free rides.
A lot has been written about each of these iconic playbooks and there’s been a lot of success by other companies in creating referral programs in B2C companies. But try and think about how you would create a similar type of referral program for something like medical devices. Not as easy right?
Being able to recognize a pattern isn’t enough, you need to be able to do something with it.
Can you develop pattern recognition and application?
But is it possible to learn these skills, or is it something innate that a person has?
For pattern recognition, I found a lot of resources that advise it is possible to develop. One of the best came from Visual Thinking Magic, a site dedicated to Visual Thinking and Pattern Recognition.
The post breaks down five steps to help develop your pattern recognition skills:
- Actively look for patterns – initially it’s not easy so just collect all the data and move on to step 2.
- Organize the pieces – after you observe the data, layout the data in a visual format to make it easy to organize.
- Question the data – start asking questions to identify what you see and think about possible patterns.
- Visualize the data – as you ask relevant questions, begin visualizing data using graphs, charts, maps, etc.
- Imagine new possibilities – this is where you start looking at opportunities and solutions from the emerging patterns and takes you into idea generation.
It’s not as easy to develop how to actually apply what you learn. Transfer of learning is a tricky thing, but the one big takeaway that comes from different articles is that you need to simply practice. There are a couple ways to go about practicing:
- Try and find situations that are very different but have the same solution.
- Read as many case studies as you can and use thoughtful reflection to think how what you’ve just read can be applied in different situations.
Wrapping it up
Innovation doesn’t just come from a new idea or a big iterative leap forward. Innovation can also come from new applications of existing technology and ideas.
Developing your pattern recognition and application skills can help you be more innovative in your marketing strategy and tactics, and can also help accelerate your company’s growth.