In a recent executive discussion, we batted around the topic of growing our product sales in our target markets more predictably and with sustained results. With our specialized business-to-business product offering, we have found that marketing to the masses does not have the same effect that it does for more consumer-oriented products. That’s not to say that marketing is not important but we must pick the methods that work best for how our end-users engage and buy.
Our product introductions often struggle for momentum and the results are often sporadic and unpredictable. However, history shows that over time we most often have ultimately gained the product momentum desired and our long-lived products pay for themselves with reasonable returns on our investment for many years.
But how do we get to critical mass in our global markets more quickly and effectively?
One executive commented, when we introduce a product to some of our smaller regional distributors, they will follow every sales lead to ensure that we capture those opportunities, even if they are not in our targeted “sweet spot”. Is that wise? Are we wasting our time and the distributors as well? Is this effective for the long run?
Something to consider….
Sean Ellis (see reference below from Startup Growth Engines) talks about LinkedIn’s strategy to grow in the early years. Ellis talks about reaching critical mass in a region or market before moving to a more global scale. By doing so, he believes that the early adopters become the platform to build upon and the impetus for other to follow.
“In many respects LinkedIn solved the classic chicken and egg problem of a network effect business by localizing the network to achieve critical mass around the Silicon Valley audience. Much like Facebook did five years later by constraining network growth to a single school, or Uber did a decade later by launching in one city at a time, LinkedIn kickstarted their network effects by tapping into a local population where it could reach critical mass.
This critical mass creates the utility needed in network businesses to create the high-quality must-have experience that breeds both user loyalty and word of mouth. By tapping local business heroes, LinkedIn was able to spark growth and make it a must-have network for Valley employees. From there it spread outward through the connections of the people on the platform.”
Yes, we recognize that there are many facets to a product introduction and you must do all of the right to be successful. But does a great marketing strategy fail when product acceptance is constrained while we wait for the approval of the early adopters?
So now, when we speak about product introductions, perhaps part of our growth strategy is to consider how to focus either, regionally or by end user application to reach critical mass in that sector. Sounds obvious but as I heard from my counterparts, we often chase every opportunity presented in our exuberance to win business and often waste efforts on successes or failures that often will not build the necessary base.
Perhaps this simple targeted strategy, often done but maybe not fully understood, will provide for solid baseline growth that will increase at a greater rate than blanketing the market from the onset.
Ellis, Sean; Brown, Morgan (2014-06-24). Startup Growth Engines: Case Studies of How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth (Kindle Locations 2344-2345). Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. Kindle Edition.
Also see: http://www.unlockinggrowth.com