When I talk to organizations that are entering a new market I can quickly identify the ones that will succeed. I do so by looking for answers to two questions:
- Do they understand the problem space?
- Are they building a better mousetrap?
Lacking appropriate visibility, that assessment often comes at a distance and fueled with personal bias (impossible not to). It can be defined by paying close attention to a) the way they position themselves and b) their understanding of the customer, specifically the customers journey (which is reflected in their positioning).
The positioning helps identify what they believe their differentiator to be. The journey the appreciation required to understand the perceived problem.
How can you build a better mousetrap without an understanding of the problem?
If you fail to understand the problem space, build solutions to align with your competitors, or fail to build a better mousetrap your probability of failure will grow exponentially.
Product > Product Marketing
To truly build a better mousetrap, we must allow the product to help us define the go-to market strategy – not the other way around. I learned this invaluable lesson the hard way at Sucuri.
It’s our job to bridge the divide between the value our solutions provide and the customers perceived value. We’re only able to do this through a deeper interface with both the product and the customer. We must allow ourselves to be led by the product vision.
At Sucuri this was easy. We had product visionary in Daniel who focused on building a solution to a problem which he was able to build through his intimate understanding, and appreciation, for the problem space.
Who is your product visionary? Who understands your problem space? If you’re looking to build a solution to a problem in a meaningful way, not just another number, you need this.
This applies to organizations of all sizes, from startups to large conglomerates.
Understand The Problem Space
I firmly believe that the best way to understand the problem space is to become immersed in it. I’m not particularly fond of survey’s and focus groups for a variety of reasons.
They feel forced, biased and lacking in context. Instead, I prefer boots on the ground. Open conversations in forums, threads, social groups, and events. I want full immersion into the space. You don’t have to be in the space for years to understand it. Everything is often hiding in plain site. You just have to take the time to synthesize the noise.
The best products are not the ones that solve the problems that are explicitly outlined. They are the ones that filter through the noise and pull the implicit ones.
The holy grail to understanding the problem space is to understand the problems not being asked.
Build With Purpose
Being first or last does not define your success.
At Sucuri we have always marched to the beat of our own drum. By design. Mostly because Daniel and I are very strong willed and driven individuals. It’s one of the driving forces that led to the acquisition (story for another day).
It was not about doing what someone else was doing, but about doing what we believed to be the right solution. Then defining and delivering that message. Perhaps the best illustration of this can be found in two core decisions: not to build a vulnerability scanner into the Sucuri platform and not to lead with automated malware removal.
The key to your success is not doing what everyone else is doing. If you’re looking at what someone else is doing, you’re already behind. It’s doing what you believe is better. It’s building something that will make a difference, and solves those implicit problems.
Communities, people, love ingenuity. They love sitting back thinking to themselves, “these folks get it.” Be that!
Bonus: This same principle transcends product into all functional domains. It applies to executives as much as to engineers, marketers, finance, sales, etc… you have the ability to make a difference in your respective domain.