Thursday, October 22, 2009

Everybody Is My Customer!

You are going to build an amazing product. It is going to revolutionize the way a market works. It is awesome to the extreme (Dude!). Because your product is so amazing, you know the entire market is your customer base. You certainly don't want to limit your sales potential by limiting your customer base to a segment of that market, right?

Wrong!

In the consumer and small biz software world, we generally shoot for a hockey-stick growth curve. Enterprise software is a little more difficult to have that kind of a growth curve because it is high touch, but we still would like to see the curve moving upwards. In both cases, though, each progressive sale becomes easier than the sale before it.

That is an important concept, so I will repeat it. Selling your product to the 1,000,000th customer will be easier than selling it to the 999,999th customer. In an exponential growth curve (e.g. the hockey stick), it is exponentially easier to make the next sell.

Being Infinitely Hard

OK, the first sell is not infinitely hard, but it is amazingly difficult (we'll ignore the copy Mom bought because she believes in your company...). The first buyer is buying completely on faith: faith that you will survive as a company and succeed as a product, faith that you will deliver the future you promise, faith that you will really solve her problems. Even if your product is free, a leap of faith is required just for the time investment required.

This is what you need to be thinking about as you plan your initial release. It is not the easy 1,000,000th easy sale, but the very hard first sale that matters.

Make It Easier

With that in mind, how can you make it easier? The closer your software and marketing matches the needs of a highly focused group in your overall target market, the easier that first sell will be. Now is the time to put your product management hat on, identify that focused group, and start building value specifically for them. As development continues, product marketing (yeah, it may be you again...) will start to craft a message tailored specifically to them. Your launch will be tailored around this tightly focused group, getting them on board, and making them extremely happy.

There is a fringe benefit to having a tightly focused group of customers: they form the foundation of your tribes, who are absolutely critical to your success.

With your tribe of happy customers, you are ready to conquer the world and start taking advantage of ever-easier sales. Remember, even Facebook started with just Harvard and dreams of owning the whole college alumni population. Imagine if Facebook had said, "We have a product perfect for every college student, we don't need to start with just Harvard." Do you really think they would be where they are today? Is your product poised for more success than Facebook was?

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