5 min read

You Only Get One Shot (to strategize a winning go-to-market)

There’s a chance you might faintly remember this story from history.

But what’s more likely, is that you recognize this as a familiar refrain from the Broadway smash hit, Hamilton. That’s because this musical has become an overnight hit bringing history to life in a modern, contagious way. Now you might be wondering, why should a savvy marketer like you give a post referencing a Broadway show another minute of your time? I’m glad you asked.

Hamilton is the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton, who rises from outsider to American war hero to George Washington’s right-hand man. In the process, Alexander Hamilton powerfully shapes America as we have come to know it — and gave us all a template for what it means to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and realize the American Dream. Set to hip hop music, this musical has caught the world by storm earning it 16 Tony nominations (and this weekend just won a whopping 11 of them), a Grammy, and even most recently a Pulitzer Prize for literary excellence. With many one-liners woven throughout the show, none is more significant than the phrase Hamilton repeatedly says, “you only get one shot.”


It’s this overarching theme of the show that captured my attention, and I submit, is worth capturing yours. That’s because it’s a throwback to a time and a way of life we don’t embrace anymore. Today it’s all about instant access and doing what feels good when it feels good. There’s some great things that have come as a result of that line of thinking… But in a world of YOLO, it’s time to get back to the idea that “you only get one shot.”

Access to technology and tools makes it easier than ever for anyone to call themselves and be an instant digital marketer. Accessibility certainly affords greater opportunity. But more often than not, it’s coming at the cost of planning and strategy falling by the wayside. On any given day you could read that 9 out of 10 startups fail, or 96% of businesses fail in 10 years, or 50% fail within first year of business. Any way you slice it, business is a risky business – one that could seemingly benefit from greater strategy and planning.

Returning to our story, founding father Alexander Hamilton finds himself in a dispute with political rival Aaron Burr. They aim to settle this dispute the way all civilized gentlemen would… with a duel to the death. In most situations it was an empty threat and nothing materialized of these quarrels. But this one would be different. Spending an entire show and lifetime not wanting to “waste his shot” to influence history, Hamilton ironically does throw his shot away sending his bullet straight up in the air –essentially calling the duel off. But in the heat of the moment, Burr misreads Hamilton and takes a fatal blow. The rest is, as they say, history… Hamilton lives to fight another day as a Broadway hit and the enduring star of the $10 bill, while Burr lived the remainder of his life and all of history in infamy.

Great story, but let’s make this news you can use.

“You only get one shot” is a guarded reminder that calls for a measured and planned response. Hamilton and company are fully aware of the costs when they fight for freedom from British rule. They want a country characterized by life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what is so interesting is they are willing (compelled) to give it their one shot. Here are three things that still matter when launching a new idea or entering a new market counts:

Preparation Matters

We’ve heard it before: failing to plan is planning to fail. But in the hustle and bustle of aggressive timelines, human nature is to resort to activity and call it productivity. With the immediacy of tools available it’s possible to make announcements on social channels, sponsor some ads or throw some money toward keywords.

And then stand back and wonder why it didn’t work.

Activity for activity sake is a “shot” in the dark. Are you aligned on the ultimate outcomes? Is there a clear understanding of the customer’s journey and the VALUE they get from your product or service? What is it that makes you truly different? (Different is always better than being better.) Are you prepared to share those differences using varied channels through audience appropriate positioning? The right preparation matters.

Audience Matters

Around these parts we believe in audience first and product/service second. It’s great to have an innovative service or product but do you know who it will matter to? Who wants it? We hear from business all the time that they know who they’re looking for. With an auto company they say it’s anyone who drives… or a skin product says anyone with a face. Or we’re looking for females 25-55…

Uh, no you’re not. What is the audience within the audience? Have you built a persona? Do you know the sub-segment inside the segment that you’re actually targeting? It’s a mix of demographic, as well as, online and behavioral behaviors.

In the end, delivering the right content or message depends on the audience you’re serving and the place they’re at in the consumer journey. Google calls this micro-moments. Being on the right channel at the right time with the right message when a person “wants to know” looks very different from being on the right channel at the right time with the right message when a person “wants to buy.” Building on the preparation matters topic above, when it comes to audience behavior there are no magic bullets and nothing happens accidentally. The right audience matters.

Speed Matters

But you want to get your message out now. You need leads and revenue… yesterday. We hear you. You want to move fast and you don’t have a year to do it. We get it. But moving people from awareness to advocacy is an outcome that still has a process. We’ve found you have to slow down if you want to speed up.

Another leading historical figure, the 16th president of the United States, is attributed with a relevant quote: “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” How are you sharpening the tools you’ll use?

So many leaders think they can turn on a channel or campaign and it will return immediate results. Sometimes it does. More often it doesn’t. Just because you start paid media doesn’t mean that like a faucet you’ll suddenly be inundated with leads and revenue. But what if as a result of your efforts, you were to earn the right to speak to your target audience and build a tribe of 5,000 people that love your brand? This level of engagement and community is extremely valuable and teaches you what resonates and who it resonates with so that you can go and replicate that success at a much larger frequency. How much further ahead might you be if you had a roadmap that said we’re going to do XYZ tactic until it produces ABC outcome… and then we’re going to take all our learnings from that tactic and use those insights as we roll out the next channel so that the new channel will work harder faster? Slow down so that you can speed up. This level of perspective, and understanding customer signals, is far more valuable than speeding out with a bunch of social media blasts or paid media campaigns. The right speed matters.

It may be true that you only get one shot… but here’s wishing you a healthy dose of planning and strategy so that you can feel more confident it won’t be wasted.


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