Sales may not be the most taxing of your grey matter as a founder, but no one said it would be the easiest, either. Trouble is, it also matters more than most anything else.
As angel investor Constantin Delivanis said to me just the other day: “You can have the best product in the world, but if it doesn’t get traction in the market, what’s the point?” In his terrific Guide to Startups, Part 4 founder Marc Andreessen profiles this common startup-Achilles heel:
Here’s the classic scenario: the world’s best software application for an operating system nobody runs. Just ask any software developer targeting the market for BeOS, Amiga, OS/2, or NeXT applications what the difference is between great product and big market.
Nothing matters more than the market, except market adoption. Adoption requires marketing. Lucky for you, marketing guru Seth Godin has a new tip for you: market to stress.
Now, as any ad wiz or salesman will tell you: marketing is partially a dark art. Of course your product must work. Clever slogans and sell-throughs help. But consumers are fickle. Businesses can be fickle, too. Sometimes it’s not about your mouse trap. (Just ask executives at Toshiba.)
So what is the difference between a product that “gains traction” and one that doesn’t? Of course, there are a few answers to this question (e.g. partners matter. Again, ask Toshiba).
But I once heard investor Roger McNamee tell a conference crowd that the “defining factor” between consumer devices that win and devices that lose, “is whether using them saves me time… it’s my most precious commodity.”
Think this over, it makes a lot of sense. First it was email. Then the Blackberry. Now Twitter. They all have nice features, but in the end they all save you time in your communication. In search of a market, MacNamee urged entrepreneurs to develop and market their products to users’ ultimate currency: time.
Seven years later, Godin offers his updated version of our “defining factor”, and today it’s stress.
Hardly uplifting, but I think this idea is also worth some attention. In his Feb 16th post Godin writes about how people are “stressed out all the time…We spend money to avoid it and we spend money to embrace it. And we almost never talk about it.” There is a business opportunity in this, he implies. Or, at least, a strategic imperative:
That thing you’re marketing… Does it add to stress or take it away? Is it stressful to talk about it? Buy it? Get rid of it? Is it more stressful not to buy it than it is to go ahead and buy one? Does it promise to reduce stress, but end up causing more?
Worth thinking about.
Indeed. If you’re selling a product that can reduce my stress, I guarantee you, I’ll buy it.
Do you have a product that makes customers’ livers easier and less stressful? Tell us about it.