Failure to Thrive

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, Demos, skmurphy

“Death did not come with the thunderous gallop of a pale horse nor the wicked song of a blackened scythe hissing through the air. His was a quiet and patient arrival cloaked in the subtle hesitation that turns hopeful tomorrows into regretful yesterdays.”
Kep Pump

“We need to work on the product for another two weeks and add this one last feature.”

Every time I hear that I sense a mindset of  “subtle hesitation” that kills more products than any competitor.

You have to get out of the BatCave.

“Our website is not ready, I need to take a week or two and make a few final improvements.”

That statement will be true to the end of time.  Show folks what you have and use it as a provocation to discuss their challenges. But focus on their issues, not what’s wrong with your offering in the absence of a problem they are trying to solve.

When Peggy Aycinena interviewed me last year, she asked:

Q – When small companies can barely keep the lights on, how much of their discretionary budget should be spent on Marketing?

Sean Murphy – There are a couple ways of looking at that question, but the key question is “where are you at risk.”

For the most part, there comes a point where the technology is more or less functional. At that point, most of your risk is the market risk–finding customers who will work with you. In the last decade I haven’t heard about too many new products where I said to myself, “Wow, I wonder how they did that.”

Most of the risk is adoption risk or market risk, which means that you have to devote time and money to solving that problem. Our rule of thumb is that 20-to-40 percent has to be devoted to customer development–marketing, sales, and business development–because that’s where the risk is.

You can’t stay in the BatCave and continue to add features without contact with real design groups. I think too many startups rely on marketing communications, which is just one part of marketing. Most of these tools you sell with your ears; you’ve got to engage with prospects and have real conversations. Of course, you can’t do that if you can’t get in the door.

You have to get out of the BatCave, listen to prospects, and sell what you have.


If you are worried about your demo or not sure how to improve it, sign up for our April 12 “Great Demo” workshop with Peter Cohan, I promise you it will be a day well spent in 2011.

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Comments (3)

  • Ralph Haygood

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    “’Our website is not ready, I need to take a week or two and make a few final improvements.’ That statement will be true to the end of time.” Not necessarily. For a well articulated, contrary opinion from a prominent, experienced observer of the computer industry, see Om Malik’s recent post “The Economics of Attention: Why There Are No Second Chances on the Internet” (http://bit.ly/hCJhG4). I’m a founder, and I agree with Om that “it is important to get the user experience just right, even if it means holding out for a couple of weeks.” A potential user’s first minute or so with your product are especially important, often crucial.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t let people try your product and tell and show you how they feel about it. It just means you keep it quiet until the modest number of people you’re letting see it are telling and showing you they like it. That’s what I’m doing, and although it’s frustrating to have to rebuild parts of my product, I’m confident the results when I do start publicizing my product will be worth the wait.

    Perhaps you don’t really disagree. I just think it’s worth noting that not all two-week delays are mere procrastination.

    Reply

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