The Founder of a Startup which is in marketing automation for businesses had recently approached me with a problem that I can clearly see as being faced by many startups and even established business.
He had launched his product a couple of months back with some fanfare but hasn’t got any customers yet.
He had tried to get visibility through online which included social media & print and had made some inroads there. But that didn’t seem to make any difference to the outcome of getting sign ups. He had also offered a free trial period but hasn’t gone closer to the order.
From the preliminary conversations, it was clear that he had committed the cardinal sin of NOT Validating his Idea for his offering but had gone ahead investing time and money to develop it.
Background: He had faced a particular problem at the workplace in his previous employment and since an automated offering would have saved him a lot of effort, he thought of building one. He had the required domain expertise and the willingness to strike out on his own. But he hadn’t done the ground work in terms of ascertaining how many people would actually be facing this problem and whether there are any existing tools or services that address this issue.
When I shared this assessment with him, he was crestfallen but quickly recovered and wanted to know what could be done now.
I told him that he had 3 options viz 1) throw more time, money and efforts to get some customers for the product in the existing version, 2) get back to fundamentals to see if something could be salvaged or 3) drop the product and find something else worthwhile.
He recalled the frustrations and the difficulties he had faced in selling the existing product and was able to understand the futility of the first option. He was also running out of money because the development, launch and the marketing had eaten away most of his capital. So the first option was ruled out.
He was too emotionally attached to the product and was unwilling to drop it. Hence the last one was also a ‘no go’.
So we began working on the second option of going back to the basics and figuring a way out of the mess while leveraging on the earlier investment and vital learnings from his experience.
A big chunk of the problem was also due to a very vague definition of the customer segment and so that was the first one to be addressed.
I had worked on him to bring a sharper view of the prospect and it took a while because he was doing it for the first time. He was also oscillating between the thought of ‘having to give up on a chunk of customers’ and the reality of ‘not enough bandwidth to address all possible customers’ and that was a huge struggle. Fortunately, he was committed to the new course and hence was able to overcome this mental barrier.
And once we were able to arrive at a reasonably sharp definition of a customer without narrowing it too much (in which case the market would be too small for any meaningful outcome), we started to look for the real problems that they may have which could be resolved by tweaking the current offering, if necessary.
We worked on a basic script and I had him speak to a few relevant persons in those customer organizations. We then collated the results and arrived at a list of top 3 challenges that those organizations faced in the area of marketing automation. I then asked him to search for any possible solutions for these problems and asked him to look beyond a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering because competition is more than what we think it is.
We then worked on a set of possible solutions and narrowed them to 3 which we further analyzed to see the fitment. We were surprised that while 2 of them were from very reputed organizations, their offerings were far from relevant in terms of problem understanding and scope of the solutions.
We then quickly put together a list of things to be tweaked in the current offering of his and agreed on a time table to have those ready. He is in regular touch with me on the progress at the development and we hope to have a shot at the market when he is ready to go.
What are the key takeaways from this?
- Much of this was avoidable if only he had run his idea through VOIS (Validation of Idea Service).
- If you have not validated your idea like our friend but gone to the stage of launching your product, you may face some serious challenges in getting your initial customers but all is not lost.
- By going back to the fundamentals like defining the target customer, specifying the critical unmet problem and positioning your offering as solving that problem, it is possible to roll out an offering that has a higher chance of getting the initial customers and that too quickly
If you are about to launch your offering or have launched in the recent past without much success, do check out QWICK and reach out to us.