What is a Want-Got Gap, and why should you care?

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

Want-got gap? It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. What is it, and why do I think it's so important that I built my business around closing it?

At first glance, the want-got gap is a simple concept: it’s the gap between what you want and what you’ve got. In the world of growing a business, though, the want-got gap (WGG) is far more complex.

Historically used in the field of organizational behavior, the WGG occurs when a business isn’t hitting its North Star Metric (NSM). If, for instance, your NSM is 50 total purchases per week and you’re only getting 40, it’s easy to identify that a WGG exists. Figuring out why that gap exists is the tough part.

Quick history review: as mentioned, “want got gap” comes from the field of organizational behavior, where it's been used to describe a gap between expectation and reality for both managers and consumers. The WGG is also similar to what’s often called a “growth gap” (Harvard Business Review tends to prefer this term). Same idea. It matters less that you know what to call it and more that you know how to fix it.

An Oversimplified 3-Step Process to Closing the Want Got Gap

1. Identify the Want and the Got

Again, this seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many companies I speak to that lack clarity on this step. Most common is a haziness around the want…sure, every company wants to be super profitable and make billions in revenue, but identifying the right North Star Metric takes skill and deliberation.

Once you have a great NSM, you have a point of comparison. Let’s use the example from earlier: your NSM is 50 total purchases per week, and you are currently getting 40? That means a WGG of 10 — that’s something we can work with. We can track it in tests and clearly define when we’re succeeding vs failing.

2. Ask and answer: how do you get your Got?

Beyond your NSM are dozens of smaller metrics that affect it. Pretty much any funnel step conversion rate, cost per funnel step X — which metrics are failing? For instance, if you have a high conversion rate from click to add to cart but a low conversion rate from add to cart to purchase, you know your issue is with getting people to convert from add to cart. So, let’s start out by identifying every touchpoint in your funnel. I’ll save that for another post…hopefully you understand your funnel very well and it’s clearly defined. If not, that’s a great place to start.

Let’s say in our example that 20% of people who land on our site end up purchasing — a pretty high rate. But upon closer look, we see that 90% of the people who click on an ad don’t end up landing on the site because the page takes too long to load. By improving the landing page, you’ll theoretically increase the click-to-landing page view rate enough to lift your total purchase rate. This is a simplified example (if only it were always that easy!) but it should provide a good framework.

3. Test, measure, learn (rinse, repeat forever)

Once you identify the key performance indicators that are most negatively impacting your north star metric, you can start to build tests around improving those metrics. Occasionally the data will reveal something obvious, like a broken feature, but more often than not there are features that simply need to be improved through testing.

Make a hypothesis, test it, measure it, learn from it, and then iterate by repeating the process. The key here is to make sure you’re testing the things that are most in need of testing. One common trap is to launch low-impact tests early in the process, with minimal opportunity to learn…for instance, launching a Facebook ad copy test where each copy variant is barely distinguishable from the others.

It’s tempting because it’s theoretically cheap, but it likely won’t have much of an impact on your North Star Metric.

Evaluate and rank every test idea according to impact, complexity, and effort. Be honest with yourself, and make sure you put your time and money where it will do the most good.