Action-Oriented Design

How Mammoth Growth does root cause analysis to uncover client goals

Since 2015, Mammoth Growth has delivered strong results for over 850 clients on projects related to lifecycle marketing, multi-touch attribution, and beyond. And throughout all these projects, we’ve observed an ironic pattern again and again. The success of any project is strongly correlated with how well the business understands their goals. But many clients don’t know their goals in the first place.

How can this be? They’ve hired an agency to help them, surely they must know what their goals are! They know something is missing. They know they need help. They think they know what the problem is. However, the problem is incorrectly defined. Using dashboards as a concrete example, clients often define the problem as a ‘lack of dashboard.’

“My problem is that I don’t have this dashboard.”

You can replace dashboard with: metric, report, integration, tool, etc. But here’s the issue that so many of our clients miss: “I need a thing,” is not the real problem. Without understanding what the root problem is, we cannot ensure the solutions we deliver are in alignment with the client’s business goals.

This article aims to dive into what the real problem is, and how to frame the original need in a different light to dramatically improve the outcome by focusing on future actions.

How We Do Root Cause Analysis to Uncover Clients’ Goals

If we assume that giving the client what they ask for will also solve their problem, the simplest path is to do what they ask. So if they ask us to create a dashboard, we’d do that and nothing more. But there are several problems with this approach. What if that won’t actually solve their problem? How often does the asked-for dashboard deliver the type of change that justifies the investment vs a dashboard that gets looked at once and never again? The odds aren’t good.

A dashboard may be needed, but what is unclear is how a dashboard will drive the business goal. The dashboard may be a stepping stone towards the goal, but we first need to know where to step. From a First Principles perspective, “a lack of dashboard” is not the real problem. 

So, what is the real problem?

The real problem is that there is some fundamental measure of the company which needs to be improved, that our current systems, tools, and data prevent us from achieving. The company needs to:

  • Produce more revenue
  • Acquire more customers
  • Generate more frequent orders
  • Lower costs

What is missing that is preventing these goals from being impacted? This needs to have a real outcome for the business. The dashboard is simply the tool you will use to make a decision, take action, move a needle. It is the actions which deliver meaningful value to the company, and not the dashboard.

“How do I know if I’m focusing on the right goal?”

Delivering something of value requires a more specific action to be taken which results in more revenue, more customers, more often, at a lower cost. We always ask our clients: “If you had this data in your hands, what action would you take?” Their answer should validate that they have the right goal. In order to ensure we deliver meaningful value to our clients, we must guide them past the basic ‘need’ and focus on the actions they must take to make progress on their business goals.

“So what’s the difference? Either way, I still need a dashboard.”

The difference is that we’re not seeing the forest for the trees:

  • Will the solution (a dashboard) actually deliver the expected results?
  • Does the solution justify the investment or level of effort?
  • Is there a simpler, faster way to take a first step toward the goal?
  • Can we validate the we’re focusing on the right solution?
  • How will we measure the impact?

When we deliver our solution to the client, they are on the hook for expensive tools and complicated code - a liability. Our solution is only valuable once it starts to produce results against their business goals. If our dashboard is abandoned, the client becomes frustrated and the team feels like they’re not doing great work. The value that we deliver to our clients is our expertise in getting to the heart of the client’s problems and helping them to see the simplest solution to achieve it. That starts with validating that our solution will impact the client’s goals.

A Common Scenario

“I need a dashboard showing all of my marketing spend in one place.”

At this point, we could say: yes, we will build this dashboard and the client thinks it has value. But what value will it actually have? Value is derived from action. Having a dashboard has no value without action. Without action, nothing changes, and you’re left with the status quo.

“OK, I want to know more about my ad spend so I can make better decisions on where to spend my budget.”

“Knowing more” and “better decisions” isn’t specific. Because this is not a specific action, we know we have to dig deeper. You can get that information directly from Facebook’s reports. What is preventing you from taking action today? As a hypothetical: would you cancel your Facebook spend if you found it was underperforming?

“I am increasing spend in new channels and I want to compare their performance against benchmarks. I will increase spend if it outperforms the benchmark. I will cut spending if it doesn’t perform well enough against the benchmark. Having all of this in a single place will enable our analysts to provide recommendations.”

Now we have more detail about the action they need to take, and the type of inputs that feed into that decision: new channels, increased spend, performance measurements, and benchmarks. We can start to uncover more detail about what these really mean. What are their expectations?

  • How is performance measured?
  • Can you rely on the network's conversion data?
  • Is this a much larger Attribution project?
  • How much time would it take for a single person to pull the data each week into Excel?
  • How often are new channels spun up? Do they provide an API to automate?
  • How do you calculate benchmarks? Is this something that needs to be updated?

The answers to these questions will affect the scope of work, budget. How much value will this deliver to the client?

Remember the original ask: build a dashboard. This type of work could take months of planning, engineering and building. Depending on the ad network's ability to export data, the project may ultimately be incomplete. This may affect the decisions on which ad networks to spend in. And there might even be better off-the-shelf tools available, such as Attribution App. We take the time to get to the heart of each client’s business goal. And that means we can produce smarter solutions for the client based on their actions.

Action Orientated

At Mammoth Growth we have always solved business problems by identifying the root cause and backing into the solution. The challenge is to know when you are focusing on the real problem and not the problem as the individual stakeholder sees it. That view is often incomplete at best, flawed at worst. We then use the client’s actions to validate that we are focusing on the correct problem. Once you identify which actions will affect the right business goal in the right way, you know you are focusing on the true problem.

If you have questions about your growth goals, we’d love to talk with you.

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