One of several points from Jim Collins’ new book Great By Choice is the concept of bullets and cannonballs.
Simply put, a bullet is a test. It’s done to learn something with speed and minimal risk in mind. After a few successful bullets hit their mark, you conceptually have enough data or market validation to fire the cannon instead.
Collins, backed up by years of research, demonstrated that companies who grew 10X over several years during difficult market conditions did so by firing a lot of bullets, all the time, before carefully choosing their cannonballs. Similar companies who stalled or faltered too often bet big on the cannonball first, which took more time, attention and resources away from the business with a lower rate of success and return.
You aren’t going to grow at high rates year after year without firing cannons. At some point, you have to make the big bet.
But there’s no reason to do that without first testing the market, validating your idea with data, and ensuring your cannons will hit their mark.
Put another way, spend most of your time at target practice. Figure out what works. Then put the pistol away and get out the big guns.
Matt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.