Product Marketing Rule #2: THINK BIG!, start small, move fast…

42 Rules of Product Marketing Facebook

Product Marketing Rule #2 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Christine Heckart, Chief Marketing Officer, NetApp

To think big is to dream big. Imagine you are at the end of the process and define what success looks like.

Everyone knows strategy drives execution. But what drives strategy? And, what kinds of strategy drive the right kinds of action, at the right times?

We are always very, very busy. When you consider all the things we can spend time doing at any moment, it is hard to discern which are the most effective in achieving specific short-term and long-term objectives. When you can’t do everything, how do you choose?

The best methodology I’ve found for managing strategy and execution is to THINK BIG!, start small, move fast….


To think big is to dream big. Imagine you are at the end of the process and define what success looks like. What are you trying to achieve? What impact do you want to make on your company, your industry, or the world?

For most big endeavors this means looking 3 – 5 years into the future, though some things might need a shorter time span. The important point is to make the time horizon long enough to let you dream expansively, imaginatively, and optimistically.

Too often, we hold ourselves back from really thinking big. We get caught up in minutiae, we compromise before we even begin, we focus on the reasons our big ideas won’t work. At the THINK BIG! stage, put all these hurdles aside, and give your imagination free reign.

Envision what might be true and different in the future. How would we like people to think about us, our products or services, our company? What different behaviors would arise? What new points of view?

When you’re thinking big, define success in all the ways that matter, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Consider hard numbers like revenue forecasts, but also include the qualitative aspects that ultimately matter when you think deeply about “success.” Describe the vision in enough
detail and with enough juice that everyone involved can understand the goal and why achieving it matters.

Start small

Once you have clearly defined what success looks like, identify the few things you can start on now to move toward that goal. Don’t try to boil the ocean.

Pick a way to test the big idea and prove its value. Choose one aspect required for success and get it done. Start with something that provides early traction and credibility; gives you quick feedback; and allows you to build awareness and momentum.

Of all the possible things to do, focus first on the handful that are most linked to achieving your big idea. The leftover things might be useful later, or maybe not. Avoid diluting your efforts by chasing too much too soon. Start small, with achievable actions, and build from there. And just as
important, put aside activities that don’t link to the big idea – however interesting, fun, or compelling they may sound.

Move fast….

Prioritizing and starting small doesn’t mean lollygagging, however. Big ideas don’t reach fruition without continuous wins, continuous progress. And they don’t happen if you lose traction or move away from your main goal. If you think big, start small, but then start over, you’ve ultimately achieved nothing of importance.

It’s human nature to get lost in the weeds, to say yes to every meeting, to devolve into a focus on management-level detail, to act for action’s sake, to fall into a pattern of believing that all deadlines are
equally important.

To move fast, always keep sight of your big goal, and evaluate your small actions by how well they move you there. Remind people, over and over, of the goal you are aiming at. Start every meeting with the big idea, and for every activity proposed, ask if it is the most essential activity to move toward that idea. Then, reward and reinforce each small step that reaches closer to your goal.

THINK BIG!, start small, and move fast….. Use this methodology to help you define success – and
mobilize and motivate your team to achieve it.

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