When I was a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps at age 22, one of my primary school captains was a tough Marine who had earned the Bronze Star for defending an isolated outpost from repeated Taliban attacks.
One day he said to me, “If you are strong everywhere, it means you are not strong anywhere. You need to gather information, determine the enemy’s most likely route of approach and align your defensive position accordingly. If you try to defend everywhere at once, you will fail. “
I would give similar advice to startups. The constraints of capital, talent, and time already leave you vulnerable to any move by competition. Trying to position yourself as a one-stop shop will make your resources even thinner. The question then is why so many startups are still trying to be everything for everyone as quickly as possible.
Too big too soon
Startups often feel pressured to look bigger than they are. They want to show that they are on the cutting edge of technology and attract the attention of customers by promising a combination of features that go beyond anything available in the market.
But buyers have gotten smarter and smarter. You can even smell a hint of nonsense from a mile away. Because of this, they are increasingly doing extensive research before making a purchase. This may mean asking them to try a product before buying it. When buyers find that companies are delivering too much and too little, it damages the company’s reputation and reduces the likelihood of future success.
Every successful startup was initially characterized by one thing before expanding to other functions. For example, Netflix was named the best on-demand DVD provider, while Amazon was named the best online bookseller. The same goes for Google with search, Facebook with college student connection, and Uber with black car ridesharing.
With Netflix dominating in its core competencies, it is now distinguishing itself through streaming services and the creation of proprietary content. Amazon is doing something similar – selling all physical goods and offering cloud computing services. Google continues to offer search capabilities, but has added email, video calls, maps, and even self-driving cars to its roster. Facebook connects people regardless of school affiliation and also operates a marketplace, Instagram and WhatsApp, while Uber has branched from a black car service to UberX and UberEats.
When you have nailed your core competency and built it into a successful business, subsequent product lines must complement your core business as part of a comprehensive corporate strategy in order to continue to grow in a profitable and sustainable business. Take WeWork, for example, which has carved out a strong niche in the shared workspace market. The company started investing in more than office space, moving into retail, residential, preschool, college campuses, food startups and a wave generator for surfing inland.
There are many positions to defend – and a confusing corporate structure. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when WeWork recently went public. The company just received a $ 1.75 billion line of credit from Goldman Sachs to clean up its debt and keep the ship afloat.
“What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to be successful. “- – Dave Thomas
More is not always more
Adding features that suit each perceived customer need is tempting. Logic would tell you that more of a good thing means an even better thing, but when it comes to startups, that’s just not the case.
When my startup presented our product, intelligent camera software for weapon recognition, to a large global company, the company pointed out that one of our competitors also uses computer vision to detect weapons – in addition to behavior analysis and reading license plates, health analysis, detection of abandoned people Objects, retail people tracking, and seemingly myriad other uses. They asked why they should go with us when we only discover weapons.
I knew about the competitor they were referring to. I knew the company was about the size of us, so I understood a bit about their real capabilities and limitations. And I know that it is not possible to do everything well at once.
I said, “When you need a few bells and whistles, ask yourself whether it is realistic for a seed-stage company to deliver on all of those promises effectively.” I suggested they put the company’s feet to the fire and test the products thoroughly before making a decision.
3 questions to help you stay focused
As a startup founder, you need to ask yourself three questions in order to improve your offering. The answers should help you to concentrate more on your core competency. Otherwise, you risk losing sight of your target audience and expanding too far too soon.
1. What is the most critical customer pain point we want to resolve?
For the most part, your answer falls into one of four fairly broad categories: cost, productivity, ease of use, and support. The cost is obviously associated with a financial problem, e.g. B. an overpayment for a product or service. Productivity is focused on time – or the lack of it. Simplifying the process involves simplifying a complicated matter, and support is all about support.
Invest in research to find out where your customers are most vulnerable. Then understand how your product or service can best solve just this problem. The first step in staying focused is to focus on a pain point and know that you need to maximize your offer’s ability to resolve it.
“If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.” – – Steve Jobs
2. Are we building a valuable solution for this pain point?
Once you’ve identified the problem your offering is addressing, determine if what you are offering is actually the best way for customers to resolve it. Can your product or service easily get them from point A, where they have the problem, to point B, where it has been significantly fixed or completely resolved? If not, it is time to change your strategy and improve your offering to better deliver that one solution, rather than just adding bells and whistles.
3. Do we use feedback to improve?
Nobody knows a pain point better than consumers. Once your product or service is in people’s hands, welcome their feedback with open arms. The more input you can gather, the better.
You can use the feedback directly to build your development roadmap so that you can improve your product or service in the way customers want to see it most. Only by hearing from customers yourself can you determine the extent to which you are solving your customers’ problems.
To get the most value to your customers, focus on the business rather than growing it. Startups are formed primarily around problem solving, so attention should continue to be focused on finding the best solution. Focus on what you can and master this area before venturing into other uncharted waters. This is the Basis of success.